Do I Need a Detox Diet?

We live in an age of information, which is great, but sometimes, we get bombarded with so much information it’s hard to know what to believe and what to take with a pinch of salt.  In the health and fitness arena we are constantly encouraged to try a certain diet, or a new exercise routine!  But should we?  

In this blog we’re going to look at detox diets, and see whether you should try one.

What is a Detox Diet?

A typical detox diet usually involves a period of fasting, followed by a strict diet of fruit, vegetables, fruit juices, and water. Sometimes a detox also includes herbs, teas, supplements, colon cleanses or enemas.

It is argued that a detox diet will eliminate toxins from your body, but to date, there is no strong evidence that detoxification diets eliminate what is claimed.  

What is a Toxin? 

A toxin is defined as any substance that must be neutralised and eliminated to avoid promotion of ill-health if left to accumulate.  But what surprises most people is that the body produces waste products every second of every day in the form of used hormones and chemical messengers that help us feel and behave anyway.  What this means is that the body needs its own detoxification system to deal with the exhaust fumes of daily life – regardless of whether we’re juicing or not! 

So, what is detoxification? 

Detoxification is carried out by a range of processes in the body and it falls into three phases. 

The first two phases are concerned with breaking down the toxin in the body, and phase three is concerned with excreting it.

Phase I largely occurs in the liver.  The liver produces a range of enzymes that can help break down toxins.  This phase is particularly nutrient-demanding and sufficient levels of key vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, C, E, B1, B2, B3 and iron are essential.

This phase also generates high numbers of reactive oxygen species, or free radicals, so we also need to support our antioxidant defences by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables! 

Once toxins have been passed through phase I, they are not finished with, they move to phase II.  

Within phase II there are a number of pathways and they are all responsible for detoxifying different compounds.  This phase is also very nutrient demanding and as certain processes also help break down and excrete stress hormones, if we’re particularly stressed, our resources can be used up tackling our constant stress response rather than toxins.  

After phase II, the broken down toxins are excreted from the body, whether this is through sweat or into the toilet.  

For optimal excretion of toxins through the digestive system, gut health is vitally important.  In addition, we need to ensure the health of our kidneys and urinary system.    

So how can we support our own in-built detoxification system?

Limit Stress

As stress hormones are also broken down and detoxified, they can use up our resources quicker than planned.  This means we are less efficient at breaking down other toxins and they can start to cause issues.  Limit stress where possible, or if there are certain life events that are unavoidable, look to manage stress as best you can and support your detoxification systems even more with the following tips. 

Eat a nutrient dense diet!

Each phase of detoxification requires certain nutrients, and the processes are quite demanding.  Ensure you are eating wholefoods full of:

Vitamins A, C, E,

B Vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B6 and B9 (folate)

Minerals: Iron, Zinc and Magnesium. 

The first phase also produces high numbers of free radicals so include antioxidant foods too!

Foods to eat more of:

–    Berries,

–    Nuts and Seeds,

–    Green Leafy Vegetables,

–    Oily Fish,

–    Eggs,

–    Peppers,

–    Strawberries,

–    Broccoli,

Reduce the toxic burden

The best way to support the detoxification system is to not overload it in the first place, so avoiding toxins wherever possible.  This isn’t easy as we are exposed all the time, but making mindful choices on products used in and around the home is a good place to start.  Whatever the body is exposed to, it must do something with it.  

Purchase a water filter, use HEPA vacuums and do so regularly, consider air purifiers if needed and use non-toxic cleaning products. Baking soda, white vinegar and water work wonders around the home! 

Optimise Gut Health

For toxins to move through the body efficiently, the digestive system needs to be working optimally:

  • Eat fibrous foods to support motility, 
  • Stay hydrated, 
  • Exercise, 

So, the bottom line?  

You don’t need a detox diet, but you may want to optimise your body’s ability to manage daily life by:

  • Sleeping well, 
  • Moving more, 
  • Eating nutrient dense foods, 
  • Drinking water, 
  • Managing/limiting stress.