You hear the term “detox” thrown around all the time. Whether it’s about a new “detox diet” or “detox supplement,” we’re often told that we need to do X, Y, or Z to detox. But what does it really mean to detox?
It’s not a magic pill or diet as is often touted. There is one primary way to detoxify your body, and that is by improving the detoxification pathways already in place.1
Detoxification is not a new idea – it has been practiced for centuries, and the human body has been perfecting its detoxification pathways throughout the entirety of human history. When it comes to removing unwanted toxins from our bodies, there are certain parts of our bodies that are of the most importance:
- Gastrointestinal tract
By boosting the health of these organs and supporting the metabolic detoxification pathways already in place, you can begin the detoxification process.
There is one other way that your actions and what you eat can help to protect your body from toxins, and that is by aiming to reduce the damage that is caused by these toxins.1,2 Many of these detoxifying foods have the added benefit of serving as antioxidants that fight oxidative damage and/or anti-inflammatories that fight chronic inflammation.
What Are “Detox Diets”? Do They Work?
Detox diets come in all shapes and sizes.2 They tend to be short in length and include extreme caloric restriction, paired with certain rules as to what to eat and not to eat. Many of the most popular detox diets include juice fasts or other liquid fasts, and are often paired with supplements made up of a variety of herbs and other substances. With the variability of detox diets out there, it pays to be cautious and do your homework.
Unfortunately, most of what you will find advertised on the market will not fulfill the promises that are made. You do not need to drink only juice for 14 days to detox. It is best to pair lifestyle changes with the addition of detoxifying foods to your diet, rather than drastically alter how you live for two weeks out of the year. Similarly, one singular pill will not do what lifestyle changes, functional foods, and specific supplements together can do to help you detox.
When it comes to a “detox diet” or “natural detox,” what this ought to refer to, based on a scientific understanding of health and the human body, is eating and behaving in such a way as to reduce the accumulation of new toxins and to support the systems in the body that are working to remove toxins.
A short-lived “detox diet” is not the optimal way to remove toxins from your body. Instead, if you really want to protect your body from toxins, you will want to make long-term changes to how you live and how you eat in ways that can protect your body from damage long-term. Remember…you are what you eat!