by Cristin Wipfler, MPH, RDN - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Health Coach
Detox has become a buzz word in the health industry, and everyone seems to have a different take on what it is and why it is important. For me, the term detox represents the act of reducing exposure to potentially harmful toxins, while adding in choices that support good health and lower toxic stress on the body. In other words, minimizing the amount of toxins coming in and supporting our built-in detoxification system to expel what needs to come out.
The reasons people look for a detox range from an overall health reboot to a reset after an indulgent weekend. Done properly, the benefits of a healthy detox are significant including, improved mood, decreased chronic pain, decreased inflammation, reconnection with oneself, decrease in stress and symptoms of anxiety and depression, improved focus and mental clarity, better blood sugar balance, more energy, better sleep, reduced cravings, healthy skin, better digestion and gut health, improved metabolism and immunity, and supports a healthy weight.
With all of these positive side effects of doing a detox (done the right way), there is no doubt that it can be a valuable process, but if you are confused about the best way to go about it, you are not alone. There are conflicting messages out there and it is hard to know what to believe. If you are looking for a safe and effective detox, here are the five things to be sure are included to ensure a healthy and productive detox experience.
“Clean” up your diet -A frightening trend in our food supply is the drastic decrease in food quality as we add chemicals, hormones, GMOs, artificial colors and flavors, and preservatives. As we advance agriculturally, technologically, and in areas of self-care, we are promised new and wonderful changes, but sadly, these changes come at a price. Cleaning up our diets really means removing food with high levels of toxins and replacing those foods with cleaner options. Some easy ways to “clean” up your diet are to choose whole foods over packaged foods, look at how and where the food was grown, and read labels carefully for hidden sugars, fats, additives, and the like
Exercise - We know that exercise has many health benefits, and one of those is that it helps your body detoxify! Sweat is not only our natural cooling system, it is also one of the ways our body releases toxins. When we exercise, our organs and tissues also receive more oxygen and nutrients from faster blood circulation. So get your sweat on and let some of those toxins escape through your pores!
Stay hydrated - Water is hugely important for a safe and effective detox because it helps flush out toxins through your liver and kidneys. Aim for at least half your body weight in ounces per day (eg. a person who weighs 180 lbs would want to drink 90 oz of water per day). This amount should increase if exercising, sweating a lot, or choosing dehydrating foods/beverages such as coffee or alcohol. While it can be annoying to make routine trips to the bathroom, it is a sign that your body is hydrated and able to remove those unwanted toxins more easily.
Get your zzz’s - When you sleep your body does its own reset by removing built up toxins from the day, regulating digestion and improving memory. Experts recommend getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night for optimal benefits. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, try putting all screens away an hour before bedtime (yes, that means your phone too 😊), implementing a relaxing evening routine (stretching, breathwork, reading, etc), and not eating or drinking too close to bed.
Upgrade your products - Our toxic load is also built up by the chemicals we put on our skin and breathe in through the products we use. Take a close look at the products you use around your house and in your personal care routines: beauty products, skin care products, cleaning products, and the like. Opt for products that have eliminated unnecessary and potentially harmful ingredients that are often found in conventional product formulations.
The practice of detoxing is just that, a practice. While many products and programs tout a short time commitment with big results, detoxifying your lifestyle is not something you have to do all at once, master, or assign an end date. Healthy detoxification is not about dieting, restricting, or special detox products. A healthy detox is a lifestyle. It is an effort to help our bodies better process the toxins we cannot avoid bringing in (like pollution) by being intentional about the foods we eat and the products we use.
Please be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before implementing any extreme or long-term changes, as well as if you have any chronic health conditions, are pregnant, or are incorporating any supplements into your detox practice to ensure safety, efficacy, and possible interactions with other medications.