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To detox or not to detox?

By Faith Kariuki Biongo | February 3rd 2019

Our bodies are exposed to toxins every day. From the air we breathe, the food we eat, the products we use on our bodies to the products we use in our homes. But even if one were to remove all these toxins from the environment, you still wouldn’t be free of them since our bodies also naturally produce toxins.

Our bodies were however created with an inbuilt self-regulating system capable of eliminating toxins produced within and those from the environment. To survive, these systems must be operational 24/7, 365 days a year, not just for a few days or weeks as prescribed by popular detox regimens.

The main detoxifying organs are the kidney and liver assisted by the lungs, skin and digestive system. The kidney filters toxins out of the blood and eliminates them through urine; the liver changes the nature of many toxins and makes them less harmful for ease in excretion. The lungs remove toxic gases and volatile chemicals that can be breathed out while the digestive system helps eliminate toxins that we consume in our foods and drinks.

If the body didn’t have this in-built mechanism to detoxify itself, you would be sick all the time and would in fact not live long.

However, industrialisation has increased the amount of toxins our bodies need to eliminate. Leaving our organs of detoxification overwhelmed and our bodies overloaded. Pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, increased air and water pollution, processed foods, skin care products all contribute to an increased toxin burden.

Due to these facts, it is important to help your body perform its best in eliminating these toxins. Your body functions best when fed with the right fuel and given sufficient rest. A healthy diet rich in plant-based food, fruits and vegetables helps support the vital organs and enables them to do their jobs effectively. Plant based foods are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, health promoting compounds that improve overall health of the body including that of the organs responsible for removing toxins.

There are many alternative detox products in the market including green smoothies, pharmaceuticals, supplements and special detox diets that promise not just to detox but to help one lose weight too. These alternative detox methods lack adequate supporting evidence of their effectiveness.

Many of these programmes call for a restricted diet for at least ten days, mainly comprising of fruits and vegetables but lacking in proteins, fatty acids and other essential nutrients. Those on such detox diet or regimens run the risk of electrolyte and gut flora imbalance which can interfere with organ functions.

Weight loss achieved during this period is often due to the extremely low calorie diet and is often fluid loss which is regained once one goes back to the normal diet. If done often, such diet can cause a disruption in the acid-base balance in the blood causing excessive acid build which can be fatal.

However, some people report relief from minor digestive health problems after a few days of detox and others have been able to jump-start better dietary habits.

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