What is a detox diet? Why would I need to do one?

Detox is one of those words we often hear. But honestly what does it mean? Why do natural health practitioners often talk about detoxification?

Doesn’t my body get rid of toxins as a natural process anyway?
What’s actually involved in effective detoxification?
Let’s take a look at each of these points in detail:

Why do natural health practitioners often talk about detoxification?

  • The reason natural therapists are so focussed on toxicities is because an over-toxic body can present with a myriad of symptoms, from headaches and migraines, irritable bowel, infertility and low libido, mood disturbances, allergies, excess weight and skin conditions.

It is important to recognise that it is the total toxic load that is the problem, and not just individual assaults on our body’s capacity to cleanse itself. Total toxic load refers to the sum of all the influences that impact on our body’s function. This is often low grade, chronic exposure that results in an accumulative effect. Some toxins are not even obvious to us, because we are exposed to them everyday, but they do compromise our body’s immune system, especially when the total toxic load is considered. These less obvious culprits include chemicals in our homes/cosmetics/environment, moulds, electromagnetic radiation, processed foods, alcohol, sugar, trans fats, caffeine, high-fructose corn syrup, tap water, infectious organisms, hormonal imbalance, heavy metals and emotional stress.

Doesn’t my body get rid of toxins as a natural process anyway?

  • Even though our bodies are designed to get rid of these toxins, the specific organs involved in these processes can become overwhelmed. For example, an overgrowth of pathogenic microbes in the gut, chronic use of pharmaceutical medication and an over-acidic body can reduce our body’s ability to detoxify.


What’s actually involved in effective detoxification?

Let’s break it into 3 phases:

  1. The Gut - is a major source of toxic exposure for many people. A leaky gut will easily allow all kinds of substances to pass directly into the bloodstream, without being detoxified. This then causes an immune response, with the release of inflammatory molecules. Therefore, identifying and correcting any imbalances in the gut and healing the intestinal lining with specific nutrients is a key part of detoxification.
  2. The Liver – liver support is also essential as it is involved in transforming fat-soluble, toxic substances into less toxic, water-soluble ones. There are two processes of detoxification in the liver: a. Fat-soluble toxins are degraded and activated into intermediate substances.                       b. These intermediate substances become bound to amino acids (or other molecules) to make them water soluble substances. Let’s call these “BOUND toxins”.
  3. Elimination - the BOUND toxins are removed from the body through the bile, faeces, sweat or urine, freeing it from the toxic load they create.

Here are my top 10 tips for improving your body’s ability to detox!

  1. Reduce your exposure to environmental chemicals including at home and in the workplace
  2. Avoid the following foods:
    -  All processed foods (e.g. canned soups, packaged muesli bars, pre-made sauces).
    -  Artificial colours, flavours, preservatives
    -  Deep-fried foods
    -  BBQ or char-grilled foods
    -  Refined sugar-loaded products
    -  Tap water
  3. Eat only unprocessed, wholefoods (organic where possible) and include fermented foods, fresh fruit and vegetables and high quality protein
  4. You can assist detoxification by taking specific herbal medicines that cleanse the gut, liver and lymphatic system
  5. Proper fasting can speed up the detoxification process, clean our body filters and help release toxins from fat cells
  6. Exercise daily to improve circulation
  7. Encourage regular sweating, through exercise, sauna or hot yoga. This releases excess sodium, nitrogen and toxins
  8. Dry skin brushing and hydrotherapy (e.g. hot/cold showers) stimulate the circulation
  9. Self-reflection, such as meditation and breathing-focused relaxation techniques
  10. Massage (stimulates the lymphatic system) and acupuncture (stimulates Qi)

Detoxification is essential to your health and wellbeing. Make sure you give your system the best means of supporting you to better health.

Find out more about Medical herbalism from Dr Amanda Reimann