A sweet friend of mine recently lamented that many of her coworkers are doing a commercial detox program that involves drinking gallons of green tea and wrapping themselves in expensive, goop-slathered saran wrap. While she’s happy they’re interested in improving their health, she’s frustrated, too. As a health professional, she realized after only a few minutes’ research into the program that the only thing they’re losing is water weight. Not only will they gain back every pound the instant they stop, they’re doing themselves more harm than good by walking around dehydrated in the meantime.
Sadly, this is a common scenario since so many people don’t understand how detoxing works. Although we assume that it must be working if we see “positive results” like losing a few pounds, there are lots of unhealthy and temporary ways to get “results” that have nothing to do with genuinely improving our health.
So how does detoxification work?
Let’s reuse the analogy of an overburdened body being like a hoarder’s house. When you want to start cleaning up, what do you need?
- A halt to the flow of junk coming in.
- Stuff to collect and transport the junk out of the house. (Paper towels, scrub brushes, garbage bags, etc.)
- Supplies to repair damage and restore proper order. (Fresh paint, replacement parts for broken appliances/furniture, etc.)
Detoxifying your body works the same way.
Halt the Influx of Crap. This is pretty self-explanatory. Your efforts to clean up won’t get very far if someone keeps shoveling fresh piles of ratty old newspaper and dusty tchotchkes in through your living room window! This is why most effective detoxes require you to forego alcohol, processed food, or caffeine. To deal with the existing backlog, you need to stop dumping new junk in.
Stock up on Stuff to Collect/Transport the Junk. Just as you use paper towels to sop up messes and garbage bags to haul out trash, your body needs vitamins, minerals, and other binding agents to collect and remove metabolic junk from your body.
Water is also essential. If you don’t routinely get enough water, waste products will sit around gumming up your cells and clogging your digestive tract and colon. Sometimes they get rock hard and create blockages, other times they putrefy and ferment. (Yes, it’s as nasty as it sounds.) Proper water intake is a critical part of flushing out the mess.
Repair Damage and Restore Order: To really finish righting a hoarded-out house, you have to beyond just hauling out trash and fix the damage to put things in working order. In a house, that might mean patching broken floorboards or repainting peeling walls. In your body, it often means rebuilding your supply of vitamins/minerals so that daily bodily processes can run efficiently. You might need to eat good fats to facilitate the repair of damaged cell walls/membranes, drink more water to rebuild the cushioning at your joints. In more dire situations, it can mean a full renovation of your gut walls!
Safe, healthy and effective detoxification is a three step process: Remove stressors/toxins to free up space and energy; Supply adequate clean whole foods (i.e. vegetables!), water, and supplements to remove wastes from the body; and Provide the body with the resources it needs to rebuild, restore, and repair damage.
What do you think? Does this line up with or contradict what you’ve been taught about detoxification?