In mainstream media and the World Wide Web today, a lot of focus is being put on a holistic healthy lifestyle.
Programs, diet plans, fitness equipment, lifetime gym memberships and health clubs, exercise classes, outdoor recreational activities, and so many other products and services related to health, wellness and fitness are prevalent in the market, most of them heavily touted in ubiquitous advertising campaigns and marketing pitches.
One category of products that has captured the attention of the health-conscious set is detox drinks.
What is Detoxing?
Detoxification, or detox for short, used to refer mostly to programs for treating alcohol and drug addiction. While drug or alcohol detox programs are still widely used today, detox has also become more popularly linked to the alternative medicine idea of cleansing.
It is centered around the idea that the food that we consume is responsible for much of the varying health conditions and issues that we experience, and that cleansing the body of these toxins will lead to an overall healthier body.
Medical professionals and health specialists have varying opinions about the actual benefits of detoxification, or the veracity of the claims made by manufacturers of many detox-related products and supplements.
But generally, those within the medical community, as well as nutritionists and dietitians, do agree that a vast majority of our dietary consumption consists of unhealthy or imbalanced food and beverages, with many items that have little to no nutritional value.
According to a 2012 study by Natural Society, the average American consumes, in a year’s time, about 24 lbs of artificial sweeteners, 29 lbs of French fries, 600 lbs of dairy, 85 lbs of fats and oils, and 24 lbs of coffee, cocoa, or nuts. Even more alarming, the average American also drinks 53 gallons of soda beverages every year; that’s about a gallon a week.
How Do Toxins Enter the Body?
Toxins are also present everywhere, and can come into contact with the body in other ways apart from digestion. There are toxins in cosmetics, air pollution, building construction materials or chemicals, and other external toxins.
More specifically, the Nemours Foundation describes toxins this way:
“A toxin is a chemical or poison that is known to have harmful effects on the body. Toxins can come from food or water, from chemicals used to grow or prepare food, and even from the air that we breathe. Our bodies process those toxins through organs like the liver and kidneys and eliminate them in the form of sweat, urine, and feces.”
Many of us today live in highly-urbanized and densely-populated areas with disturbing levels of air pollution coming from vehicle and factory emissions, and even cigarette smoke (secondhand smoke included).
Toxins are also found in drinking water, such as chlorine, ammonia, bleach, and other poisonous chemicals. Of course, if you use tobacco, consume alcohol, or use recreational drugs, toxins are sure to be found in these substances as well.
Detoxing Helps Eliminate Toxins
Our bodies are wired to fight these toxins naturally. When you sweat, or eliminate waste, toxins are removed from the body. The problem, however, is that the excessively high levels of toxins in the food we eat, the water and other beverages we drink, and the environment that we move in on a daily basis can become too much for the body to handle.
The body’s “detoxification organs”, which include the kidneys, liver, lungs, and skin, among other body parts, experience immense stress in trying to deal with the amount of toxins that need to be detoxified. This can lead to health complications, and a lot of the toxins also remain in the body where they can cause problems.
Programs and products, such as detox diets, detox drinks, fasting, cleanse diets, and other similar methods try to assist the body and its organs in the detoxification process, making sure that the body has enough time and energy to rid itself of the toxins.
Many of these methods (such as cleansing fasts and diets) specifically allow the body’s digestive system to rejuvenate, limiting the exposure to additional toxins so that it can focus on detoxifying the toxins that are already inside the body.
Benefits to Detoxing
Some health benefits that have been observed or reported in successful procedures include:
- Improved energy levels – If the body’s detoxifying organs are under a lot of stress because of the high concentration of toxins in the body, this can make you less energetic, or feel sleepy or tired all the time.
- Weight loss – The lower amount of calories, fats, and other weight-adding ingredients and components in much of our food can help you lose weight, especially if you adopt a diet that sticks to all-natural and unprocessed foods and ingredients.
- Clearer skin or clearing of acne – The skin, as mentioned above, is one of the natural toxin-fighting organs of the body. If the toxins are stored or building up in your skin’s cells and pores, this can result to clogging and skin problems such as acne. Detoxing will restore your skin’s youthful glow.
- Improved digestion and bowel movements – If you detoxify your body, the toxins blocking proper digestion processes and bowel movements will be eliminated, paving the way for a more naturally-regulated system.
