New Year, new you – is the typical theme at every start of the year. After indulging during the Christmas, New Year, and then Chinese New Year holidays, you may start to feel sluggish, slow, less energetic, plus the extra weight gain is not helping confidence.
Detox! Headlines will scream this ever so “easy” solution to your post-holiday regrets. But is it that simple? Many of the “detox” solutions out there are quick fixes, designed to make you feel better fast but is either a placebo at best or worse, damaging, in the long term. So what really is a detox?
In functional medicine, it is the process of reducing the body’s toxic load by lessening exposure to harmful chemicals we are taking in, while simultaneously implementing nutrition and lifestyle strategies to promote efficient elimination of toxins from the body.
- Decrease inflammation which accelerates aging and creates hormonal disruption
- Improve immune system function by reducing the immune reactivity to inflammatory foods
- Improve gut health and cognitive performance
- Family planning as this ensures both parents can provide the “best” sperm and egg for fertilization
We will explore three of the biggest detox myths in the health industry and you will gain actionable knowledge into how to truly detox and what you can do to minimize your toxic load.
Myth 1: Juice Cleanse and fasting can help you detox
To understand why juice cleanses and fasts do not help you detox, it is important to understand how toxins are processed by our bodies via the liver. The liver is our body’s garbage processing facility; it is where dead cells, used up enzymes and hormones, excess hormones and toxins are all processed.
Processing toxins by the liver is known as biotransformation. This process has two phases: The first phase requires key vitamins and minerals and the second phase requires key amino acids – derived from protein – in the diet, for biotransformation to be successful.
BOTH phases need to work at the same speeds, like wheels on a car. The first phase actually produces a more “reactive” toxin than upon entering phase one so it is vital that not only both phases work in conjunction but the liver possesses the vital raw materials to keep both phases going so a toxin can be successfully neutralized.
Juice, even if it retains the vitamins and minerals from the fruit and vegetables, would go towards supporting just the first phase – but what about phase 2? Fasting gives you digestive rest, which allows body to focus on repair and removal for a short period but fasting is also a low calorie diet which does not give the body enough energy resources for detoxification.
So what can you do?
Do a quick self check on WHY and WHAT you are detoxing from? It is over-indulgence of food and alcohol during the holidays? Is it heavy metals and/or chemicals? Depending on what, each requires a slightly different approach. There is no one size fits all detox.
Speak to your LifeHub health coach to tailor the right detox program for you which includes structured nutrition advice, supplementation and lifestyle recommendations.
Myth 2: Eating Clean is a toxin free diet
Your total toxic burden is equal to your toxic load less your ability to detoxify. Most quick fixes focus on increasing the speed in which the liver processes toxins. However, what it misses is that we should do a self-audit of our toxic load first to remove what we can from our diet and lifestyle that could be adding to that toxic load.
Toxins are also stored mostly in fat cells. As you lose fat, your toxic load increases as toxins are released into the bloodstream. This means that the liver and body has to work extra hard to package and flush toxins out. Generally, when people lose fat, it is through low calorie or extreme diets that do not provide enough energy for the body to detoxify. So, instead of trying to increase detoxification speed, it is all the more important to ensure that your toxic load is not high in the first place.
So how can you ensure a minimal toxic load?
- Ensure your vegetables and fruit are organic, particularly those in the Dirty Dozen on ewg.org. If you’re on a budget, they also list the Clean Fifteen which are fruit and veg that you don’t necessarily need to buy organic.
- Soak fruit and veg, nuts and grains before cooking or eating to remove chemicals, pesticides, and for certain grains, phytic acid which is an anti nutrient.
- Avoid commercially farmed meats and seafood. Big fish like tuna and mackerel, and most commercially farmed salmon are high in heavy metals due to our polluted seas. So choose organic, grass fed, free range meats, game meats, and wild fish where possible.
- Ensure you have water filters installed in your home particularly on taps and showers. Also install air filters that have hospital grade HEPA filters such as IQAir to lower heavy metals, bacteria and viruses as well as contaminants like dust and pollution.
- Keep your home well ventilated, and clean dark and damp spaces such as the bathroom and behind closets regularly to prevent mold.
- Use natural cleaners such as baking soda where possible as many home cleaning products have phthalates and parabens.
- Choose glass containers over plastics, avoid takeaway coffee cups with plastic lids, and choose natural rubber teats for baby pacifiers to avoid BPAs.
If you wish to have more information, or explore what is causing your toxic load, you can contact our LifeHub health coaching team.
Myth 3: The Liver Is A Detoxification Organ.
Actually ….no. The liver merely BIOTRANSFORMS toxins. It takes in everything from dead cells, used up or excess hormones, used enzymes, toxins, and gets it ready for disposal.
It is only when a toxin leaves your body, that you have detoxified it. So hang on a second! How do toxins leave your body?
Pee, poop, sweat. (And one can argue, cry).
This means that in order to detoxify properly we MUST optimize gut health. The gut is responsible for throwing out the garbage, ie: toxins packaged up by the liver. If the door to the garbage chute is not open (that is, if your gut health is not in order), toxins will stick around and accumulate. A healthy digestive system means that you are continually detoxifying. Symptoms of poor gut health include bloating, diarrhea, constipation, high number of food intolerances, indigestion, not passing stool at least daily, yeast/candida infections, and more.
So what can you do?
- Exercise: not only does exercise promote blood circulation but it also makes you sweat.
- Drink enough water daily; we recommend a minimum of 1.5 to 2L a day minimum.
- Infrared (IR) sauna therapy has been shown to have significant benefits in high metals and chemical detoxification.
- Ensure you have adequate fibre in your diet by eating lots of organic vegetables and a serving of fruit daily.
- Stocktaking current medications and understanding drug-induced nutritional deficiencies that result from taking those drugs. For example, women on the Pill would need to supplement with Vitamin B6, folate, and magnesium.
- Checking your gut health using a test like Viome or doing a GI assay map can give you an in depth view on how healthy your gut is and what are the gaps missing to help improve and fix gastrointestinal dysfunction.
If you wish to have more information, or book any testing, health coaching consultations or IR therapy, please do not hesitate to contact our LifeHub coaches.
Tricia Yap is a strength and functional medicine health coach with a decade of experience helping clients achieve their health and fitness goals through her knowledge of the complexities of the human body and scientific approach to training methodologies and nutrition.