Is Detoxing Actually Healthy?
Helping your body detoxify through effective measures is a practice that can be traced back hundreds of years.
Is detoxing healthy? Health is a tricky topic full of opinions, controversies, and heated arguments. It seems that for every claim, there are another two counterclaims waiting in the wings. Due to frequent "overhype" of detoxes or cleanses and the many options on the market (juicing, vitamin supplements, etc.), the benefits of the process lose their legitimacy and purpose. But helping your body detoxify through effective measures is a practice that can be traced back hundreds of years.
1. Detoxing is not a fad. Detoxing or cleansing is not a New Age idea that came out of nowhere. Toxin accumulation and removal are concepts that arise from traditional healing systems all over the world, such as Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Traditional European Medicine, Native American medicine, and so on. Have most cleanse programs been studied in randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials? No. Does that mean that detoxification practices categorically don’t work? Let’s explore the issue. Before we dismiss as a fad healing techniques that have been practiced for hundreds or thousands of years, we might want to take a closer look.
2. What’s the traditional take? How do traditional systems of medicine view toxin accumulation and removal? In Ayurveda, “ama” refers to accumulated toxins. Ama is conceived of as a thick, sticky substance related to incomplete digestion of foods; congestion in sinuses, arteries, and intestines; and improper waste elimination through the kidneys, liver, colon, and skin. Sound gross? In traditional systems of medicine all over the world, fasting, removing animal and high-fat foods from the diet, and exposing the body to higher temperatures to induce sweating are used to cleanse the body and remove excess toxins.
3. Our bodies may need a little support. We know that the body does a good job of eliminating toxins on its own. Long live the liver! However, let’s ask the toxicologists and environmental epidemiologists about the toxic body burden we face in our modern lives. It ain’t pretty, and our collective burden includes known human carcinogens. We also know that 40 percent of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetimes. It’s important to note that animal foods contain more toxins due to effects known as “bioaccumulation” and “biomagnification,” Bioaccumulation is the natural accumulation of toxins in the fatty tissues of organisms. Biomagnification refers to increased concentrations of toxins found in animals at higher levels of the food chain. (You have probably heard that the bigger fish, e.g. tuna, contains more mercury.) Is it possible our bodies need a little assistance in getting toxins out more quickly?
4. How to Cleanse. What does a proper detox or cleanse look like? In traditional healing systems, a cleanse may involve a reduction of fats, a reduction or elimination of animal foods, a reduction of salty and sugary foods, and/or a period of fasting. Traditional cleanses are practiced seasonally, and the late spring or early fall are considered ideal. We can glean insights from contemporary research, as well. Evidence can be drawn from analytical, animal, and clinical studies to support the use of particular herbs and foods for removing toxins, healing the digestive tract, and supporting the liver and kidneys. Such ingredients (some of which are found in ALOHA Daily Good Greens and The Foundation) include turmeric, spirulina, lemon, dandelion, selenium, and guduchi. Here is a great example of a three-day detox, created by ALOHA's in-house nutritionist.
5. Antioxidants to the Rescue. One can also think of reactive oxygen species (ROS) or free radicals as toxins that cause inflammation throughout the body. In this case, foods and herbs containing powerful free-radical-fighting antioxidants would be good additions to a cleanse practice. Antioxidants are also known to protect the liver and kidneys from the damage they incur as they work hard processing and eliminating toxins.