Everyone loves a detox - so I thought I would have a go at demystifying the detox for you
Detoxing diets, pills, teas and other products are becoming hugely popular. They promise to help you lose weight, flush out toxins from your body or cleanse you. But do they really work? In theory they are a great idea. Most of us lead busy and social lives that usually end up with us overindulging in foods that aren't so great for us and having one too many glasses of wine. Detoxes seem like a heaven sent answer to our guilty conscious - but the reality is, they don’t work. Sorry to burst your bubble!
Firstly let’s talk about “toxins”. Basically, a toxin is a substance that is produced by something living which is poisonous to humans, for example a snake bite or the bacterial toxin botox. Similarly, a “toxic substance” is any other chemical that may be harmful to human health, such as pollution, pesticides, chemicals in household and beauty products and artificial food additives. While toxins and toxic substances are in fact real, a detox cannot magically rid your body of them and kick-start a new improved, healthier you. A lot of the time marketers put emphasis on these words because they want you to believe you “need” to cleanse from all these nasties you are putting into your body. The trouble is they never actually go into detail about what these toxins may be.
Guess what ? Our bodies are designed to detoxify themselves from all these nasty, harmful things consumed or in our environment. The even better news is that your body actually does a MUCH better job at this than ANY detox program going around - tea bags or no tea bags. The body’s main organs that are responsible for filtering toxins are your liver and kidneys. Your liver breaks down chemicals, both good and bad, using enzymes. Harmful substances are generally broken down into other products that do not harm the body, such as carbon dioxide and water. Your kidneys also filter your blood and flush out wastes when you go to the bathroom. Think of these organs as your body’s own personal cleaning system! It works 24/7 to keep your body healthy and alive.
There are many different types of detoxes, some of the most popular ones right now are juice cleanses and herbal tea detoxes.
With juice cleanses, most of the time you are required to only drink either home made juices or expensive pre-packaged ones, such as cold pressed juices. The trouble with this is that juice cleanses don’t encourage you to eat real food, they work on the idea that drinking enough water alongside the juice will “cleanse” you and help you to lose weight. Yes, you will probably lose weight, but not the way you were wanting to. If you are depriving your body of essential amino acids (protein) and fatty acids, and important minerals. Sometime your body can compensate by getting these nutrients from your body’s own stores, such as muscle tissue for protein. Protein is a vital nutrient and your body cannot survive without it. Losing muscle tissue can slow down your metabolism, meaning you burn fewer calories. So once you finish your cleanse, you may be at risk of gaining all the weight back, if not more. It is important to remember that different food groups provide you with different nutrients that your body needs, so cutting out entire food groups isn’t always healthy. For some, this may cause you to feel tired and unable to think clearly, amongst other symptoms. Cutting out several food groups as part of a detox is certainly not an effective long term solution to weight loss, as you will often be losing water weight and muscle, rather than fat.
Regardless of whether a detox tea is natural or not, they are not necessary. Many of the teas that claim to help you lose weight have a laxative effect, which is not a sustainable (or healthy) method of weight loss. They usually come with added meal plans, exercise requirements and drinking a certain amount of water a day. While these things are not bad, and in fact, are requirements of a healthy lifestyle, the added detox tea will not remove any extra toxins. Although some teas are much better than others, but these usually come with a price tag. My recommendation would be to stick to drinking plain green tea, it is PACKED full of antioxidants and helps to speed up your metabolism. Plus, it is a perfect energy booster. The bonus? It is cheap and won’t cause unusual bowel movements!
At the end of the day, what I want you to realise is that there are no quick fixes. Even if your goal isn't weight loss but you just want to make sure your body is running at 100%, there are things you can to reduce the load on your body’s cleansing system. These are:
If you are a smoker, you need to stop. As I mentioned earlier, your liver plays a huge role in the breakdown of toxic substances, which includes the chemical concoction that you inhale when smoking. Some of these chemicals and their by-products have the potential to cause liver damage and an abundance of other health problems.
Cut Back On Alcohol
If you have had a few weekends where you have been out celebrating and are feeling pretty rubbish, all you need to do is cut back on the alcohol. Drinking too much too often can cause liver damage, which then affects your body’s ability to process toxins. The best way to heal it is to have a few weeks without drinking. Detoxes will not aid in this process, you have to let your body heal itself and cut out all alcohol.
Eat Wholesome Foods
This is one of the MOST important parts of having a healthy, functioning body. If you have overindulged, the best thing you can do is fill your body with wholesome, clean foods. Think foods that are in their natural state such as veggies, fruits, legumes and proteins. Skip the sugary drinks, low fat fruit yoghurts, chips and other processed foods. Make sure you are eating foods from each of the food groups, including wholegrains and healthy fats, such as avocados and unsaturated oils.
It is important to try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity in every day or on most days of the week. This could involve taking your dog for a walk, or doing a yoga or gym class. If you struggle to exercise because you don’t know what to do, my Bikini Body Training Guide could be a great place to start. It only requires 28 minutes of exercise a day and everything is set out for you.
Remember, marketers are paid lots of money to sell detox programs to you! Next time you become tempted by these, think about what it is you are actually trying to achieve. The most important thing you need to remember is that your body is an incredible thing that was made to handle ALOT! If you are feeling a bit sluggish and under the weather, clean up your diet, cut out alcohol and drink more water. You may not notice a difference instantly, but trust me, it will come.
Your guide to living whole and well. Emma Olliff is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, wellness expert, food lover, and advocate for healthy living!