Should you detox? A GI doc answers once and for all 

There are a ton of fad diets and health trends out there. Many believe you have to purge your body of harmful substances by doing a detox.

Fasting, drinking detox drinks, herbal remedies, and dietary substances are all marketed under this detox umbrella. While the reasoning behind detoxes seems to make sense, some of these detox fads can be extremely restrictive and harmful to your gut health. The truth is our bodies naturally detox on their own! There are methods to assist your body with its natural detox process.

The science behind a detox

Our organs work as a whole to make sure our body is as free from toxins as possible. 

  • The biggest elimination organ is our skin, which acts as a barrier between our organs and the environment. The sweat glands in our skin also help with expelling natural by-products of our bodily processes. The skin removes water, salts and other wastes. 
  • Our lungs have a cellular lining that produces mucus which helps to trap toxins that are in the air we breathe. After they are caught, they are either released through breathing or coughed out. 
  • The lymphatic system is in charge of collecting excess fluids that come from our body’s cells and tissue before returning them to our body through our bloodstream. During this cycle, the lymphatic system carries out waste and nourishes the body. The lymphatic system requires movement (exercise) to do its job.  
  • The kidneys of the urinary system helps filter out toxic waste in our blood through urine, while the digestive system helps remove harmful toxins through feces. The colon rids the body of leftovers from digestion in the form of solid waste. 
  • Our liver is the main detox organ. It works around the clock and does over 500 jobs, so it’s important to nourish our liver through healthy lifestyle habits. The bottom line is complicated detox programs and regimens are not necessary for a full body reset.

How to help your body detox

Your lifestyle can help you naturally detox! Let’s dive in! 

  • Stay hydrated – Drinking plenty of water will help to regulate your digestion and other natural processes and flush toxins out of you. The standard amount of water per day is half of your body weight in ounces. 
  • Limit alcohol intake – Drinking alcohol is tough on the liver. Since our livers are our main detox organs and are already working hard for us, limit or avoid alcohol to make the detox process easier on your body. 
  • Exercise regularly – Exercise causes sweat which helps us to expel natural by-products and toxins from our bodies. It is also great for helping with natural processes like digestion, which in turn helps us to detox naturally. 
  • Regulate sleep – When we sleep, our bodies have time to restore themselves since they are not having to keep us moving or handle other critical functions that happen when we’re awake. Getting 6-8 hours of sleep every night provides some rest for our organs and aids in the natural detox process. 
  • Limit sugar, salt, and processed foods – Overly processed, salty, or sugary foods can cause an imbalance in our guts which makes it more difficult for our bodies to detox and reset. 

  • Eat the rainbow – Phytochemicals, or plant chemicals, are what give plants their sense-engaging properties known as organoleptic. Think of their colors, smells, tastes, etc. This also helps to indicate the health of a plant, as well as when it is ready to be eaten and which nutrients may be present. For example, green foods like spinach, broccoli, kale, honeydew, cucumber, lettuce, kiwi, and bok choy all get their color from chlorophyll. These fruits and veggies have beneficial compounds like indoles, omega-3 fatty acids, isothiocyanates, folic acid, vitamin K, and potassium. Phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and fiber are all present in fruits and vegetables and work together to promote health and lower disease risk. 
  • Eat fiber & prebiotics – Dietary fiber is known to help improve heart health, cholesterol levels, and constipation and promote a healthy gut microbiome and overall digestive health. Not only that, it can help with increasing your satiety while decreasing your appetite as well. Soluble and insoluble – these are the two types of fiber. Soluble fiber combines with water and slows down digestion, leaving you feeling full. Insoluble fiber binds to unwanted substances in our food and stimulates the gastrointestinal tract to make sure these substances are properly eliminated in our waste. It promotes peristalsis and regular bowel movements while providing food for our gut microbiome by drawing water into your stool which helps it pass more easily. Here are some ways to work more fiber into your diet:
    • Eat more raw veggies
    • Snack on fruits, berries, and nuts
    • Eat more legumes, whole grains, chia, popcorn, and hemp seeds
    • Leave the peel on the vegetables
    • Bake with high-fiber flour

Should you drink your nutrients? 

A common trend in detox culture is to drink your nutrients. When we strip, concentrate, or change a whole food into a powder or supplement form, this synergistic work becomes undone. This does not provide the same benefits as when the food is eaten whole. 

Each plant food has many different phytochemicals, and all of them have different functions in the body. The best way to ensure that you’re getting a variety of phytochemicals in your diet? Eat a rainbow of plant-based foods. Fruits and vegetables with deeper and brighter colors or with stronger flavors are often the best sources of phytochemicals.

Eat seasonally

Did you know that your gut microbiome changes with the seasons? Our gut microbiome has changed and evolved with us through time. It also changes with us through the seasons? Eating seasonally is important because seasonal food is fresher, tastier, and more nutritious! 

Crops picked at their peak ripeness are not only tastier, though. Studies have shown they contain more nutrients, too when they can ripen naturally. Additional studies on the Hadza population of Tanzania & the Hutterites showed a seasonal variation of their gut microbiome. The Hutterites lead a communal lifestyle: they all have a similar and stable diet throughout the year, with the exception of fresh produce during the summer and autumn months. The study shows overall gut microbiome stability within individuals over time, along with consistent and significant population-wide shifts in microbiome composition across seasons. 

During the summer months, when they had the highest fiber consumption from complex carbohydrates, their microbiome showed Bacteroidetes, which contain complex carbohydrate digesters, and decreased levels of Actinobacteria, which have been negatively correlated to the fiber content in food. I recommend to eat seasonally. The food will be more nutritious. Your microbiome will thrive even more by including more seasonal products.

Remember your body detoxes on its own! 

Targeted with a “detoxifying” product or program? Remember your body does this on its own. I am not saying that every product or program labeled as “detox” is bad. Some of these products could aid in accomplishing a natural detox by making a great addition to an already balanced lifestyle and diet. Some programs might help you to accomplish the list above. My biggest advice is to remain a conscious consumer and avoid anything that is extremely restricting.


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