While many people are spending this time at home spring cleaning their houses, others are looking to detox or cleanse from their self-isolation diet. The media describes most detox diets as a period of fasting, followed by a strict diet of fruits, vegetables, juices, and water as a way of purging harmful toxins from your body. However, what most people fail to realize is that your body already comes equipped with its own detoxification system — no magic green juice cleanses required.
How the Body Naturally Detoxifies
Detoxification occurs when non-water-soluble toxins and metabolites are transformed into water-soluble compounds that can be excreted in urine, sweat, bile or stool. There are two types of toxins – those that are made in the body during metabolism (i.e. lactic acid, urea, and waste products) and those that come from outside the body through eating, drinking, breathing, and absorbed from the skin (i.e. pesticides, mercury in seafood, medications, drugs and alcohol).
The main detox organs in the body are the liver and the kidneys. The liver is the first organ to receive
all nutrients, medications, drugs, and alcohol after they are absorbed. The liver plays a crucial role in the metabolism or break down of fat and carbohydrates and converting metabolites into by-products that can be safely excreted by the kidneys. The kidneys filter about half a cup of blood every minute to eliminate toxins and waste products from the body through the urine.
Supporting Your Body’s Natural Detox
Detoxification support does not need to be restrictive or unsustainable in the long term. Doing some or all of the following can support your body’s natural detoxification:
- Water: Staying hydrated is essential for good health. Water promotes urinary excretion and bowel movements, supports the lymphatic system and replenishes fluids lost through sweat.
- Fruits and Vegetables: Eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables (typically 5-9 servings per day) add antioxidants and fiber to the diet. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts have been shown to contain several enzymes that support detoxification pathways.
- Fiber: Soluble and insoluble fiber, as found in fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans, and whole grains bind to toxins and bile and carry them out of the body through the stool. Fiber also minimizes time spent in contact with harmful compounds, such as acrylamides from charred meat, by regulating transit time through the gastrointestinal tract. Drinking juice cleanses for extended periods of time may result in missing out on this crucial nutrient.
- Probiotics: Beneficial bacteria from probiotic or fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut promote gut health and may inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria, which produce ammonia and other toxic metabolites.
Let your body do its thing and focus your energy on choosing a variety of nutritious foods everyday during self-quarantine.