What do you think of when you hear the words detox and cleanse? Extreme Diet? Starvation? That really testy person at the office drinking something green? A healthy break from your favorite “bad” foods? The words detox and cleanse hold very different meanings depending on whom you ask. Today, they are typically associated with fads touted by those who are not qualified nutrition professionals, often celebrities. The popular notions tend to go hand in hand with extreme diets (remember The Master Cleanse?), the elimination of whole food groups (most juicing regimes), or significant and unhealthy calorie reduction, which is why most dietitians try to steer their clients away from “detoxing.” This isn’t because detoxification isn’t real—get this, it’s actually one of the processes our body does best! How else would we be able to handle the margaritas, hamburgers, and questionable dietary decisions after a long weekend?! Give a round of applause for your liver and kidneys!
While our bodies are performing detoxification functions on a daily basis, there is a lot we can do to support these processes, such as eating the right foods, proper portion control, hydrating, improving digestion and making better lifestyle choices (being active, practicing stress management). In some cases, aiding our bodies in detoxing can indicate dietary supplements but the theme here is balance, not extremes.
Detox In A Nutshell
This process depends on two main organs: your liver and the kidneys, but it’s really your liver that deserves most of the glory. Without going into too much detail, Phase 1 basically involves a family of enzymes breaking down and releasing toxins from your fat stores and metabolizing them further to water soluble molecules so that, in Phase 2 (also known as the “natural healing phase”) they can be excreted through urine, bile or stool. During detoxification, toxins are roaming in your blood stream, which can manifest as unpleasant symptoms like headaches, bad breath, skin outbreaks (acne, eczema, rashes), mucus buildup and changes in bowel movement or urinating patterns. All very attractive. But they proceed the “cleanse high”- when you actually feel the benefits of a good detox or cleanse program!
Detox vs. Cleanse
Although used interchangeably, they actually mean different things. Detoxification is the process of clearing toxins from the body or neutralizing them, i.e. ridding yourself of the excess “gunk.” Cleansing, on the other hand, involves eliminating culprits like trigger foods, additives and processed foods, while also introducing new and rejuvenating items to your diet, like antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. As a Registered Dietitian, I encourage my clients to embrace the Detox+, a combination of ridding toxic substances while replenishing with healthy foods. Think of it as a whole-food based cleanse without the pesky hunger pangs or calorie counting that can lead to throwing a green juice at your boss’s head.
So Why Detox+?
Detoxing or cleansing allows us to look at old patterns with a new awareness. If you’ve been feeling groggy, fatigued, having digestive issues, restless sleep, problematic skin, food intolerances, uncontrollable cravings or feeling all around icky—a monitored, mindful and properly executed Detox+ can shed light on the root of these problems.
Detox+ Supportive Nutrients
To support the already efficient detoxification system your body has set up for you, consider trying the nutrients below.
- Eat up glutathione-rich foods, one ofthe most prevalent antioxidant enzymes in the body.
Sources: fruits (avocados, tomatoes, grapefruit, apples, oranges, bananas, melon), vegetables (peppers, carrots, onions, broccoli, squash, spinach, garlic), herbs (milk thistle), spices (such as cumin), selenium-rich foods (cereals, oats, Brazil nuts, walnuts, legumes, tuna, beef, poultry, cheese, eggs) and whey protein. If you can tolerate it, raw is better than cooked.
- Protein. Certain amino acids found in protein aid in the detoxification process. Many of these are found in animal products (meat, organ meat, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy). But remember to take into account your own individual relationship and tolerance with these foods, specifically dairy.
Alternate sources: Brazil nuts, sea algae (spirulina), beans, oats, and wheat germ.
- Boost fiber and fluid intake. This will help reduce the absorption of toxins and facilitate elimination while nourishing gut flora.
Sources: Foods rich in fiber are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. Also promote foods that facilitate good bacteria growth, such as fermented and cultured foods like kombucha or yogurt.
- Go crazy with antioxidant-rich foods, not supplements! Berries are a great antioxidant go-to, such as aronia black chokeberry, blackberry, cranberry, raspberry, strawberry, sweet cherry and blueberry. Did you know it’s National Blueberry Month?! Celebrate with the American Heart Association and have a handful for #hearthealth. https://www.goredforwomen.org/live-healthy/heart-healhty-snacks-and-eating-on-thego/health-benefits-of-blueberries/
Other sources: kidney and black beans, prunes, pecan, red delicious and granny smith apples, cinnamon, and artichoke hearts.
- Reduce/eliminate classic food allergens and intolerances. “The Big 8” encompasses 50-90% of all food allergies! These are casein (dairy), eggs, peanut, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Other intolerances include lactose (sugar in milk), sugar alcohols, fermentable fibers and other.These changes are best explored with the guidance of a dietitian.
Have you tried a detox or cleanse? What was your experience? Share with me @BushwickNutrition
Written by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD, CDN
Edited by Tamara Cabrero and NYHRC Team
Originally posted on NYHRC Tumblr