Every now and again, patients come to my office declaring that they plan to start a “detox”, and proffer a bottle of some new product they found at a health food store, so I can review the ingredients and reassure them that it’s safe. The product usually involves some claim of being a “detox”, “improving digestion”, “weight loss” etc.
When people talk about starting a “detox” they are usually referring to a fairly restrictive diet , with ingredients that claim to eliminate toxins or cleanse the body. I can’t lie; some times I get to a place where I feel bloated and sluggish after a carb binge (WHY don’t our bodies ever go on, like, vegetable binges??) and I feel like I need to do something to reset my body, so I definitely understand the desire.
However, in general I am very reluctant to endorse any product that endorses detoxifying properties, especially in patients that already have health issues or take medications. I’m also uncomfortable with the concept on relying on a Magic Pill to clean out your system, since many of the ingredients are just glorified laxatives. And p.s, our bodies already have mechanisms to naturally detoxify itself. We just have to optimize what we ingest to allow our body to do its job!
So, my usual response is ” honestly I can’t say for sure this product is safe”, and then lead the conversation to safer ways to reduce toxins, cleanse and reset our bodies. Here’s what I suggest for a safe “detox”!
- Water water water: I feel like this goes without saying that water helps flush and optimize our bodies better than anything else. If you feel the need to detox, then up your water intake. Personally, I feel best when I start the day with a tall glass of warm lemon water. Not sure why it works but I definitely feel better afterward. For people like me who “forget” to drink water throughout the day, a good trick is to make sure to drink a full glass before every meal and snack, first thing in the morning and right before bed…at the very least. Aim for 8-10 glasses a day.
- Eliminate refined carbs : This will help reduce the fluctuating blood sugar levels that contribute to feeling sluggish, and reduce inflammation which can wreak havoc on our finely tuned system.
- Cut out the Sweet N Lo: Don’t be fooled that because you substituted sugar for artificial sweeteners, that you’re doing something healthier for your body. Sucralose, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are hard to digest, can disrupt our gut microbiome (more on this below), screw our metabolism and lead to weight gain, and there’s still the pesky suspicion of possibly causing cancer (the official FDA guidelines say they are safe in small quantities, for what it’s worth). At the very least, cut down during your detox period, and then try to limit everyday use as much as possible.
- Increase fiber intake: The typical western diet is woefully low on fiber, which helps regulate digestion. Increase your oatmeal, flax seed, fruit, vegetable and bean intake for natural sources of fiber, or try over the counter options like Metamucil. Note: abruptly increasing fiber intake can cause bloating so do this gradually.
- Put down the wine glass: As great as your prosecco makes you feel in the moment, facts are facts: alcohol is toxic to the body, and since it metabolized mainly by the liver, which is one of the body’s largest detox organs, it’s counterproductive to drink alcohol during this period. After the detox period is over, remember to stay below the recommended alcohol intake (click here)
- Consider a probiotic: The topic of probiotics is an emerging one in the world of medicine, as well as the concept of the gut microbiome. New data is constantly being published endorsing the benefits of a healthy diverse population of bacteria in the gut. I’m sure I’ll be writing MUCH more about this in future posts, but for now check out THIS LINK. So if your digestion is off, consider taking a probiotic supplement, or eating foods like kombucha, kefir and yogurt which have live bacterial strains (before doing this definitely speak with your doctor, since probiotics may not be safe if you are immunosuppressed).
- Exercise: Optimize the blood flow to your organs, and sweat it out!
Following these simple steps for 3-7 days can do wonders to help give our bodies a healthy kick-start, and of course continuing these healthy practices daily will help to maintain us so that no more “detoxes” are needed ;).
Have you tried these tips, how did it make you feel?