Detoxes: Flushing out the Facts

June 30, 2017

Saba Zahid, RD
Patient Experience Manager

With the tease of warm weather right around the corner, you’re probably getting ready for a summer filled with your favorite pastimes. You want to look and feel your best while enjoying them, but if you’re considering a detox as part of your summer preparations, it’s important to do your homework.

The concept of a detox seems very appealing when you think of removing harmful substances from your body. With so many celebrities and ‘experts’ talking about toxins, you would think that our bodies are overrun with toxins and we all need to immediately “cleanse” ourselves. Unfortunately, much of the hype around detoxes is unfounded and leaves evidence-based science and research out of those conversations.

The truth is we do have toxins in our body. These toxins come from the environment (pollutants, heavy metals), from what we ingest (drugs, alcohol), or from our normal bodily functions (bilirubin, urea). But fear not, because our body actually already has ways of detoxifying itself! In fact, our body has several different pathways to rid the body of substances it doesn’t need. These naturally occurring detoxification pathways either convert the toxin into something less toxic or bind it to a protein so that it can be excreted through either urine or the gastrointestinal tract.

Because our body already has multiple built-in mechanisms for excreting toxins, claims that our bodies are overrun with toxins are simply not true. It is possible that certain toxins can accumulate in our bodies beyond what we can handle such as alcohol poisoning, drug overdose, or prolonged and repeated exposure to certain environments. However, with normal-functioning kidneys, liver, and digestive system, we are able to deal with the everyday toxins that our body encounters.

Here are several tips for helping your body with the natural detoxification process:

  1. Forget the Fads. Juice diets, laxative teas, or cayenne pepper-lemonade concoctions are touted as healthy ways to detoxify your body, but they can actually be dangerous. These methods either require you to cut out essential food groups or excrete food substance before your body has had time to absorb the nutrients. Therefore, your body is deprived of essential nutrients that actually play a role in your body’s natural detox mechanisms.
  2. Eat a Balanced Diet. Fiber from fruit, vegetables, and whole grains is important in moving things through and out of the digestive tract Fiber also binds the body's waste products, which includes any toxins filtered out through the body's different detox pathways. Men should aim for 38 grams of fiber a day and women should aim for 25 grams to maintain regular bowel movements and cleanse the colon.
  3. Drink Water. Your kidneys need enough fluids to properly function and flush out water-soluble toxins (i.e., urea). Aim for 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, drinking more if you are physically active, sick, or have certain medical conditions.

So at the end of the day, eating a balanced diet with plenty of water is the best way to deal with toxins. If you are unsure about your diet and need some help, Shore Medical Center’s new Outpatient Nutrition Counseling program is the perfect place to start. For more information, visit www.shoremedicalcenter.org/nutrition-counseling.  To schedule a nutrition counseling appointment with a Shore dietitian, call 609-653-4600, option 5.