In the last year or so, I’ve started seeing the term “pre-tox” get thrown around. Have you heard of it? Apparently, it is intended to refer to a preemptive or preliminary detox, done before an anticipated major assault on the body/immune system (like the over-sugared holiday season or a bachelor-party-induced drinking binge). While I applaud the underlying idea of trying to help one’s body prepare to effectively handle immune challenges, there are a lot of problems with this idea as it’s usually presented. So today I’d like to look at why “pre-toxes” may not work as well as you’d expect:
1. They aren’t long or nutrient dense enough.Remember when we talked about how long detoxing actually takes? And how your body needs nutrients to detox, not just fancy body wraps or expensive shakes? Unless you’re doing a comprehensive, longer-term detox (like a Whole 30), pre-toxing is unlikely to provide your body with enough appropriate water consumption, nutrients, and rest to make much difference.
2. You won’t get ahead if you start behind. If you’re already carrying a toxic body burden (as so many of us are), your body will suck up whatever water, nutrients and rest you give it to deal with the existing backlog of toxins and imbalances. You might head into your anticipated immune stressor situation slightly less backlogged, but you won’t have stockpiled any of the resources you need to compensate for the coming onslaught.
3. You can’t stockpile everything you need. Plowing into a situation that is stressful to your body is always going to be more manageable and easier to recover from if you start from a place of strength and sufficiency. But think of your body as a storeroom with very limited space – every inch already carefully and exactly filled with shelves. If you stock it to the brim, you’re sufficient, but there isn’t any room to pile in “extra” provisions. You have to get modestly sized deliveries of fresh resources every day to stay fully stocked. Similarly, your body cannot functionally stockpile “extra” of things like rest or water – it will strip them from what it has, leaving you insufficient until you restock.
4. There is no substitute for taking good care of yourself every day. We live in a world that all too often disrespects, disregards, or otherwise tries to ignore and deny the natural healthy rhythms that our bodies were designed to thrive on. But the simple (if sometimes frustrating) truth is that you simply cannot force your body to fit into a mold or pattern that it was not intended for without consequences. Short term hits are going to happen, and are almost impossible to avoid. If we meet them in good condition and do our best to keep up with good habits and then prioritize rest and recovery when they pass, we’ll do fine. But deciding to give your body a break (or even to preemptively shove some nutrients at it) is not ever going to compensate for disregarding its legitimate needs and drinking, working, or otherwise beating the snot out of it later!
So, is pre-toxing ever helpful? Yes. A period of detoxification aligned with all the principles we’ve covered in this series can help your body reach its optimal health, allowing you to face times of heightened stress or immune challenges at your best. Great examples would be doing a six month detoxification program prior to trying to get pregnant, doing a Whole 30 before a scheduled surgery, or doubling down on your efforts to eat healthy, rest well, and drink plenty of water for a couple weeks before traveling, getting the flu shot, etc.
What do you think? Were you familiar with pre-toxing before this post?