For many this will be a possible New Year’s resolution, or for some perhaps more of a necessity, either way there are probably a few facts you need to know before attempting a detox diet.
What exactly is detoxification (detox)?
Put simply detoxification is the process of removing toxins; heavy metals, chemicals, drugs, alcohol, food additives, microbials, bacterial endotoxins1 and so on, from the body. Detoxification is an ongoing process by the body that requires large amounts of energy to ensure all detoxification pathways are working effectively1.
How does the body detox?
The liver is one of the largest organs in the body and plays many important roles, it is also the primary detoxifying organ. The liver helps break down nutrients to allow them to be used by the body, and deals with toxins rendering them harmless or making sure they exit the body2. For this reason many people target liver detox diets or liver cleansing diets. Kidneys also play a role in detoxification of the body through filtration of the blood, ensuring correct composition is maintained, and waste and extra fluids are carried out of the body3. These two organs are further assisted to a lesser extent by the gastrointestinal system and even the skin, brain, and lungs play a role. Sometimes all these systems work together to remove harmful toxins from the body, sometimes only a single metabolic pathway is required, it all depends on the toxin/chemical being dealt with4. In order for these organs to detoxify many require enzymes, CYP and P450 enzymes, or to bind the toxins to various nutrients in the body, such as antioxidants, plant derived compounds like β-carotene, ascorbic acid, tocopherol (vitamin E), selenium, copper and many others1. For this system to work these nutrients and enzymes must first be present in the body, and this is where we come back to the individual’s diet.
Why do anything to detox?
So why, with all the body’s natural and wonderful intricate systems, do we need to do anything other than let the body do its thing? The answer is simple, because we are not perfect and neither are our diets. Our body is incredible at coping with a vast array of toxins and stresses, it is equipped to correct imbalances and maintain homeostasis. However a sustained or sudden intake of chemicals, over processed, toxic, and often harmful substances can lead to impaired function or damage to your system, and sometimes even our incredible body needs a little break and a helping hand. Regardless of how well the body is coping, limiting harmful toxins and chemicals being ingested, absorbed, or exposed to our bodies is definitely a good thing.
In my next article 3 Steps To Approach a Detox Diet I will detail what to generally expect on a detox diet and generally how to approach it.
Author: Aaron Adams (Nutritionist)
Aaron has completed a Bachelor of Health Science (Nutrition and Food Studies) from Deakin Unversity in Victoria and is the Assistant Manager at Let's be Natural.
- Cline J. Nutritional aspects of detoxification in clinical practice. Alternative Therapies In Health And Medicine [serial on the Internet]. (2015, May), [cited December 10, 2015]; 21(3): 54-62. Available from: MEDLINE Complete.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda MD, 20894 USA http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072577/
- The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Bethesda, MD 20892-2560, http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Anatomy/kidneys-how-they-work/Pages/anatomy.aspx
- Klein, A, & Kiat, H (2015) Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. J Hum Nutr Diet. 28, 675-686 doi: 10.111/jhn.12286