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Here’s the Best Detox Around
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Here’s the Best Detox Around

New detox and cleanse programs get pushed online every day: detox if you’ve been eating or drinking too much…cleanse if you need a boost…detox if you want to “flush out toxins.” But before you dive in, you should know that there’s not much that any of them can do for you that you can’t do better for yourself.

You already have the best detox system around: your liver. When you support that vital organ, you’re supporting detox that really works. 

The Unsung Hero

Many Eastern traditions see it as one of the body’s most important organs, but in the West the liver is underappreciated for its life-sustaining functions. A healthy liver weighs about 3 pounds, less than 2%-3% of your body weight, yet uses about 12% of the body’s total energy. It’s central to all of your body’s metabolic processes; its 500+ known functions include: breaking down fats and carbohydrates; storing vitamins and minerals; producing proteins, cholesterol, and bile; storing and releasing glucose into the bloodstream, and more.

In addition to natural metabolic waste, your liver processes the modern toxins that you ingest or inhale every day—synthetic food additives, drugs, alcohol, and the thousands of industrial chemicals present in our environment. Combine those with unhealthy lifestyle choices, and the challenges to your liver are clear. 

Dangers of Extreme Detoxing

Giving your liver extra support seems like an easy choice—yet the all-liquid regimens, starvation diets, and other extreme detox trends that masquerade as help for a hardworking liver can cause big problems. Detoxing your body is already the liver’s full-time job; adding a trendy cleansing scheme can create a dangerous burden on the organ. 

In addition to overworking your liver, other potential risks include: disrupting normal blood sugar, potassium, and sodium levels; disturbing your intestinal microbiome; breakdown of muscle tissue; and reabsorption of toxins. 

The biggest risk is compromising your liver’s most important function: converting vitamins, minerals, and amino acids into their biologically active forms. Without those nutrients, your body can’t make the energy it needs for every living process.

How to Recognize a Safe Detox 

A safe detox starts with common sense: Clean up your lifestyle first.

  1. Don’t put garbage in: Clean up your diet. Avoid added sugars, saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, synthetic additives and preservatives, and too much alcohol. To minimize environmental toxins, choose organic food when you can, drink purified water, and get plenty of fresh air (away from vehicle pollution).
  2. Actively support your liver: Your liver needs the right nutrients and compounds to function optimally. Coffee, green tea, grapefruit, berries, beets, almonds, spinach, broccoli, and culinary herbs like oregano and rosemary are great liver supporters, as are botanicals like milk thistle, dandelion root, and schisandra.
  1. Get the waste out: Your liver relies on your digestive system to carry waste products out of your body. Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, and fiber. Exercise regularly to help keep your liver—and the rest of you—trim. And get adequate, good-quality sleep to give your liver the rest-and-repair time it needs.

Once you’ve made those liver-health lifestyle changes, you can think about a detox or cleanse, if you like. A safe program should:

  • Support your body nutritionally throughout the whole cleanse
  • Provide ramp-up and ease-out periods at the beginning and end of the cleanse
  • Have clinical studies or authoritative traditional practitioners that support its methods 
  • Avoid extremes (eating just 1 thing or nothing, all liquid, prolonged fasting, etc.)
  • Make you feel good, not sick or impaired in any way 
  • Have no chemicals or “secret ingredients” that you can’t verify yourself

You already have Nature’s best detox plan: your liver. Prioritizing its health gives you free, daily detox for life. 

 

References

Your liver really works, even when you’re not paying attention to it. Learn more about this amazing organ from the resources we used for this article.

Anthea Levi, “Here’s Why You Really Don’t Need to Do a Juice Cleanse This Month—or Ever,” Health.com, 1/10/19. Accessed 2/6/19.

Cari Nierenberg, "6 Potential Dangers of Juice Cleanses and Liquid Diets," LiveScience.com, 11/24/14. Accessed 2/6/19.

Johns Hopkins Health Library, “Liver: Anatomy and Functions,” HopkinsMedicine.org, undated. Accessed 2/6/19.

Karen Asp and Sanjai Sinha, MD, “8 Questions You Should Be Able to Answer About Your Liver,” EverydayHealth.com, 2/15/18. Accessed 2/6/19. 

Mike Adams, "Why your detox is making you sick: Must-read article reveals dangers of aggressive detoxing," NaturalNews.com, 4/20/14. Accessed 2/6/19.

Rosie Spinks, et al., “A Handy Guide to the Toxic Language of Diet Culture,” Quartz.com, 12/29/18. Accessed 2/6/19.

Susan Moores, RD, "Experts Warn of Detox Diet Dangers," May 18, 2007. Accessed 2/6/19. 

WebMD Medical Reference, “Can a Detox or Cleanse Help Your Liver?” WebMD.com, 8/21/18. Accessed 2/6/19. 

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