‘Detox’ has become such a fad word over the past few years, that few people still take it seriously. Whether you’ve done a detox (or ten) before, or you’re looking to do one in the future, it’s really important that a detox is done right. Sadly, there are a lot of people following unreliable information from the internet, or using potentially dangerous supplements to help their body detox.
Are detoxes safe?
The medical world will tell you that you don’t need to ‘detox’ your body – that’s the job of your liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, digestion and more. And that’s totally true! Your body has its own systems and organs that are in charge of detoxification. What a detox does is support those systems and organs so that they can do their job, and to gently encourage the removal of toxic build up from your body.
Do detoxes work?
When done correctly, a detox is designed to support the health of your detoxification organs and systems. And yes, detoxes can work incredibly well! They can leave you feeling more energetic & clear-minded, less sluggish, improve bowel regularity, and can even help you lose weight. But how do you know if you’re doing a detox the ‘right’ way?
Let’s have a look at the top five mistakes I see people making all the time when it comes to doing a detox:
Mistake #1: Detoxing too hard
I group detox programs into two categories: harsh cleanses and gentle cleanses. A harsh cleanse is a pretty full-on program which radically encourages your body to detoxify through existing detoxification pathways – the liver, kidneys, lymph and digestion, to name a few. If your toxic load is high, and a harsh cleanse suddenly forces a bunch of toxins out from your body tissues (your fat cells, where they’re stored) and into your circulatory system (blood and lymph) you are going to feel pretty terrible. The body can only cope with so much at once, and forcing the detoxification process can actually do more harm than good.
A gentle cleanse, like my 2 Week Gentle Cleanse program, is designed to gently (as the name suggests) and gradually encourage detoxification. This means there is no flooding of toxins in the circulatory system, and it means that any toxins released will be done so at a rate that your detoxification systems and organs (liver, kidneys, lymph, digestion) can cope with. A gentle cleanse doesn’t cause additional stress to your body, and seriously minimises the chances of any nasty detox symptoms – like headaches, diarrhoea, nausea and fatigue.
Mistake #2: Expecting a supplement to do all the work
A quick Google search for ‘detox supplements’ returns over 43 million results in 0.56 seconds. Supplements promising to detox your body are everywhere – from health food stores to supermarkets to chemists to ads on your Facebook news feed. Whether it’s a pill or a powder or a tea or any other kind of potion – the supplement alone can’t do all the work. In order to truly support your body’s detoxification pathways, you’ll likely need to make some simple adjustments to your diet and lifestyle too. Drinking plenty of water, moving your body regularly, minimising refined sugar and wheat, alcohol and caffeine is all super important when it comes to a cleanse program. Do you need a detox supplement? Not necessarily – my 2 Week Gentle Cleanse program is completely food-based. There are some great herbs and nutrients that can be helpful for detoxing, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Note: checking for interactions with your medications is 100% necessary before you self-prescribe ANY supplement or tea.
Mistake #3: Not adapting to the season
In truth, the inspiration for this blog post was a phone call I got from my sister this morning. She called (super early, thanks sis) and asked about the juicing protocol that is part of my 2 Week Spring Cleanse program. I reminded her that when cleansing in colder months, the food you eat should be warming and nourishing – think stews and soups rather than salads and fruit. Her response was something along the lines of “awww, but salads are so much easier!”. Traditional Chinese and Indian (Ayurvedic) medicine both have the same philosophy – firstly, that detoxing is better suited to warmer weather and secondly, that if you want to gently cleanse your body during colder months, warmer foods are essential. So swap your smoothie for warm porridge, your salad for soup, and your cold quiche for a warm one. Winter is a great chance to nourish your body with easy to digest foods packed full of antioxidant-rich herbs and spices – think dahl, curries, casseroles, stews, soups, and more. (Make your slow cooker your best friend!)
Mistake #4: Focusing on deprivation
A detox is not about feeling hungry or deprived. I know a lot of my clients tend to use the terms ‘detox’ and ‘diet’ interchangeably, and they assume that you should feel hungry on a detox. You shouldn’t! If you’re starving your body, all you’re doing is putting your system into a state of shock and stress, which slows down all non-essential bodily functions (e.g. detoxification, digestion) and increases the body’s focus on things like your brain and heart, in order to survive. Starving yourself is not part of a cleanse, and will actually impede your body’s ability to cleanse – so please, unless you’re doing a supervised fasting period, always ensure you’re eating enough to fuel your body throughout your detox, so that your body’s detoxification pathways have the nutrients and energy they need to do their job.
Mistake #5: Continuing with their previous diet afterwards
Doing a cleanse without making long-term changes to your diet is like getting your car serviced, and then immediately filling it with dirty petrol and cheap & nasty oil. You just wouldn’t do it! If you’ve made the effort to support your body’s detoxification pathways, keep them happy by continuing to drink lots of water, move your body regularly, and choose whole foods (i.e. package-free) as much as possible. YES, balance is absolutely necessary, and there is no such thing as the perfect diet. But please don’t celebrate the end of a cleanse by polishing off a packet of potato chips – you’ll only feel terrible afterwards! Note: I am possibly talking from experience here 🙂
The overall message here is to know what you’re doing to your body before you go on a “hard-core detox”. Keep it gradual and gentle, and predominantly food-based, with less reliance on detox supplements. Adapt to the seasons, nourish your body with essential nutrients and antioxidants, and never, ever starve yourself. A detox is a great chance to press the ‘reset’ button on your eating and lifestyle habits, and the best results for your health come from the long-term changes after the cleanse, not the short time period of the cleanse itself.
For more info on my 2 Week Gentle Cleanse program, click here.
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