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Know Your Detox

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Whether they are cucumbers splashing into water or models sitting smugly next to a pile of vegetables, it’s tough not to be sucked in by the detox industry. The idea that you can wash away your calorific sins is the perfect antidote to our fast-food lifestyles and alcohol-lubricated social lives. But before you dust off that juicer or take the first tentative steps towards a colonic irrigation clinic, there’s something you should know: detoxing – the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam. It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.
There are tons of different cleanses and detoxes. For the most part, a cleanse and a detox are the same thing. They’re typically used interchangeably and have the same basic goals: to remove “harmful” things from your body. Sometimes, they aim to target a specific organ like the liver or colon, and supposedly, detoxing makes you feel better.
There’s no specific definition of a detox or cleanse, but they often involve limiting your food intake to pressed juice, avoiding specific types of food, or drinking a concoction of juices that supposedly rids your body of toxins. These supposed toxins are rarely described by cleansers in detail, but generally referred to as “poisons” or “pollutants.” In the medical field, toxins can refer to just about anything, from alcohol, to foods, to medicines, to asbestos.
Before you can understand the “de” in detox you should have an idea of the “tox” (aka the toxins we’re aiming to get rid of.) They’re little compounds from various sources that, when they build up in our bodies, have nasty effects. They can cause anything ranging from headaches and nausea to death. Below, toxins are broken into two main categories:

Environmental Toxins: If we wanted to be fancy we could call these “exogenous toxins,” but either way you say it, environmental toxins are made outside of your body. They would be carried in things like food, air, and water. Some examples are over-the-counter or prescription medication, carbon monoxide, and pesticides.

Metabolic Toxins: Technically considered “endogenous toxins” these guys are just the opposite of the above, and they are made inside of your body. They can include the “waste” produced by our cells as they constantly give us energy, but there is a blurry line as to where metabolic and environmental cross over. Some might consider a toxin in highly processed food that is released during digestion actually metabolic, and not environmental.

Also to be mentioned is biological (virus, bacteria, etc.) and chemical (mercury, lead, medication) toxins. In general, they can be stuffed into one of the above categories, which is all you really need to know for a basic understanding.
Our bodies are incredibly good at processing toxins, with the liver, lungs, and kidneys bearing a large part of the burden. Without any sort of detox drink or diet we can keep ourselves pretty pure, an impressive feat, considering how many toxins our lifestyle these days include. This is where it becomes hard to figure out if detoxing ourselves does anything, and if it does, is it helpful or harmful? For various reasons, it can be both.
These are some examples of ways that are more detrimental than beneficial:

  • Fast or don’t eat: Your body is working hard to keep you healthy all day every day and has a highly-evolved process of detoxification all its own that does a pretty darn good job at getting the nasties out. If you fast you’re often depriving your body of nutrients needed to keep it running strong, healthy, and detoxing at the utmost efficiency.
  • Follow a “detox” or “detox fad diet”: When people follow a detox diet-particularly the fad kind, that seek to make money off of you-and then find they are more energized, focused, and have an overall sense of wellbeing, it’s probably because they were eating healthier foods. The benefits seemingly experienced by a detox diet most likely just come from avoiding processed edibles (which should really be called inedibles in my opinion.) In terms of weight loss, the initial drop is primarily water weight when on a fast, and any pounds shed after that will only be re-gained when the detox has stopped. It’s just a quick-fix, and not a terribly healthy one at that.
  • Don’t sweat it: “Sweating out toxins” is not an accurate phrase, despite being so popular. Sweat is 99% made up of water, with a tiny bit of salt, urea, proteins, and carbs. Anything truly toxic, like mercury, alcohol, or drugs, is eliminated by your liver, kidneys, and digestive system. On average you have 2.6 million sweat glands-all designed to regulate body temperature, not get rid of bad waste products.
    The best way to “detox” is to avoid toxins in the first place, but the more we overload our world with them, it doesn’t hurt to lend your body a helping hand.

Eat healthy: The body is all about prevention, and tries to keep you healthy rather than get you healthy. It would really rather avoid having to deal with a bunch of processed foods and their toxins in the first place. Eating healthy is the true “detox diet.” There’s nothing fancy about it, just some dedication and trust in the amazing functions of the human body. When possible always go organic, that way you can avoid ingesting the nasty chemicals and pesticides often found on or in non-organic foods.
Keep the air fresh: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure here as well. Try making a switch to greener cleaning products that will emit fewer chemicals that are harmful to breathe in, and do your best to avoid things like cigarette smoke as much as you can.
Create or follow a good recipe: The beauty of the internet is that we can share information across the world in the blink of an eye. Using what you know about detox and any experience with it, come up with a healthy recipe of your own to help flush things out, or utilize someone else’s. There are a lot of good ideas floating around out there from a straightforward detox drink to elaborate smoothies.
Exercise: Exercise keeps your blood pumping along and circulating through your body, which helps keep your system clear of bad build up. It just boosts your organ health overall, and often times you can work up a good sweat. While you don’t sweat out toxins, you certainly feel good and healthy after you work out effectively and sweat a little.
As a verdict, you and your body are a team, and when you want to detox, you only have the best intentions at heart. Keep in mind though, the best way to keep your system clean and toxin free is to use common sense and trust your internal workings. It’s a blend of knowing what to avoid, and what kind of things actually do help you out, whether used on occasion or every day. It can be as simple as eating healthier. We add more toxins to our world all the time, knowledge on how to get rid of them grows increasingly important. Think about what you would define detox as when you’re deciding on what to try and who to trust.

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