Is Healthy Detoxing “Unsexy”?

DETOX and CLEANSE. Wooo-ey! These are terms that get thrown around a lot in the news! I mean, who hasn’t heard the latest celebrity Miss Skinny doing a master cleanse, or Mr. Fancy Pants doing such-and-such detox regimen? And wow, don’t they just look great and slim?!

The way they media uses them, you might as well say “UNDERNOURISH” and “STARVE.” Your body is constantly working to detox and cleanse, and needs a lot of important nutrients to do it.

So is it as simple as just ignoring the media and saying your body is already doing its job so leave it alone?  Not quite.  Just don’t let typical media hype mislead you to extremes.

Sure, there are many fad programs around that ask you to drink crazy concoctions, or fast, or use enemas, or who knows what else. And yes, with such a caloric restriction, you will probably lose weight – while you are on their program. But most of the time, people who follow these plans just end up back where they started afterwards, because they haven’t changed their lifestyle, haven’t created new beneficial habits. They only brute-force made their way through on sheer determination and will-power, not a sustainable lifestyle change of acceptance.   Plus, your weight is not always a direct correlation to your health.  Correct BMI does not always mean correct health.

slow and steady does it! It’s not a race to heal your body.

But, your body IS made to detoxify and cleanse itself naturally. And you CAN do some things to help promote these functions.

Keeping this in a simplistic light, usually DETOXING is the process of releasing undesirable toxins from being stored in the body. Undesirables can be medicines, alcohol, pollution, chemicals from things we ingest or put on our bodies, pesticides, heavy metals, and more.  Most toxins are fat-soluble, meaning they will store themselves in your fat cells.   There are phases of your body’s natural process for purging the system, but basically is takes these fat-soluble toxins and makes them water-soluble so that your body can excrete them – or CLEANSE them from your body.  Often these “Detox Programs” can go too fast — releasing all these pent-up toxins quickly, leaving you to feel sick, weak, and awful from the blast. The “detox flu” symptoms are common, but that doesn’t mean they are right.

So one way to help with better detoxifying strength is, first off, avoid getting those toxins into your system in the first place, and also to consume the proper nutrients to effectively move the fat-soluble compounds out of the fat.  Quick and easy: fruits and vegetables are good for that.

Another way to help: the liver is one of your primary detoxing internal organ, with the kidneys offering help. So if you want better “detoxing,” you want to support your natural kidney and liver functioning and avoid things that drag down efficiency, and intake things that boost efficiency. Alcohol, fried foods, and processed foods can be tougher for your liver to deal with, so avoid those. Conversely, kale helps stimulate digestive enzyme production in the liver, so kale may be thought of as a “detoxifying” food. Kale comes from the cruciferous vegetable family. Other veggies in this family can help as well: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts. These foods contain sulfur.

Sulfur is a molecule the liver uses to detoxify the body of a wide range of prescription medications, pesticides, and other types of environmental toxins. Other sulfur-continuing foods include onions and garlic. Studies are now also looking to turmeric, cinnamon, and licorice as helpful for the liver detoxing.

And CLEANSING is your body transporting those toxins out of your body completely, often through water now that your body has converted them from fat-soluble into water-soluble compounds.  Usually this means exiting your body through urine and sweat.  But it can also go through other systems.

Primarily, your intestines and skin are important routes for CLEANSING. You want to keep these pathways healthy! When I counsel women suffering from constipation, I always recommend “The 3 F’s: Fluids, Fiber, and Fitness.” Fluids help with urine production and keep things soft; fiber helps push it through; and aerobics (even just walking) can help stimulate bowel movement. These three items work together to help your intestinal tract and eliminations moving efficiently.

Regarding skin, general hygiene keeps your pores open so they can provide a way for toxins to leave. Sweating is good! (I hear my little sister groaning now, ahh, the sweet sound!) 😉 But seriously, it can help get some of the junk out, just be sure to wash it off as soon as you can rather than letting your body reabsorb it. And try to avoid caking your face in make-up once in a while to let your skin breathe.

Due to its skin benefits, the previous Skin-So-Smoothie recipe could possibly even be considered a “Cleansing” drink.

Detoxing and Cleansing are very detailed topics in the nutrition world, so I really only touch on them here. But I hope that covers some of the basics, at least! Remember: your body loves you; love it back! 🙂

I’m sorry if I have disillusioned any “sexy” ideas of detoxing and cleansing. There really aren’t magic bullets, and natural health is best! Your body is made to take care of itself – just don’t overdo the harmful habits, and help it along with the right healthy lifestyle.

Buuuuut, if you want an “unsexy” sounding detox plan… well, try this plan for 14 days and let me know how you feel!

The Two Week Unsexy Sexy Detox:

1.Eliminate these “toxins”:

  • Table sugar and artificial sweeteners
  • Pops/colas/sports drinks
  • Fast food/highly processed foods/pre-packaged foods
  • Foods with added sugars or sweeteners – cookies, cakes, candy, etc
  • Processed foods and restaurant foods (or at least, remove 90%)
  • Refined starches: white flour, white rice, white pasta
  • BONUS: try removing all dairy and gluten for the time as well! The vast majority of people will notice improvements from removing these commonly-inflammatory foods!
  • Email Kate@DublinDietitian.com for a FREE starting food list that also contains portion size guides and recipe templates. 

2. Drink plenty of fluids

  • aim mostly for water (plain or with some lemon, lime, cucumber, mint, etc), and maybe a little tea or kombucha
  • listen to your body, but usually the average recommendation is a minimum of 1/2 of your body weight (as pounds) in ounces of water (ie: 160 lbs = 80 oz water)
  • BONUS: start your day with 2 glasses of water, with 1/2 of a fresh lemon squeezed into it. Lemon juice has many benefits first thing in the day!

3. Eat real foods with plenty of fiber

  • fruits, veggies, seeds, whole grains
  • lentils, beans, legumes in moderate amounts if digested well
  • try some fun grains! Quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat…

4. Get AT LEAST the recommended 5 veggies daily, if not more; and 1-2 fruits

  • Have a green smoothie with some extra kale, spinach, or collard greens
  • A lot of Functional Nutritionists are now encouraging 9-12 servings! Can you rise to the challenge?
  • Have fruit and/or veggies with each meal to kick it off and get your digestive juices flowin’
  • BONUS: arugula, dill, kale, radicchio, dandelion greens, and lemon water can all help stimulate your liver and gallbladder to work better, supporting your body’s natural digestion and detox process. Add daily to your plan!

5. If you need meat, eggs, or dairy, make sure it’s the clean: free range, grass-fed, organic, etc.  Keep it limited to 1-3 small servings a day for the first week.

Do that, and I bet you’ll feel better (after the first few days), and likely, you’ll drop some weight.

I hope you start to apply some of the ideas and remember how much food can affect your health. “You are what you eat!”

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Published by Kate Cline, RD

Registered Dietitian with a focus on Gut Health, Inflammation, and Functional Nutrition. Personal Trainer with a focus on corrective exercise. Yoga teacher, traveler, empowerment coach.

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