More and more people, especially the overstressed, time-strapped, and nutrition-starved, are turning to detoxification to improve their diets and cleanse their systems. But what is detoxing really all about?
Registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokesperson Lisa Dorfman dishes the straight goods on detox.
What is detox?
Detox is a naturally occurring physiological process wherein the body rids itself of toxic substances through sweat, urine, and feces, Dorfman says. These toxins typically include air and water pollutants and processed food chemicals. "The body first eliminates these toxins through the gut; whatever the gut can't catch gets into the bloodstream and passes through the liver, which flushes them out."
What is detoxing?
Sometimes, Dorfman says, toxins don't leave our body - they hang around in our lymph and digestive systems.
Detoxing provides your body with a nutritional break so that it can become a better waste dumper and nutrient absorber, Dorfman says. A proper detox lasts about a week and involves eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet that's high in essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, drinking plenty of water and clear fruit juices, and getting enough rest. You can also incorporate moderate exercise into your routine.
You should talk to your physician or a registered dietitian to develop a detox plan that suits your body and health goals.
What is detoxing not about?
Dorfman says the main misperception about detoxing is that you need to go to a dietary extreme to achieve results. Detox plans people should steer clear of include water fasts, juice fasts, and combination water-juice fasts - or fasting altogether. Detoxing is also not about using laxatives to clean out your digestive system.
"There's a spiritual element to fasting - it's seen as a way to get rid of your sins," Dorfman says. "The truth is that fasting is the worst thing you can do to your body. Your body needs nutrients and energy; fasting just makes detoxing harder."
What should I eat?
A detox diet varies from person to person based on their age, gender, fitness level and dietary restrictions, Dorfman says, but in general, it should include whole-grain foods; probiotic yogurts; fruits and vegetables; sufficient protein sources, including beef, nuts, and salmon; and ample water and clear natural juices. "Make sure there's enough color and variety in all the food you eat, and that all the food groups are represented," she says.
What are the overall health benefits?
Detoxing helps enhance general physical and mental well being, Dorfman says. It might even be your springboard to a more permanent healthful diet. "When you're more in tune with your body, you feel better and you look better. It gives you energy and helps you achieve inner peace and enlightenment."