Detoxification is such a divisive subject in the health world. There are those in mainstream media and mainstream science that would prefer if we all believe it doesn’t exist. To be fair in large part its not that a medic or health scientist doesn’t believe in detoxification, its more that what is promoted by your average health guru and all over Instagram is fraudulent.
In this article I aim to clarify what detoxification actually is and how you can support it in a healthy and sustainable way. I’ll ditch the fads, the fiction and the quick fixes in favour of science.
Any small benefit you might get from a detox diet could be overshadowed by the risk so it’s always better to work in tune with your body rather than trying to bypass or hack it’s natural processes.
So let’s dive in, what is detoxification and what can you do to support it? Feel free to download and keep the accompanying infographics:
The dangers of detox
The promotion of diets and supplements to ‘detox’ the body are in the large part all about selling cheap rubbish and in many cases not only do they not work but they can stop detoxification. Even some combinations of vegetable juices can slow detoxification. They can work in the sense they help the body release toxins from storage, within the liver or fat cells, but then once mobilised they have to be packaged up for elimination – a process that requires ample B vitamins as well amino acids and fats.
If you are running low in these nutrients through true deficiency and/or poor diet then this is not going to end well and all you do is drive the toxins back in to storage. That body of yours isn’t stupid – it’s designed to protect, its designed to keep you healthy even against your best attempts to undermine that natural hardwiring to the contrary.
The other issue is those that are attracted to detox diets and supplements are in the most need, but the most unable to detox in the true sense. First of all you want to not bring the toxins in and then you want the resources to get shot of what you have tucked away.
A poor diet, lack of exercise and rubbish sleep wont set you up to detox.
Then as a direct or indirect result of those lifestyle errors you don’t have regular bowel movements, whether constipation or diarrhoea. Further compounded by peeing like a fish, and you can be backed up and overloaded in toxins in your gut making more all the time the poos struggle to leave with its toxic load, and drinking more and more water in a hope to get it all to shift creates electrolyte imbalances.
The electrolytes are your key minerals, calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium. They are involved in blood sugar control, your adrenals and thyroid gland function, stress, energy levels. Also if you flush these minerals out, sweat lots (also a detoxification channel) or don’t bring enough in, then some of the resources you need to help your body do its detoxification job wont be there.
In a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis or a Blood Chemistry Test you can see evidence of dehydration even when you drink a lot of water in can be too much and if you are losing minerals you have less water stored in the cells for all those detoxification reactions you are hoping for. So you can drink too much.
How to support detoxification
I always prefer to work on digestive system efficiency with food and supplements alongside working to have the detoxification channels keeping up to speed before you focus on getting the toxins out. If you struggle to process your food and break it down and you then struggle to get it out you are creating and storing more toxins in your system.
You cant expect to detox in that situation as you are just adding more toxins to the queue. We all breathe, sweat, pee and poo to get the toxins all day every to a greater or lesser degree so we do all and can detox.
However, one way to improve your ability to remove toxins from your body after focusing on not bringing them in is to supplement the deficiencies in your diet. Minerals like calcium or zinc that we have heard lots about in the current climate for boosting our immune systems are displaced by heavy metals such as cadmium causing high blood pressure and diabetes from exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, soybeans and hydrogenated oils and lead causing abdominal or joint and muscle pain from hair dyes, cosmetics, lead water pipes and paint.
These minerals are involved in the body making enzymes, proteins that your body uses to make other proteins and drive millions of little reactions in our cells every minute of the day. So if you don’t have enough calcium or it’s getting used elsewhere say in making bones you may not have enough spare to help your thyroid hormones function properly and then you can find lead wins in many instances and healthy reactions don’t happen at the speed they should and you can then experience symptoms of having too much lead. Consuming more minerals helps prevent this and in its purest form is detoxification.
It is detoxification without the fancy pills, potions and without the need for treatments purporting to detox the body. There is more you can do that has real science behind and works with clients on a day to day basis but in my experience after you stop bringing in the bad stuff such as chemicals in cosmetics, alcohol, processed foods, there is less toxic load on the body and less need for detoxification to be an extra specific focus. Then if you know your nutritional weaknesses or deficiencies they can be supported through targeted supplementation in a more natural less stressful way. No need to go for approaches that make you feel bad from the start.
Testing for toxicity
Using a Hair Tissue Mineral Test you can identify the key minerals, support digestion and get practising ways to help support further detoxification such as exercise, saunas, hot baths. A Hair Test will show if your metabolism and mineral balance is ready to detox heavy metals or whether you need the support through very precise and personalised mineral balancing alone as a sort of stage 1 detoxification and then when the body is up for and energy levels are higher, regular bowel movements, worked on digestion, inflammation and digestive infections, supported the liver get stuck into the sometimes hidden toxic heavy metals, such as mercury, aluminium, arsenic etc.
Image: Emma Simpson