Updated: Jul 20
We often hear the word "detox" used in health and wellness spaces, but what does it actually mean? Many times we refer to detoxing in relation to weight loss or as a a short term strategy to cleanse the body. In reality, detoxification is a process the body performs every day in order to remove or neutralize toxins, chemicals, and hormones. You can think of detoxification as the way the body takes out the trash.
The primary way it accomplishes this trash removal process is through the organs of detoxification which include the liver, kidneys, large intestine, lymphatic system, and the sweat glands. Toxins are then excreted primarily through urine, stool, and sweat. We can support the detoxification process by getting the proper nutrients and hydration, in addition to reducing our exposure to toxins in our environment.
Why Do We Need to Detox?
It is estimated that the average adult has at least 700 toxins in their body. We live in a society where we constantly have toxic exposure from a variety of sources including water, food, and air and from time spent in the home or work environment. Every single day our body works hard to eliminate substances like heavy metals, plasticizers, pesticides, herbicides, air pollutants, medications, harmful microbes, and other environmental contaminants we come into contact with.
When we can not effectively clear toxins from the body, the environment become dysfunctional. Imagine if you never took the trash out in your home? It would not be pleasant to live in there for long!!
Increased toxic burden can result symptoms of illness and disease. Common signs and symptoms of increased toxic burden can include:
To stay healthy and feel our best it's important to understand the basics of detoxification, and learn how we can eat and live in a way that aids the body's essential detoxification processes.
Foods to Help Detox
Food plays a critical role in detoxification. The wrong foods can make it more challenging for the body's natural detoxification system to work by creating inflammation and activating the immune system. The right foods, however, can optimize our detoxification pathways by ensuring the body is getting enough of the proper nutrients for detoxification to occur. Below we discuss the key nutritional areas to focus on for more efficient and effective detoxing.
Protein is an essential nutrient required for healthy detoxification, and should be included in every meal for this reason. Amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, are used by the liver to transform toxins and carry them out of the body.
Excellent sources of animal proteins include eggs, fish, meat, and poultry. There are also a variety of plant based protein sources to choose from including beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole soy (ie: edamame miso, natto, tofu, and tempeh). There is also a variety of protein powders including collagen, whey, hemp, rice and pea varieties that can supplement the diet if needed. It is always important to focus on choosing high-quality protein, which may include lean, grass-fed, organic, non-GMO sources. Aim for a total of 10-12 servings of protein each day to optimize detoxification.
Non-starchy vegetables are the perfect accompaniment to protein at each meal, because of their fiber and phytonutrient content. There are four essential categories of non-starchy vegetables that offer individual therapeutic benefits as it relates to detoxification. In general the goal is to eat some from each category every day. Aim for more than 8 servings a day to support liver detoxification and optimize elimination of waste in the gut.