What's the deal?
It’s become the new buzz word among influencers and health addicts, but very few of us understand its core. The concept of detox diets is nothing new to the masses jumping on the trend to lose weight and achieve the ‘perfect body’. To detox is to abstain from, or get rid of, unhealthy substances (toxins) from the body. But as the hype around detoxing increases – thanks to the likes of Kendall Jenner posting products that have contributed to her runway-ready body – the actual purpose of detoxing is lost in the fad. So, what exactly does a detox diet do, does it really work, and is it as vital to life as celebs and influencers make it seem?
What Are Toxins And How Do They Get Into Our Systems?
Toxins are harmful agents in the environment that we come into contact with or consume on a daily basis. Speaking to Medical Daily, Dr. Smith of the University of California Santa Cruz, who studies the response of organisms to toxins, believes there’s a heavy list of 689 toxins ranging from the widely-known Bisphenol-A (BPA) found in food packaging and other consumer plastics to the lesser-known pesticide residues in the vegetables we eat. So, the popular media propositions that suggest most toxins enter our system through the foods we consume is valid, and all the hype about refraining from certain foods or even restricting oneself to certain liquids seems logical enough. According to research published in the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine journal, the concept of detoxing, while often seen as a rather aggressive sales pitch, is rooted in health science. Pairing increasing amounts of industrial chemicals, radioactive elements, pesticides and other harmful substances being released into the environment worldwide with bioaccumulation (the increase in the number and intensity of toxins as they work their way through the food chain), means we are more susceptible than ever to their overconsumption.
What Do Toxins Do?
As the word toxic suggests, toxins interfere with our natural bodily functions and affect our daily activities in injurious ways. Most of the time, we don’t even realise the effects of toxins until we take action and regress back to a healthier ingestion point. Toxins have become the main cause of most major health issues of recent times, ranging from headaches or allergies to metabolic imbalances, skin problems and digestive issues. Moreover, the build up and overload of these compounds over a long period of time can lead to more serious issues like obesity, memory loss, vision problems and cancer. Clearly, then, leaving these toxins to languish in the body is an absolute no-no.
What Is Detoxing?
Relieving the body of these unhealthy chemicals is known as detoxing. This process, according Dr. Smith, can only be done effectively only through excretion. So, while all celebrity-acclaimed teatoxes may seem sexy and cool, their underlying objective is – almost always – to get you to the loo more often than is standard. And the loss of a few pounds is the bonus – not the aim – of the detoxing process, which give your body’s natural cleaning processes a jumpstart.
How Do We Detox?
The most popular form detoxing – as reflected by mainstream fads – is going on a juice diet, which advocates cutting out solid foods for a number of days. While these juices do tend to be filling and contain a major amount of nutrients, it is not the best detox method, as it can be abused quite easily.
Unless the juice diet (and each ingredient) is advised by a dietician, it’s likely that a home-made plan won’t contain all the necessary nutrients required for our systems to function optimally. Additionally, a liquid-only diet tends to trigger slow metabolism to conserve what little energy is available within our bodies, which makes it impossible to efficiently flush out bodily toxins…which also makes it that much harder to drop those kilos.
In truth, the best way of detoxing is by being aware of the kinds of food you consume; going organic with most of your diet; and supplementing your daily intake with a rotation of teas, juices or infused waters. If a detox isn’t for you, avoiding foods that are largely known to contain toxins is a fuss-free way of staying clear of the harmful materials.
Here’s what you should potentially avoid:
1. Mass producers of milk and other dairy products usually employ growth hormone, which can be injurious to the system.
2. Commercially packaged products like bulk cheese and food additives contain harmful aluminum particles.
3. Processed meats like ham, bacon and sausages have preservatives with harmful nitrates.
4. Fried food like chips, toasted cereals and bread crusts, and any product that contains large amounts of starch cooked over high heat should also avoided, as the process aids in forming acrylamide that, over time, can act as a carcinogenic.
What Are The Benefits Of Detoxing?
Apart from the obvious health benefits, staying away from toxins has many bonuses that are visible in everyday life.
1. Weight loss: Detox drinks boost metabolism (the process of converting the food we eat into energy for the body), so the chances of food being stored in the form of fat is low. A study by Assistant Professor Eric Callahan at New York Chiropractic College on seven participants exposed to a detox diet proved this claim by showing a weight loss ranging between 2.4-9kg and a visible improvement in lipid profiles within 21 days.
2. Boosts energy: Since the rate of metabolism increases, the levels of energy in your body rise naturally, dispelling fatigue and brain fog. Accordingly, your daily life will be more refreshing and rejuvenating!
3. Promotes healthy hair and skin: With the removal of your body’s toxic build-up, regeneration and cell turnover is increased, which engenders healthy hair and skin. With the added nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants in your detox diet, your skin will also begin to look more radiant.
4. Cleanses the liver: The liver is in charge of purifying the body and keeping it free of harmful substances. A study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine showed that, after detoxification, liver function increased a further 23%. When you eat clean, you stop overworking the liver, so you don’t wear it prematurely thin.
Two easy ways to kick-start your detox diet!
Sip On Infused Waters
Add some of these ingredients to a bottle of water and leave it overnight so the nutrients have time to infuse. Use this as your daily water source, and you’ve taken that vital first detoxing step!
Cucumber: A natural diuretic with high amounts of silicone and sulfur contents, cucumber induces the kidneys to eliminate amassed waste and toxins through urination.
Lime: Has high levels of antioxidants and vitamin C, which are known to battle free radicals.
Strawberries: Antioxidants in this nutrient-dense fruit can reduce the risk of heart attacks and the effects of carcinogenesis.
Ginger: Relieves oxidative stress (an imbalance between the harmful free radicals and how quickly the body is able to detoxify them) within the liver, making its cleaning processes easier.
Switch From Coffee To Tea
Incorporating tea in your routine is another fuss-free way of ridding the body of pesky chemicals. Tea contains nutrients like polyphenols that aid our natural detox system, which in turn lowers the risk of heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure and other toxin-induced illnesses. It also provides increased energy for daily performances and is a known mood booster.
Realistically, it’s impossible to completely shut out all toxins from entering our body, but we do have a chance at maintaining how much we intake by being conscious of what we eat and drink. So, reclaim the reins of your health by controlling what you ingest, and by learning and implementing ways of expelling the toxins in a healthy, regular manner. While your detox programme may not be as glam as that of your favourite A-lister, it will keep you equally healthy and totally radiant.
This article was originally published as ‘The Deal With Detoxification’ in the March 2017 issue of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. For more health and life advice, grab a copy of our latest magazine.
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