Separating the harmful myths and the facts behind this popular treatment
“Detox.” In the world of health and wellness, it has become a catchphrase, a cure-all, meant to purge the body of its different ills as the quickest way to feel better. However, the problem lies in the vagueness of what a detox is, how the process occurs, and how it is supposed to bring benefit to the body. Separating what is true and what is not about detoxes help us avoid going into treatments that could potentially do more harm than good.
Detox: The Medical Perspective
The general interpretation of the word “detox” gives the sense of an internal cleansing for a body that has accumulated “toxins,” either through prolonged lifestyle choices or through an acute intake. However, the body’s own filtering system, the lungs, kidneys, liver, and colon, is already doing a remarkable job every day in expelling substances that are unnecessary or can harm from within. If the body can remove it by itself—such as excess fat, alcohol, or sugar—it hardly warrants the label of “toxin.” In fact, categorical toxins are identifiable substances that require proven medical interventions if the body is exposed to them, and not a simple swig of green juice. 
So, crossing out toxin removal, what is it for? Studies on various detox therapies have pointed out that there are hardly any long-term health effects for this process from normally healthy individuals,   and those who undertake it may perceive a certain benefit due to experiencing the following:
- Increased amount of urine, feces, or sweat from increased fluid intake
- Short-term weight loss (from water weight due to the factors above)
- Reduction of bloating and symptoms of inflammation
- Euphoria due to ketosis
- Placebo effect
Re-thinking the Cleanse
That said, anyone can still pursue a detox and experience a sense of well-being from it by being selective in its practice. The awareness of these facts above can guide us on building a better regimen. It starts with tempered objectives and expectations from the process and pursue it without inflicting more damage on our health. Here’s how a proper detox can actually help the body:
- Increasing intake of antioxidant-rich foods and supplements
What it does: With our current stressful lifestyles and diet that swaps healthy options for convenience, there is a benefit to going through a period of mindfully having more fruits and vegetables if you haven’t been getting 5-9 servings a day. The format doesn’t really matter, be it in a soup, smoothie, salads, or straight up meals, as long as you keep those nutrients coming. The antioxidants will then help your body’s own filtering system do its job and fight off oxidative damage. A modest amount of multivitamins, as from Now Foods, Adam, Superior Men's Multi (for men) and Now Foods, Eve, Superior Women's Multi (for women), will suffice to support a healthy body. Antioxidant-rich superfoods like Now Foods, Certified Organic Chlorella may also pack more vitamins per serving.
What can hurt: Pursuing this remedy for a rapid weight loss, often paired with restrictive food or calorie intake. While water weight may be shed, it is quickly regained when going back to normal eating patterns, and prolonged restrictive eating may deprive the body of other essential nutrients such as fat, minerals, and carbohydrates. Vitamin overdose is also a medical emergency that may occur when going overboard with supplements.
- Reintroducing the body to the recommended sodium, sugar, and fat intake
What it does: Sometimes, all we need is to readjust our tastebuds to what is good for us. A detox is a good time to reacquaint ourselves to proper sodium, sugar, and fat levels, whose intake we may be unknowingly increasing due to tolerance. Eating low-salt, low-sugar, and low-fat foods is less of a drastic step that can feel like a sustainable practice even beyond your detox week. Good meals aside, have on hand low-salt snacks like Now Foods, Raw Almonds and Now Foods, Pineapple Rings, as well as fresh fruit, you won’t go scrounging about for junk food.
What can hurt: Cutting out salt completely for some time (as with juice-only cleanses), accompanied by increased urination, can put the body’s sodium levels dangerously low (hypernatremia), potentially causing lethargy, stupor, and seizures.
- Addressing insufficient fluid intake
What it does: Being bogged down at our desks all day, we may forget to get a drink of water every now and then, or we may not feel thirsty because we keep having coffee or tea instead. Correcting these habits over a detox period can make us realize just how much water we need to feel better every day, as it is an important factor for every system in our body. It also improves the function of the liver and kidneys in expelling waste. This can be done by monitoring your liquid intake and encouraging the habit through flavoured water, either by adding sliced fresh fruit into water bottles or a few drops of sugar-free flavouring like Now Foods, Better Stevia, Zero-Calorie Liquid Sweetener, Pomegranate Blueberry. Remember: the fruits / flavouring itself are there to make drinking water less of a chore.
What can hurt: Getting swept up the hype for “detox water” to “flush out toxins” (when water itself will suffice in removing waste) and ending up taking too much liquid over a very short period. Overhydration can bring on nausea, headaches, and can be fatal in some instances.
- Addressing irregular/poor bowel movement
What it does: Due to factors like a low-fiber diet, medication, inadequate liquids, and stress can lead to poor bowel movement and constipation, along with feelings of being clogged up, gassy, bloated, or even nauseous at times. A detox regimen that focuses on more fiber and liquids can give relief to these, either from taking in more fibrous foods like Now Foods, Real Food, Certified Organic, Golden Flax Seeds or through supplements such as Now Foods, Certified Organic, Fiber-3 Powder and Now Foods, Psyllium Husk Powder. It is important to increase fiber gradually, as an abrupt amount can lead to stomach upset.
What can hurt: Inducing bowel movement through unprescribed use of laxatives or herbs with a laxative effect (e.g., senna), which may lead to diarrhea, dehydration, and laxative dependence.
- Identifying food sensitivities
What it does: Suffering from chronic headaches, rashes, fatigue, bloating or stomach complaints? If one suspects a certain allergy or sensitivity to certain foods, a detox can function as a clean-eating period that might help narrow down the triggers. The idea is to remove potentially triggering foods and slowly reintroducing them one at a time while observing for symptom flare-ups. Among the most common food sensitivities are dairy, caffeine, gluten, and artificial sweeteners.
What can hurt: Eliminating food groups altogether, especially if not confirmed with your physician, based on vague “toxic” food trends. If you suspect a certain reaction to be associated with particular foods, consult with your doctor, as further tests would be needed to confirm it.
Call it by its many names—detox, cleanses, or purges—we have a long history of purifying the body, which has been a stopgap response for feeling unwell. But it is crucial to remind ourselves that these temporary measures cannot compare to committing ourselves to everyday healthy practices of eating right, regular exercise, getting enough fluids and sleep, and managing our stressors.