Spring is finally here! This season usually makes us think of cleaning, reorganising our closets and tidying up our homes and gardens. On top of that, we are encouraged to cleanse and detox our bodies too. We can see a growing number of advertisements for products that promise to conveniently erase all the winter over-indulging in the shape of a pill or ‘green juice’, with the added bonus of restored youth.
Detox can certainly have a slimming effect on our wallets, but is it really good for our health?
I spoke to Kara Mia Vernon, PAAR’s naturopath and nutritionist to find out the truth.
What does detox mean?
To "detox" is the physiological or medicinal removal of toxic substances from a living organism, including the human body. It can be considered one of the more widely used treatments and concepts in alternative medicine. It is based on the principle that illnesses can be caused by the accumulation of toxic substances (toxins) in the body. Eliminating existing toxins and avoiding new toxins are essential parts of the healing process. Detoxification utilizes a variety of tests and techniques.
How does the body eliminate every day toxins and harmful elements?
Our body has 4 ways of eliminating waste products. Sweating (including crying), exhaling, and going to the bathroom. Regardless of where the toxin or waste product leaves the body, it all has to be broken down and made safe to eliminate via the liver. All organs have their own "cleaning" system, indeed each healthy cell has to be able to reduce the waste products of cellular function and decay on a constant basis. For example, the brain detoxes itself as we sleep. Therefore, not getting adequate sleep will have a knock-on effect on how healthy your brain is over time.
When is it advised to do internal cleansing and why?
We think about brushing our teeth, skin and hair regularly, but very few people pay attention to other cleaning aspects. Are you aware of how often your bowels open? Would you notice if you didn't go for a few days? There are daily things to consider (but not stress too much over) and then there is a more concerted effort that is advised to do on seasonal changes. Spring is often the best time as this is a natural time for rejuvenation in the Northern Hemisphere. We are part of nature, not separate from it, and therefore should work with it, rather than against it.
Can detoxing help people who are suffering from illnesses that are a result of a poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle choices?
Yes, but it is wise to get support with this before jumping into one. Chronic illness puts pressure on elimination organs, for example, medication will be an additional stress on the liver. Suddenly asking an organ already under stress to perform extra work can be more detrimental than not doing a detox in the first place. A naturopath or nutritionist will ensure that it is safe and effective for each client to detox given their current state of health.
If I am generally healthy, eating mostly plant based meals do I still need to detox?
If you live in the 21st century then yes. Those healthy organic blueberries are still sold to you in plastic (phthalates; endocrine disrupters) and "forever chemicals" are ubiquitous even if you avoid nail polish, household cleaning products, detergents etc. The liver itself hasn't changed its physiology for about 100,000 years, and yet we expose it to thousands of chemicals that have only been invented in the last few decades. By and large they say that cancer is a lifestyle disease*, and we're now looking at every 1 in 2 people experiencing it within their lifetime.**
What are the best techniques to detox and how often should we do them?
People often say to me "I'm going on a detox diet". This statement is essentially incorrect. What they are going on is a "reduction of toxins diet". Limiting exposure to chemicals is useful, but on its own it’s not enough. A detox is an active undertaking that involves a “reduction of toxins diet”, but also includes taking supplements and taking measures to support the body to eliminate stored toxins. Not only putting less in, but more importantly removing the ones that are already there.
What do we normally recommend to PAAR clients?
Giving Chlorella or other green powders can support a daily exposure to toxins.
What can affect the success and effectiveness of a detox program?
This is a “piece of string” answer, I'm afraid. How "toxic" was the person to begin with? In other words, where do they live? What is their job? Do they have "bad" habits or good ones? What are their genetics? Are they a “poor methylater” or a good one? Do they smoke? Are they on any pills, including oral contraception? How many courses of antibiotics have they had in their life? What products do they use on their skin and hair? How long are they willing to "detox" for? There are many, many considerations.
What are the dangers of detoxing?
As mentioned above, if the body's elimination systems are compromised, then doing a detox can cause more harm than good. Imagine someone who is on a deep cleansing programme and only opens their bowels once a day. That is not enough to move out those toxins that are being dumped into the bowels. This is one of the main reasons I am a colon hydrotherapist. A detox without colonics is never going to be as effective as one with the support of cleansing your largest waste organ.
How can detoxing support longevity?
Although I can't find any longitudinal studies on this, it is fairly obvious (to me) that the more effort you put into your health from a prevention perspective, the better you'll be in the long run. That old adage "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is one to consider. We get an MOT on our cars once a year, why do we not pay the same attention to our bodies? Unlike our cars, most people wait until something "goes wrong" with their health before they address it. By the time symptoms show up, a disease process has already begun. Treat your body with a detox MOT and see a qualified therapist to make sure you stay on track and address issues before they start.
Our team of experts at PAAR are here to help you with any dietary habits and nutrition related questions. Book a free initial consultation session to find out more.