The Detox Paradox

Everywhere you turn, detoxes are lurking, especially now that we are getting into summer. Whether it is on the cover of the grocery store magazines, staring you down as you wait to check out, Internet ads as you scroll through Facebook, or mentioned on the talk shows you watch while cleaning the house, detox diets are always in your view. But why are they hyped up so much and are they really worth it?

Detoxification, or the removal of toxic substances, has been consistently making an appearance when it comes to diet culture these days. Whether the detox is going to help your skin glow or help you drop 10 pounds over the weekend, how do they actually work? They don’t and their reliance on you falling for these tricks is what keeps detoxes around.

These diets tend to be severely lacking in nutrition, often containing just fruits, vegetables, and water, sometimes just fruit-and-veggie-infused water. First of all, an average person needs 2000 kcals per day (kcal = kilocalorie or what you probably refer to as just a “calorie”). With a diet like this, even if it is just for a few days, you will probably consume between 600-1000 kcals, which can cause your body to go into starvation mode. Not to mention, fruit and vegetables are all carbohydrates, meaning you will be lacking vital proteins and fatty acids needed for your body to function properly. Sure, you get lots of micronutrients from the fruits and veggies, but what good can they do if you do not have adequate energy to support your body’s use of those vitamins and minerals? Skip the detox diets and add a few more of those fruit and veggie recipes into your current diet.

Did you know that you have FOUR major organs that are constantly detoxifying your body? Well, there are actually more, but I am just going to talk about four. Let’s meet them. Welcome: your liver, intestines, skin, and kidneys! The liver filters and removes toxins from the blood. These include medications, yes the ones you have a prescription for, alcohol, preservatives, chemicals, harmful microorganisms, and pretty much anything else you can think of. It transforms these substances into ones that can easily be excreted and then sends them off to do so. Your intestines contain lymph nodes, called Peyer’s patches, which filter parasites and other substances from the nutrients about to be absorbed. The skin is the largest defense system of your body, blocking chemicals, harmful viruses and bacteria, as well as anything else that could disrupt the finely tuned mechanics of your body. It is the body’s first line of defense so there will not be as many “toxins” entering your body. Lastly, the kidneys filter the blood from anything that could potentially cause a problem in your body. The blood is cleaned and filtered by the kidneys 60 times each day! Still think you need to do that detox diet? Anything potentially hazardous in your blood will be excreted with the help of the kidneys. That harmful nitrogen you ingest from your protein? Excreted. Metabolic waste? Excreted. Too much sodium in your blood? Excreted. Maybe your Diabetes Mellitus is going untreated and you have a surplus of blood glucose in your body? Excreted (well some is). Basically, if your body doesn’t need it, your kidneys will probably filter it out. (Ever notice how your pee is almost green after you take some supplements? Excreted! But that’s another topic.)

Do not waste your time and energy on trying to detox your body when it already does it for you. Thank your body for doing so by giving it the energy it needs to support detoxification and the nutrients it needs to keep running in tip-top shape!

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