Detox 101

Functional medicine January 24, 2023
What we’ll cover
  1. Why Detox?
  2. Ways To Detox

New year, new you! Now is the time to reset your body to face 2023 with optimum vitality. A healthy, sustainable detox helps support your body’s natural cleansing process of unwanted toxins but also helps you unlearn any unhealthy habits you’ve developed over the past year. 

You’ve probably seen ads for “detoxes” and “cleanses” that make huge claims and ultimately require a significant commitment in both time and money. Unfortunately, these ads often prey on our wish for a simple solution, but the truth is your body can detox on its own – it is self-sustaining. Your skin, digestive system, liver, and lungs continually purify your body of unwanted substances.

However, we can support our body’s natural detox processes for optimal health and vitality. This is particularly true for anyone struggling to turn an unhealthy lifestyle around.

Here are some tips to help you detox naturally for the coming year!

Why Detox?

Throughout everyday life, we’re all exposed to toxins, including environmental pollutants, such as toxic chemicals in cleaning and personal care products, heavy metals in food and water, BPA in food storage containers, pesticides, and more. 

Although our bodies are designed to be self-cleansing, many of these substances accumulate in the body, where they can harm your health in many ways.1

Ways To Detox

Detoxing is a broad term for a few different ways of resetting your body. It’s vital to determine the correct method for you, and it’s always a good idea to work with a healthcare practitioner to create a realistic and healthy plan.

Here are some popular detox strategies. 

1 – Fasting

There are two approaches to fasting. First, some people choose an extended fast without food for a set period – often between 24 and 72 hours. Some of these extended fasts are “water only” fasts, while others allow liquids like lemon juice or beef broth. 

Intermittent fasting, which means alternating food intake periods with fasting periods, has become more prevalent in recent years. Intermittent fasting has some flexibility. For example, you could generally eat, fast for 12 hours, or have an eight-hour eating window. 

Fasting has been traditionally used to improve health, and many recent studies back its benefits, including:

Healthy blood glucose metabolism

  • Normal inflammatory responses
  • Healthy blood lipid metabolism
  • Body weight and composition management
  • Supporting the body’s normal cellular waste removal process

Fasting isn’t for everyone, however. People with low blood sugar or Type 1 diabetes should consult a healthcare practitioner first. And fasting can also increase your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, 8, so if you’re already stressed or busy, approach fasting with caution. Anyone with a history of eating disorders should also talk with a healthcare provider before starting a fast. 

2 – Dietary cleanse

A dietary cleanse typically involves eliminating certain food groups, such as inflammatory or processed foods like sugar, white flour, and unhealthy fats.

The exact dietary changes will depend on your current health and goals and are often best determined by a healthcare provider. Some common cleansing strategies include food sensitivity detoxes, where you eliminate foods that cause sensitivities and reintroduce them, keeping careful records of symptoms.

Some general tips for a successful dietary detox include:

  • Up your water intake. Water will help eliminate waste products from your body.
  • Focus on antioxidant-rich foods. Antioxidants prevent oxidative stress, which leads to cell damage. Foods rich in antioxidants include berries, leafy green vegetables, dark chocolate, and green tea. 
  • Eat foods high in sulphur. Sulphur-rich foods like cruciferous vegetables, legumes, beef, and turkey can help transport heavy metals like cadmium from your body.
  • Cut down on salt. Salt makes your cells retain water, which slows down urination, one of the processes through which your body eliminates toxins.

3 – Sweat it out

Although we tend to overestimate the ability of a good sweat to “flush out” the effects of unhealthy choices, some studies have found that work does contain waste products. More research is needed on the effectiveness of activities like taking a sauna, but many people enjoy the endorphin release.

Exercising has many benefits that can support your body during a detox, including its ability to help manage inflammation and support immune health. However, it’s important not to tax your body during this time, so consult with a healthcare practitioner for the right program.

4 – Supplement for support

Help your body do its job by choosing supplements wisely. While detoxing, working with a practitioner to select the best supplements for your specific needs is essential. Supplementation can also depend on what kind of detox you are doing since some supplements and multivitamins work best when taken with foods, for example. Supplementation aims to support your body’s natural detoxing abilities.* Some commonly used supplements for detox support include:

  • Activated charcoal. Some toxins may bind to activated charcoal in the lower intestine so that they can be eliminated with a bowel movement.*13
  • Probiotics. By encouraging a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut, probiotics help ensure your digestive system performs its natural detoxification function.*14
  • Turmeric. This spice contains a compound called curcumin that helps support your body’s antioxidant pathways.*15
  • Green tea. One study found that chemicals in green tea called green tea catechins may help support detoxification.*
  • Chlorella. This is another species of algae that may help support your body’s detoxification of certain compounds.*
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