The term detox is often associated with extreme diets, deprivation, and withdrawal. However, that’s not always the case. There are many ways to detox by making small shifts here and there. In fact detoxification has been used to support health and healing for thousands of years.
What comes to mind when you think of the word detox?
Detox is an abbreviation of detoxification, which, on a very basic level, means “the process of removing harmful or toxic chemicals.”1 Definitions of detox include “a regimen or treatment intended to remove toxins and impurities from the body” and “a period when you stop taking unhealthy or harmful foods, drinks, or drugs into your body for a period of time, in order to improve your health.”
In short, detoxing means supporting health by removing and minimizing exposure to potentially harmful materials or habits and adding in health-supporting materials and habits.
Detoxes and cleanses are becoming more and more mainstream in a variety of forms. Many detox programs claim to improve health, reduce disease risk, increase longevity, boost energy, relieve chronic symptoms, and support weight loss. But what exactly does it mean to detox? How does it affect the body and mind? And what’s a safe and effective approach?
Detoxing comes in many forms, but most fall under two categories: diet and lifestyle.
Here are some examples of each.
- Abstaining from alcohol and/or caffeine
- Drinking more water
- Eating more nutrient-dense foods
- Intermittent fasting (eating only at certain times of day)
- Limiting or avoiding certain foods
- Supplements or herbs
- Clean beauty
- Colon cleanses
- Epsom salt baths
- Feng shui
- Foot detoxes (e.g., ionic baths)
- Limiting digital or social media use
- Meditation and mindfullness
- Regular Exercise
- Restful sleep routines
- Saunas and steam rooms
There are many potential benefits of detoxing. Nutritional detoxes, for example, help reduce processed foods and increase nutrient-dense foods, like fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins. However, other forms of detoxing – including regular exercise, restful sleep, and mindfulness – also benefit health.
- Boost mood
- Connect you with your values andintentions
- Decrease chronic pain and inflammation
- Decrease stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Help balance blood sugar
- Improve focus and mental clarity
• Improve sleep
• Increase energy
• Reduce cravings
• Support digestion and gut health
• Support a healthy weight
• Support metabolism, immunity, and lymphatic movement
• Support skin health
Many people experience positive effects from consistent integration of gentle or moderate detox practices in their routines, but research is inconclusive on long-term benefits of some forms of detoxing. It’s always important to consult with a physician before attempting any extreme or long-term detoxes.
POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS AND REACTIONS
Though detoxing can offer a variety of benefits, it can also stimulate some not-so- pleasant side effects and reactions. These aren’t quite the same as side effects from medications. In fact, these side effects are often the body’s reaction to the detoxification process and can even be a sign that the detox is working. It’s not abnormal to experience at least a few of them, especially if your body is carrying a heavier toxic load. These reactions can vary based on your detox approach and usual eating and lifestyle.
Reactions can include:
- Cognitive “fuzziness”
- Electrolyte imbalance
• Mood swings • Nausea
• Poor sleep
Research doesn’t seem to support the ability of detox diets to eliminate toxins or promote long-term weight loss. In addition, research has yet to determine long- term effects. While a diet focused on drastically eliminating many foods might help short-term, it’s not a sustainable solution. Detoxing can also be contraindicated
for pregnancy and chronic health conditions, like diabetes, and supplements may potentially interact with medications.
TO DETOX OR NOT TO DETOX…
The most effective detox is sustainable and holistic, supports the body’s natural healing and detoxing processes, and works for you. There are many approaches to detoxing, depending on your personal preferences, lifestyle, and circumstances, but the goal is ultimately the same: to reduce exposure to potential toxins that can negatively impact health.
Whether you believe in the power of detoxing, don’t really think it works, or question its safety, it’s helpful to recognize that the body detoxes naturally on a daily basis. The body is designed to remove environmental contaminants efficiently and effectively.
- The liver serves as the body’s primary filter.
- The skin and intestines act as barriers to harmful substances.
- The immune system, respiratory system, and kidneys eliminate harmful substances.However, we’re surrounded by toxins on a daily basis – from skincare products to pesticides to air pollution. We’ve also developed habits that don’t support overall health. Toxic buildup can contribute to everything from skin rashes and bloating to brain fog and mood imbalances. These symptoms can shift to disease over time. Therefore, giving the body extra support can be beneficial. This is why many traditional and more modern wellness approaches recognize the importance of minimizing and eliminating potential toxins through diet and lifestyle choices.You may be motivated to detox different areas of your life for many reasons. Maybe you want to improve your energy and digestion. Maybe you’re ready to let go of the old or looking for a “reboot.” It’s important to tune in to your reasons for detoxing. Getting clear on your intentions helps you receive what you hope to gain.