Digestion, Everyday Health

Detox Myths : How your body gets rid of toxins naturally

Now is the time of year when all the “detox” stories come out. You’ve may have over-indulged during the winter festivities and want the start the New Year with a more healthy diet. However, most of these “detox diets” are marketing myths rather than good nutritional behaviour.

In this article we look at the mechanisms that your body uses to get rid of toxins and waste naturally and how good nutrition can support your body’s natural mechanisms.

Your gut: we all know that we get rid of most of our waste through our bowels. If your digestive system is not working properly, it can’t get rid of unwanted waste and toxins properly. Our body empties many toxins into our excrement, but if it is sitting in the bowel too long (i.e. you are constipated) – it can get reabsorbed and go through our detox systems again – increasing their workload and making them less effective. For advice on nursing your gut back to health have a read of the right foods to eat. In addition, an overgrowth of the wrong types of bacteria or fungus in your gut will result in their harmful toxins entering your body, increasing your toxic load. If you are suffering from digestive problems it is not only your nutrient status and your comfort that it can be harming – poor gut health also impacts on your body’s ability to detox. So this must be a first step in any programme that aims to clean up the body.

Your kidneys and your ‘waterworks’: Many unwanted toxins are removed from the body in your urine. The best help that you can give this clearance pathway is to DRINK PLENTY OF WATER. Aim for 1 ½ litres a day or 8 glasses. Remember however that many health foods contain water and these can also rehydrate you e.g. fruit and vegetables.

Your liver: This is where the really clever stuff happens, your blood enters the liver full of toxins and bacteria and leaves clean – that is if it is working properly. The unwanted pollutants are neutralised in the liver to make them less harmful to the body using a series of complicated chemical processes. Some of the chemicals are recycled and the rest are dumped into your excrement in a substance called bile. Your liver is also responsible for many other functions including digesting fats, storing vitamins and energy supplies plus more! Many of the recommendations below promote the function of the liver by supplying it with nutrients that it uses to ensure that the chemical processes we describe are working and that the production of bile is maximised – speeding up our cleansing process.

Good nutrition is essential to help the liver function properly. Foods that feed the liver include:

  • Increase your intake of fruit and vegetables and try to aim for at least 30% raw. Especially good for the liver are: artichokes, garlic, onion, leeks, beetroot, radish, turnip, watercress, fennel, broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, apples and pears, apricots, grapes, berries, lemons, papaya, pineapple, avocado, cranberries, banana and watermelon. However, they are all health promoting and delicious!
  • Take a good multivitamin and mineral supplement or a multivitamin and mineral formula designed for liver support. You are going to need tailor made support to keep your liver going and help it to process all this waste! The nutrients that you are especially looking for in a supplement to a minimum of 100% RNI include: Vitamin A, C, E, Selenium, Zinc, Copper, Iron, B Complex including Folic Acid, Magnesium.
  • Ensure that you have enough healthy sources of protein in your diet. These include: eggs, lean meat, fish and beans and pulses, or try quinoa (it is like couscous but contains a loads of protein). For more information Vegetarian Sources of Protein.
  • Buy a pot of good quality lecithin granules and sprinkle them on your cereal or in yoghurt, on porridge or eat with fruit. These help your liver to break down fats and ease its overall burden1. They taste fine – in case you’re worried!
  • The herbal supplement ‘milk thistle’ is traditionally used to promote liver function2. When taking herbals it is best to do so with the advice of a healthcare professional.

There are so many areas that we can address to clean up our act and help your body deal with the toxins in our body. We all know that the results can only be to feel better and be healthier in the long term.  Here is a list of the recommendations again:

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking
  • Avoid processed food
  • Avoid refined or ‘white’ foods e.g. white bread, pasta, sugar, cakes and biscuits
  • Avoid fried foods and any type of fats including butter, margarine and processed vegetable oils
  • Lower exposure to environmental pollutants e.g. traffic fumes, chemical household and personal hygiene products and air fresheners
  • For a full detox, eat food only in the ‘green’ box
  • Make sure you eat protein with every meal
  • If you have digestive problems, address these urgently
  • Check out your potential food intolerances
  • Drink at least 1 ½ litres of water a day
  • Go organic where possible
  • Take an appropriate multivitamin and mineral formula
  • Add lecithin to your  cereal at breakfast
  • Consider taking the herbal supplement ‘milk thistle’


References:
1 Canty DJ, Zeisel  SH, 1994, Lecithin and Choline in Human Health, Nutrition Reviews, 52:327-339
2 Saller R, Meier R, Brignoli R, 2001, The use of Silymarin in the Treatment of Liver Diseases, Drugs, 61:2035-2063
Bibliography
Courteney H, 2006, 500 of the most important health tips you’ll ever need, CICO Books, London
Holford P, 1997, The Optimum Nutrition Bible, Piatkus, London
Murray MT, 2001, Encyclopaedia of Nutritional Supplements, Three Rivers Press, New York
Murray MT, Pizzorno JE, 2006, Textbook of Natural Medicine (3rd edition), Churchill Livingstone, London

Disclaimer: Seven Seas Life is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The articles are based on peer reviewed research, and discoveries/products mentioned in the articles may not be approved by our regulatory bodies, you will find no mention of Seven Seas products within the pages of the Seven Seas Life Section..Read more

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