5 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Detoxing: A Doctor Explains
Detoxing has become a more mainstream topic in the last couple of decades or so, but the practice has been around for centuries and has roots in various cultures across the globe.
But with all the hype from celebrities and health gurus about detoxing, there’s still plenty of confusion about what it is, how to do it and whether or not it’s really necessary. If you're considering a detox, here are five things you should know:
1. Detoxing isn't the same as juicing or cleansing.
Simply put, juicing or cleansing practices (like the Master Cleanse) are techniques for detoxing. There are dozens of different protocols you can follow to perform a detox, though not all are created equal when it comes to safety or efficacy, and they don't necessarily need to include juicing.
2. Your body's natural detoxing systems often need help.
It’s true that our bodies are built to naturally eliminate toxins. The problem, however, is that the effects of modern life — pollution, poor dietary choices, contaminants in our food and water, stress or a sedentary lifestyle — can compromise the body’s ability to effectively detox the way it’s supposed to. The result of this toxic internal “congestion” is that we gain weight, develop diseases and lose our natural energy and vitality.
3. Detoxing shouldn't make you feel excessively tired or sick.
While it’s normal to feel somewhat fatigued during the first few days of a detox, most of my patients say they experience more energy once they’ve adjusted. After you’re past the “healing crisis” — when you feel temporarily worse because your body is dredging up toxins in order to release them — you’ll probably find you’re sleeping better, feeling lighter and enjoying more stamina. Part of the reason for this is that your body is doing less work digesting, which means you’re getting the benefit of that saved energy.
4. You won't be hungry all the time.
A lot of people wonder if detoxing includes fasting or drastically cutting back on solid foods. I don’t actually recommend that my patients give up solid food during a detox, as this can imbalance your blood sugar levels and potentially disrupt your hormones. However, I do advocate a very clean diet that consists of mostly vegetables, lean protein sources, some fruits, raw nuts and seeds, and perhaps a minimal amount of gluten-free grains like rice or quinoa.
Since my protocol also involves substituting a nutrient-rich fiber-protein shake for some meals, you’re eating, but still giving your body a break from “offender” foods like alcohol, sugar, caffeine and dairy. Curbing hunger on a detox is best addressed with plenty of healthy fat, which is found in foods like avocado or coconut oil.
5. You can still exercise during a detox.
People mistakenly believe they must curl up and sleep all day during a detox. It’s OK to continue with your regular exercise routine, provided you really listen to your body. Don’t override its cues, and try to scale back a bit on long periods of very intense exercise. Walking is detoxifying, as is burst training (or short, interval-based workouts). Many yoga poses, like twists and binds, can also help with the detoxification process.
In general, do what feels good while knowing you might need to tweak your routine a bit. Also, be sure to hydrate well after a workout — detoxing requires significant water consumption in order to flush out toxins, and the need will be compounded by the fluids you lose when you’re sweating.
While the idea of a detox can sound intimidating, the practice itself is really about just getting back to basics: nurturing your body with clean food, giving your digestive tract a breather and assisting your organs to do their jobs most effectively.
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