Going on a detox? What a load of tosh.

Going on a detox? What a load of tosh.

So far we’ve looked at upgrading all the macronutrients in your diet; the best carbohydrates to eat for healthy bowels, good fats that help your cells thrive and proteins that keep you feeling your best.  By now you should be feeling like a million dollars.  If you do, it means you’re ready.

Detoxification is hard work.

Too often we embark on extreme “health programmes” to purify us, without paying any attention to how prepared our bodies are.  Detoxification is hard work.  We shouldn’t embark on it, unless we feel strong enough.  So many of our organs pull together to breakdown and expel harmful substances, keeping us ticking.  It’s not just about your liver.  Your lungs, skin, intestines, lymph tissue, kidneys and spleen all play a role.  Even your heart.  It pumps oxygenated blood to deliver the fuel (a.k.a vital nutrients) to keep your detox organs working.  Imagine how much harder your body has to work if you’re nutrient deficient (which, according to the UK’s National Diet & Nutrition Survey, most of us are in some form).  It might be clichéd to say, but it’s just like setting out on a long road trip without topping up your engine beforehand – you know you can only travel so far before grinding to a halt.  Now imagine how much harder it becomes if you restrict your diet because you’re going on a fancy juice fast.  Disaster.  No fibre to keep your bowels moving (which only means toxins stay in and get reabsorbed).  No good fats to transport vitamins A, D and E (not to mention all the other fat soluble nutrients) for optimum organ function.  And of course, zero protein.  Which if you read my post last week, you’ll know you’d be setting yourself up for a crash and binge in no time.  Double disaster.  That’s why for the past three weeks we’ve looked at upgrading your overall diet so that you’re nourished and ready to crank it up.  Phew!

The truth is, you’re already detoxing.  Even while scoffing cakes and sipping champagne.  

The truth is, you’re already detoxing.  Even while scoffing cakes and sipping champagne.  Detoxification is a continual process that keeps us alive.  Every four minutes our blood filters through our liver for purification.  So the idea that you can go on a detox, as if it’s something you can choose to do is… well, quite frankly a load of tosh.  You can only choose to support the process (or burden it). 

It’s a toxic world out there


Life is about balance.  The more experience I gain working with and understanding human anatomy and biochemistry, the more manifest this belief becomes.  Our bodies constantly seek balance.  For example, when we eat sugar our body reacts to bring the blood sugar levels down.  Only to bring it back up again.  And then down again, and so on… balance. There are so many examples that I can draw upon; detoxification is no exception.  

There are two phases in liver detoxification that need to stay balanced for better health.  Phase I involves bagging up the toxins and phase II, which is all about throwing the bin bag out.  The problem is, for most of us, phase I works too quickly and phase II can’t keep up.  The result is imbalance and ill health.  Poor concentration, itchy skin, intolerance to the smallest amounts of alcohol, acne and even weight gain. There are a few factors at play.  Mainly toxic exposure from your environment and diet, leading to an overburdened system.  And of course, genetics.

Genetically, we might not be able produce some of the enzymes that drive liver detoxification.

Liver detoxification is largely driven by enzymes that help to break toxins down into sizeable and disposable forms.  These enzymes are proteins made from your DNA.  With the recent advancement of genetic testing, we’re learning that some of us have mutations in our DNA that can affect DNA transcription.  In plain English this means that, genetically, we might not be able produce some of the enzymes that drive liver detoxification for certain toxins.  All the more reason to try and limit your toxic exposure.


Photograph by Paleocrust. 

Easier said than done.  The challenge is we’re exposed to toxins everywhere.  It’s impossible to avoid them.  From the air we breath to the food we eat.  Each week approximately 6,000 new chemicals are listed in the Chemical Society’s Chemical Abstracts, which adds up to more than 300,000 new chemicals each year.  Fumes from paint, vehicles, heavy machinery and chemical substances like pesticides contaminate the air and our food.  Then there’s the choices we make; alcohol, smoking, recreational drugs and caffeine.  We even produce toxins internally when we think we’re being super healthy.  Eat a chicken salad and you’ve just made some ammonia.  I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that living a “pure” life is impossible.  Mother nature knows this, which is why we have a detoxification system.  We’re designed to manage toxic exposure naturally.  We just need to maintain the balance so the system doesn’t become over burdened and it can continue to work optimally.

How to balance your liver


Thankfully there are certain things you can do to slow down phase I and speed up phase II to restore your detox balance. 

  1. Cut back on phase I stimulants (if not entirely, for the next 2 weeks). Alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, refined sugar and grapefruit. Yes, grapefruit. But make sure you have a back up.  Chicory is a great alternative to coffee as are fruit teas.
  2. Eat organic. Other than living a more eco friendly lifestyle, there’s very little you can do to control your environmental toxic exposure. Certified organic produce will guarantee no pesticides or other harmful man-made substances were exposed to the food. If you can’t go 100% organic aim to avoid the so called dirty dozen (see below for more details).
  3. Spice up your life. No really, eat more colourful spices and combine them.  Black pepper, turmeric, ginger, paprika, cardamom, bay leaves – there are so many.  They contain loads of phytonutrients that have antioxidant effects, supporting the entire process.
  4. Eat the rainbow.  The shift from phase I to phase II causes a lot of free radical damage.  This can sometimes be more harmful than the toxin itself.  It’s important to eat a diet that’s high in antioxidants to clear up the residual damage.  Fresh colourful fruits and vegetables are best (aim for a minimum of 2 fruits and 5 vegetables a day).  Fresh produce will keep the vitamin C content high, which has been shown to support detoxification too.bare-biology-health-better-in-30-Going-on-a-detox?-What-a-load-of-tosh-by-kay-ali-nutritional-therapist
  5. Eat more cruciferous vegetables everyday. Cabbage, broccoli, kale, spinach and asparagus.
  6. Visit a herbal medic. There are tons of herbs that aid the liver.  The most popular is Milk Thistle.  It contains a constituent called silymarin, which works wonders for cellular liver rejuvenation.  But there are so many more.  Dandelion, schisandra, artichoke, oregano and aged garlic.  They all work synergistically, which is why it’s great to seek advice from an expert.  It’s also a safer option.
  7. Consider supplementing with Vitamin D, Omega 3 and a good probiotic. We’re massively deficient in vitamin D in the UK.  And we don’t get much sunshine to make up for it.  It’s worth supplementing with it because it plays a significant role in glutathione production; an antioxidant that drives approximately 60% of detoxification.  Similarly, Omega 3 is critical for breaking down excess hormones. While good gut flora helps to keep toxins out, making lighter work for our livers.

A shopping guide to eating organic

The ‘dirty dozen’: food you should aim to eat organic

Least contaminated food: food you don’t have to eat organic

Apples, peaches, sweet bell pepper, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes.

Onions, avocados, pineapple, mango, asparagus, kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, papaya, frozen corn and sweet peas.




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