Detox: Fact vs Fiction
With summer right around the corner, are you looking to jump on the latest diet or detox bandwagon? This time of year, the word "detox" can sound very alluring. But what does it actually mean - and more importantly, does it actually work?
When used in the context of health and wellness, detox describes the process of eliminating "toxins" from the body to reduce "inflammation". This may sound great, but is there any real science behind it? For starters, let's look at the term "toxin."
What's a toxin?
Some real toxins that can build up in your body and cause negative health effects include things like heavy metals (lead, arsenic, mercury, copper), and endocrine disrupters such as bisphenol-A (common known as BPA).
There are other chemicals we are exposed to in our daily lives, such as pesticides, food additives, air pollution, and compounds in cosmetics and skincare products. Whether they can accumulate to a level that actually causes adverse effects is harder to prove, but the best approach is generally to try and minimize your exposure to these compounds in the first place.
What about detox treatments?
You may hear about "quick fixes" for removing toxins, such as:
- coffee enemas
- sauna treatments
- various vitamins/minerals/supplements
- green juice
- lemon water
- alkaline diet
- other restrictive diets
The bottom line: none of these will serve to detox anything from your body that your own liver couldn't do on its own.
It is rare to actually have heavy metal poisoning or toxicity, but if you do suspect you were exposed, you'll want to see a doctor immediately for clinical testing.
A doctor can administer a procedure called "chelation therapy" which involves an IV and close monitoring by a physician. This is the only proven method to actually rapidly detox something that has chronically accumulated in your body. With risky inherent side effects, it isn't for the casual user.
Reset, Not Detox!
If you feel like you've had a winter of eating less than healthfully, and you are ready to start feeling better, think "reset", not "detox."
Be willing to put in a little bit of work to get into an exercise routine and start cooking more healthful meals - and watch that alcohol intake - and you'll quickly be feeling and looking better than your friend who decided to go with the coffee enema approach.
- Exercise daily
- Eat a balanced diet including plenty of vegetables
- Drink a normal amount of fluids
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Don't smoke
- Maintain a healthy weight, normal blood pressure, normal cholesterol, and normal blood sugar levels
Exercise: The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 5 days per week, or 20-30 minute of vigorous exercise 3 days per week.
Veggies: Try to increase your vegetable consumption to at least 3 cups per day and include a variety such as leafy greens, root vegetables like beets and potatoes, beans, squash, peppers, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts...the list goes on!
Note that 2 cups of raw leafy greens = 1 cup serving; and 1/2 cup of cooked greens = 1 cup serving. If this is too complicated, just make half your plate at each meal veggies. Or, check out this neat calculator for a customized nutrition outline.
Fluids: When you feel thirsty, drink water. Don't overthink this. But if you are, check out this myth busting article on water intake.
Alcohol: According to the CDC, limit drinks to 2 drinks per day for men, and 1 drink per day for women. No, you shouldn't "save up" your servings during the week and then binge on the weekends.
Weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol: Make an appointment to have a physical if you have no idea where your numbers fall. Keep up the good work if you meet the mark, and if not, work with your doctor to develop a plan.