Cleanses have been around for decades, but recently have moved to the front of the pack when it comes to diet aids, and health strategies. It is thought by many that with all of the junk we put in our bodies, we can have up to 25 pounds of “sludge” in our gut that needs to be cleaned from time to time. Unfortunately, it is a mixture of part pseudo-science and part myth that detox diets physically remove toxins from your body. If you Google search “detox diet”, you’ll get a range of results from fasting for days to extremely strict and absurd meal plans containing less than 500 calories per day. Let’s be honest, who ACTUALLY enjoys restricting calories? I know I sure don’t, and it’s extremely bad for your body (and metabolism) as well. Most of these detoxes use exaggerated science and make overblown claims promoting the benefits of detoxing. So what is the scientific based truth?
There are two main phases of detoxification that take place in our liver. The first phase, or functionalization phase, consists of enzymes partially breaking down of fat-soluble toxins that result in free radicals. In the second phase, or conjugation phase, free radicals are converted via enzymes into water-soluble toxins that can be excreted in waste (urine, bile, and feces). If one phase is not working properly or out of sync, this throws the whole system for a loop. Which leads us to part 2 of the cleansing myth…
Myth 2: Multiple day juice cleanses will “re-set” your body. The reality is that there is no scientific evidence that drinking certain juices for a few days (whether it be 3-day, 5-day, or 7-day cleanses) will re-boot your entire digestive system. Your liver (powerhouse), kidneys, lungs, colon, and skin are all organs of elimination. When we take care of these organs along with our entire body, these organs can function to the best of their ability. And how do we take care of these organs do you ask? You guessed it—proper nutrition and hydration! Depending on which cleanse you choose, you may make yourself even more deficient in the enzymes needed to keep your detoxifying ability efficient!
STOP! Now before you go into your refrigerator and throw away all of your pricey juice cleanses, please know that some of these can easily be implemented into a balanced diet. What you want to be most conscious of is the sugar content. Most juice cleanses contain large amounts of fruits and vegetables that have been juiced down into a small quantities of liquid. Some bottled juices have more than 60g of sugar per serving. Just to give you some perspective that is 15 TEASPOONS of sugar. No one in their right mind would drink 15 teaspoons of sugar when they are trying to detox, but unfortunately many consumers are unknowingly taking part. Some of my favorite juices are OLUS + and Evolution Fresh. For example: Evolution Fresh Green Devotion checks in at only 8g of sugar for the entire bottle. Lesson Learned? Make sure you are reading your nutrition facts labels and aware of what you are putting in your body.
Now that you have mastered the science, here’s what you can conclude. Enzymes need the help of specific vitamins and minerals to breakdown toxins efficiently. Hear me when I say there is NO end-all, cure-all instant detox that will be a remedy for poor eating habits. A healthy, balanced diet along with proper hydration and sleep is all you need to naturally and continuously detox your system!
There are certain dietary and lifestyle habits you can incorporate into your day that will put your body in a constant state of detoxification. You don’t want to put your body through any unnecessary stress and wear out these important organs. Here are some basic pointers to help keep your body clean:
- Limit processed foods with artificial additives, preservatives, colorings, and sweeteners.
- Limit refined grains, sugars, and hydrogenated oils.
- Avoid alcohol in excess.
- Avoid processed and fried foods.
- Consume plenty of foods found in their wholesome, natural state: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, lean meats, and whole grains.
- Strive to make half of your plates full of colorful fruits and vegetables—the more colors equal more nutrients.
- Drink a minimum of 64 ounces of water per day. Consume more if you are physically active.
- Eat foods that are considered “high fiber”—containing more than 5g of fiber per serving.
- Strive for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
- Get moving! Aim to get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity—whether you are gardening, walking the dog, cleaning the house, or running a 5K race…all activity counts!