Diet and Detoxify

January 6th, 2012 - Uncategorized

After all the excesses of Christmas, many people are thinking about a detox to cleanse their systems of all that stodgy food and alcohol. In some ways, the start of a new year is a great time to overhaul your diet, but the middle of winter is far from the ideal time for most types of detox diet. So why has detoxing become so popular, and what is the best way to go about it?


Many of the foods we eat, such as processed food, meat, non-organic fruit and vegetables, caffeine and alcoholic drinks, contain substances which are harmful to our bodies. Some of these substances are naturally occurring, such as hormones in meat, while others are due to the use of chemicals such as pesticides, preservatives or artificial colours or flavouring. In some cases the harmful substances may be produced inside the body as a result of metabolism, or they may be due to substances entering the bloodstream which have not been fully broken down during digestion. In any case, these substances must be removed from the bloodstream by the liver or kidneys, and eliminated from the body through the bowel or the urinary system.


If the amount of toxins consumed is low, the liver and kidneys will be able to cope with this task and the body remains healthy.  However if the consumption of toxins exceeds the ability of the body to remove them (as is most frequently the case these days) a number of symptoms can arise.


First of all, the presence of excess toxins in the bloodstream can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, sluggishness, digestive disturbance and poor concentration. Excess toxins, particularly uric acid, may be sequestered in the joints, leading to inflammation, pain and stiffness.


In an attempt to restore health, the body tries to eliminate the toxins from the body in other ways: toxins can be pushed out through the skin, which serves as a third organ of elimination.  This can lead to symptoms such as body odour, itching, dryness of the skin, and spots or rashes. Toxins can also be pushed out through the lungs, causing bad breath.


Alongside the weight-loss industry, the whole area of detox has become big business, with all sorts of techniques ranging from colonic hydrotherapy, to body soaks and masks which aim to draw toxins out through the skin. All sorts of products are on sale which claim to detoxify the body, and diet plans are available which last from a few days to several weeks, and include complete fasting, liquid or juice only diets, the raw food diet, even the Hallelujah diet! However, many of these approaches are unproven, and some may even be harmful.


Diets with too many restrictions can lead to nutritional deficiencies in some individuals if they are adhered to for long periods of time. They are often not suitable for people who are weak or otherwise unwell, and can sometimes lead to worsening of symptoms in the short term. Harsh detox diets, particularly those which only include raw foods or juices, are not ideal during the winter months as they can weaken the digestion, and therefore ironically increase the toxicity of the body.


In next weeks article we will look at a manageable detox plan, which will safely and gently allow the body to cleanse itself from the inside out, without compromising your health or causing any unnecessary discomfort.