We hear the words “detox” or “detoxification” so often these days it’s easy to believe it’s a new idea. It’s not. But how it’s being used is.
Today, when you hear about a detox it can mean anything from a spiritual retreat to a total fast, and everything in between. We have heavy metal detoxes, bone broth detoxes, raw food detoxes and, well, the list goes on and on (and on).
With the term being adopted and used for such a wide variety of seemingly unrelated diets and procedures it’s really no wonder detoxification is so misunderstood. So if you’re confused and wondering, “What is a detox?” join the club, because you’re far from alone.
But don’t despair, there’s one word that can blow through all the noise and begin to clear away the confusion, and that word is liver. Yes, your liver is actually the one thing all of these so-called detoxes have in common.
Your liver is home base for “detoxing”
You see, your liver is home base for ridding your body of toxins. Literally everything has to make a pass through your liver. Whether it’s toxins from pesticides on the foods you eat, medications you take, or air you breath they all make their way through the liver where your body attempts to cleanse them away in a complex, two-step enzymatic process.
In other words, your liver is a very busy place. So it’s not surprising that it can get bogged down and become less effective with that kind of a crushing load. And while it’s not your body’s only detoxification organ, it is by far the most important and hard working.
In fact, your liver is on the job 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, removing toxins from your system. Which is why the folks who practice conventional medicine aren’t actually wrong when they point out your body is detoxifying itself naturally. It’s just that they’re missing the fact that it’s not unreasonable to think that such a hard working organ can suffer the wear and tear of all that work. Or that it could use a little extra support occasionally.
A simple definition for detox
So then what is a detox? At its most simple level it’s a window of time in which we allow our body—including our liver and entire digestive system—a well-deserved break.
Specifically that often means avoiding what Dr. Elson Haas refers to as the “sensitive seven,” which are foods that we know can be a problem for a large number of folks:
During this down time our body’s systems and organs can essentially rest without having to juggle the near-constant assault from toxins in the food we eat, the air we breathe and the environment we’re exposed too. As you can imagine, that kind of a break—whether it’s for one day or thirty—can be just what your body needs to get your health back on track.
Reaping the most rewards from a detox
While a detox period alone can be quite helpful, to get the most out your detox there are a few other things you can do to multiply those rewards, starting with exercise. When you move your body you boost your circulation and you sweat, both of which are incredibly helpful when it comes to ushering toxins out of your system.
Saunas, massage, skin brushing and acupuncture can all be helpful in moving toxins out of your body, as well as helping to minimize the side effects some folks can have as those ugly poisons make their exit, such as headaches or nausea.
If you ever try discussing the concept of detoxification with a conventional medicine doctor don’t be surprised if they dismiss it as pure bunk. Don’t let that deter you from exploring the idea further, there are lots of naturopathic doctors and functional medicine MDs who are firm believers in the process. If you want to learn more I encourage you to check out the books The New Detox Diet by Elson Hass and Clean by Alejandro Junger, MD.
Junger’s book is one of the best I’ve ever read on detoxing. His solid approach and easy-to-grasp concepts make Clean a must read for anyone truly interested in detox. His three central concepts are quite simple and can be broken down this way…
- Toxins and stress raise roadblocks that keep our bodies from operating normally.
- Today’s diet and lifestyle is polluting our bodies.
- If we break down those roadblocks and give our systems what they need they can bounce back to full health.
Sorting out the role of supplements
Your liver is one hard-working organ and it can use all the support it can get. That support can include supplements. The most useful ones are those that have nutrients that support the two step, Phase One and Phase Two, process of detoxification.
Milk thistle is a terrific herb for supporting detox. Some detox programs will also include a light laxative, such as natural senna, along with digestion supporting nutrients. You don’t need to use a detox kit for an effective detoxification, but they can help if you want to try one.
Looking to lose weight? Don’t do a detox
Lots of folks who want to lose some weight decide a detox (or “cleanse”) is a great way to do it. Weight loss should never be the goal of a detox. Sure, people often lose some weight, after all you’re typically eating far less then you normally would and focusing on exercise. But those pounds almost always are put right back on.
However, that doesn’t’ mean that a detoxifying cleanse can’t be the perfect way to launch a whole new approach to eating. It’s a great time to make some permanent changes and that, of course, could lead to weight loss that lasts. But a detox alone is not a magic bullet.
Detox can be a great way to give your system a break while kick starting your new healthier lifestyle. It can help boost your energy levels and refresh your mind and body.