Nothing sounds more like nails on a chalk board than the question I hear too often: “So, how can I detox my body?” The human body is well equipped to rid itself of toxins on a daily basis, and if it did not perform this function, we would all be in the hospital due to septic shock.
If you see an advertisement with the lines “cleanse your body” or “detox your way to weight loss”, whoever is marketing that product or diet is preying on your desire to lose weight and lose weight fast with a magic pill/potion/plan. Sadly, these are all empty promises.
Most healthy adults and children have a functioning liver, and one of the liver’s main functions is to metabolize drugs, alcohol, and any “toxin” that enters your body. The metabolites of these products are then excreted by your kidneys so the body is not harmed. Your organs process these substances day and night to ensure the body is kept in a state of balance.
Now you know the science. Still, it’s easy to get roped into an ad claiming that a vegetable powder can help you lose 50 lbs. But before you do, know that there is a way to “clean up” your diet by getting rid of processed foods, which contain questionable substances that will impact your insulin sensitivity, hormonal balance, and body composition.
Detox Your Bad Habits
Dietary intake is directly correlated with body composition and internal health. Processed foods that contain added sugars and other questionable ingredients can sabotage your health goals. One of the worst offenders is added sugar. Products that contain added sugars are foods like cereals, granolas, flavored yogurts and oatmeal, sweets, desserts, granola and protein bars, and many condiments and dressings.
Sugar in high amounts can cause internal inflammation, which can impact cardiovascular health and also increase your risk for other disease states, like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.
In my opinion, a great way to detox is to remove all processed foods that contain added sugar from your dietary intake. Then, prioritize fresh produce, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats.
We tend to reach for processed foods if we are rushed or forget a lunch or afternoon snack, but there are always better options available. You can get a grilled chicken salad at all fast food restaurants or pick up an apple with a bag of unsalted peanuts or almonds at any convenient store. Eating real food, especially high-fiber foods, like vegetables, fruits, beans, and lentils, will also help your gastrointestinal tract stay healthy and promote more frequent bowel movements, which is always a great way to feel more cleansed.
Most people that feel great after a detox program typically feel that way because they have ditched the highly processed food and replaced them with single-ingredient foods from nature, which is the way humans are supposed to be eating.
Purify Your Drinking Habits
Another way to purify your diet without buying magic pills or potions is to ensure you are hydrating well. Sadly, plain water only makes up roughly 30% of Americans’ beverage intake, with the remaining percentage going to coffee, soda, juices, and other beverages. As we discussed before, added sugar does not do a body good, and sugar-containing beverages are some of the worst culprits.
Sugar that is consumed from a beverage barely needs to be digested, so it rushes into your body and can cause a spike, and subsequent plummet, in blood sugar levels. This makes you feel drowsy and lethargic. Diet beverages are not much better, as they can exacerbate sweet cravings. Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols have also been known to cause gas, bloating, and some imbalances in the gut flora.
Reducing your alcohol intake is also very important for cleansing your body. Alcohol, even in small amounts, can be dehydrating, reduce vitamin and mineral absorption, and also impact the balance of your gut flora. Aim to reduce your current alcohol consumption by at least half, or limit your drinking to one night a week. The lower your total intake, the better the systemic impact. On a day-to-day basis, the best choice is to stick with water, about 60-70 oz. (1-2 liters) each day. A cup or two of black coffee and unsweetened black or herbal teas are not bad additions and should not derail your goals.
If you’re struggling to adopt some of these recommendations, remember that the best way to make a long-term change is by sustainable behavior modification and finding a way to embrace new habits. Do not look at eliminating foods as deprivation; instead, know that, by consuming those foods, you are depriving yourself of good health. Detox plans and cleansing pills will never beat the effects of a truly healthy diet and lifestyle.