Myths about Detoxing
Like most other trends and fads over the years, this craze has its share of myths and misconceptions, much of it from misinformation as well as questionable marketing practices and advertising techniques utilized by certain companies wanting to cash in on the craze and make a quick buck.
“Detox diets prey on the vulnerability of dieters with fear tactics while gaining financially by selling products that are not necessary and potentially dangerous,” according to Connie Diekman, M.D., a nutrition director at Washington University, and past president of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Detoxing replaces the need for proper diet and exercise.
With a pretty large percentage of these detox drinks, diets, and pills being billed as effective weight-loss strategies, many people think that they can do away with proper diet or proper exercise. But like many other diets or weight loss programs that lower the intake of calories, excessive detoxification products can be detrimental rather than beneficial for one’s health.
- All the weight you lose while detoxing is from fat.
The majority of detox diets are designed to dramatically reduce your body’s absorption of calories, which can result in weight loss from fat. Unfortunately, fewer calorie consumption can also cause a loss of muscle mass, accounting for a percentage of that weight loss.
- Detoxing has no negative side effects.
Although there are many benefits to detoxing, there are some negative side effects if you don’t detoxify properly. Some negative side effects of improper detox diets may include constant dizziness or nausea, muscle aches, low blood sugar, or loss of energy.
- Detox diets are beneficial for everyone.
Detox diets and products are especially risky for certain people groups, including teenagers (they need the calories and protein for proper body development), pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone with a chronic disease.
Best Natural Ways to Detoxify
In fact, the healthier way to detoxify your body is a more natural process that aims to strengthen the detoxification system and organs that already work in your body. Many of the positive effects of detoxification are from natural methods, like exercise & massage, combined with adopting a healthier diet of organic fruits, vegetables and less processed foods.
Exercise and massages for natural detox
Regular exercise not only helps in keeping you physically strong and fit, but it also helps in releasing many of the body’s toxins naturally. When you sweat, many of the toxins built up in the skin’s cells and pores are released. Physical exercise also speeds up the body’s circulation and respiration systems.
Full body massages are great for relieving your body’s stress, treating various aches and pains. But the physical stimulation of the body’s muscles and skin can also loosen the toxins that have been built up or stored in the cells.
Natural detox drinks and foods
Increasing your fiber and fluid consumption helps with the digestion process and the organs of the body, making sure they are working properly to remove the toxins and harmful chemicals in your system. Many natural detox drinks maximize the essential nutrients you can get from various fruits and vegetables, such as:
- Green detox drink – This is made up primarily of green vegetables (kale, celery stalks, cabbage, spinach, etc.) blended together as a puree. Full ingredients can be found here.
- Cranberry juice – The Mayo Clinic recommends two daily servings of 16 oz. full-strength glasses of cranberry juice. You can add one tablespoon of apple pectin and psyllium fiber to enhance gentle intestinal elimination. Cranberry juice is packed with vitamin C, antioxidants, and manganese.
- Fruity detox drinks – Most people would be more likely to drink fruit drinks and blends rather than vegetables. The fruit drink is packed with fiber, along with flax oil and lecithin. Full ingredients can be viewed here.
- Fresh apple juice – An apple a day… yes, you know the next part. With the high amount of antioxidants and nutrients in apples, it’s hard to argue with the health benefits though. Apple juice can help in flushing out toxins from kidneys and the liver.
- Carrot juice – This drink is packed with Vitamin A, minerals, and antioxidants, excellent for treating digestive issues, constipation, and intestinal parasites or build-up.
How to Naturally Detox
Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, author of Doctor’s Detox Diet, says, “Extremes like colonics, starvation, and prolonged juice cleanses are not recommended. But if you view detox diets as a way of ‘clean eating,’ then it means eating natural, less-processed foods that are closer to the earth without artificial ingredients,”
Gerbstadt recommends a healthy two-week detox plan that includes a lot of water, whole fruits, fiber, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and lean protein; it veers away from most artificial detox products by allowing up to 1600 calories daily, focusing on more fiber and fluids.
“Beyond weight loss, minimally processed foods are healthy and nutrient-rich and contain fewer chemicals,” Gerbstadt adds. “The fiber and fluids speed up transit time to relieve gastrointestinal issues like constipation.”
For natural detox, she recommends green leafy vegetables, lemons, green tea, watercress, broccoli sprouts, sesame seeds, cabbage, and fruits.
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