Juice cleanses are all the rage these days. Being the kinder, gentler, chicer version of one-off detoxes, juice cleanses have been advertised as the key to easy fat loss, anti-aging, and disease prevention all in one.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with drinking fresh pressed juice once in a while, the whole concept of detoxing and cleansing has pretty much gone off the rails.
On the one hand, detoxing is a marketing strategy that provides empty (if idealized) promises. On the other, it’s a legitimate medical term that has been completely taken out of context and distorted so that 99 percent of the “detoxes” get it wrong.
Because let’s face it: Saying you the need to detox or cleanse is code for saying you want a fresh start with your food habits. But the problem with the whole detox fad is that it fuels obsessive thinking and doesn’t allow you to make peace with real food.
And that right there is a crime, since the real solution to toxic eating habits, excess body fat, and feeling like crap isn’t a quick fix cleanse. It’s enjoying real food and doing so in a way that takes advantage of the built-in robust detoxification that we already have.
In fact, your body’s ability to eliminate toxins and waste products is pretty amazing. There’s zero evidence that this system needs a rest, a reset, or a fix. For most of us, it’s our brains that need a rest from beating ourselves up over our crappy eating habits. The truth is that your body’s detox system actually functions better when you keep it working like clock work.
So, stop being sucked in by false promises and fads and learn the ins and outs of how your body eliminates that which it doesn’t need or want. This article will help you do that by giving a rundown on the key aspects of detoxification with three steps to make it happen seamlessly.
Step 1: Improve Gastrointestinal Health
The GI tract and the liver are the two primary organs involved in elimination. Pretty much everyone knows that the GI tract is the body’s garbage disposal. The colon, which is the last five feet of your 25-foot GI tract, serves as a temporary holding tank for what the stomach doesn’t digest or assimilate. Unfortunately, your garbage disposal won’t work right if a few things aren’t in place to allow it to function:
First, the intestines must be balanced with healthy quantities of friendly bacteria (Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bifidus). These bacteria work to promote elimination of everything from excess estrogen to other foreign waste products such as pesticides, artificial flavors, and pathogens. They also prevent the growth of dangerous bacteria such as E. coli, H. pylori, and candida.
Second, you need adequate dietary fiber for efficient elimination. Dietary fiber has two functions:
The healthy bacteria in the gut feed on dietary fiber in fermentable carbohydrates, which allows them to proliferate. This has a lot of benefits including increasing the feeling of satisfaction from a meal and preserving lean mass when losing fat.
Fiber also keeps toxins from breaking free in the intestines and reentering circulation. For example, excess estrogen needs to be readily eliminated so that it doesn't damage tissue. Fiber in foods like sesame and flax seeds can bind to estrogen so that it will be excreted and it reduces the amount of an enzyme (called B-glucouronidase) that breaks apart bound estrogen that is on its way out of the body.
Make It Happen:
#1: Eat natural fiber from fruits, vegetables, beans, and seeds. Include veggies at every meal and go for variety when it comes to fiber-rich foods for a more diverse and healthy microflora.
#2: Eat plenty of probiotic foods. These foods provide healthy bacteria and include yogurt and cultured dairy, sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, kefir, and pickled ginger.
#3: Avoid foods you’re intolerant of—wheat, gluten, dairy, are common. A food intolerance is simply a food that your body is not able to digest efficiently. When this happens, your body will release a protein called zonulin. Zonulin increases the permeability of the cell layer that lines the intestines and allows waste to pass into the blood stream—the opposite of what you want for optimal detox!
#4: Chew your food. Seems simple, but chances are you need to improve your chewing skills. Large food particles that reach the stomach are incompletely digested and they are dangerous because the harmful gut bacteria feed on them. Try chewing each bite at least 15 times.
#5: Reduce your “toxic” load: Avoid processed food, medications, and alcohol.
The problem with these compounds is that they can damage the cell wall in the gut. When this happens, toxins are re-released into the blood stream, causing harm to everything from tissue to DNA and gene function.
Step 2: Give Your Liver Some Love
You’ll be surprised to know that your liver is one of the coolest organs you have:
It’s a vast metabolic factory, processing protein, carbs, and fats.
It converts all waste products into compounds that can be safely excreted by the body.
It does all the extra work that the GI tract “misses.”
It has the power to regenerate, healing itself when supported by adequate nutrition.
The liver’s role in elimination requires activity of something called cytochrome P450, which are basically enzymes that the body needs to remove drugs, hormones and other waste products from the body. What a lot of people don’t realize is that not only do cytochrome p450 enzymes need to be activated, they have to be balanced by antioxidants because they actually generate free radicals in order to accomplish their task. Left unchecked they can become harmful, damaging tissue and DNA.
This is one thing that juice cleanses get right—they are packed with phytonutrients from dark green, blue, purple, and red veggies and fruits that do wonders for eliminating free radicals. Unfortunately, juice cleanses don't provide the fiber and protein you need for efficient elimination.
Here’s how to do it the right way:
#1: Eat high-protein foods.
A lot people think that with lots of water and colorful juice they can flush all the waste compounds from their bodies in one fell swoop. In reality every waste product has to be bound with an amino acid for removal, which is why a high-protein intake is extremely important for speedy elimination.
#2: Eat phytonutrient-rich fruits & veggies.
Colorful fruits and vegetables—kale, collards, broccoli, blueberries, and tart cherries, to name a few—provide antioxidants to take free radicals out of circulation. An added bonus is that almost all of these foods provide unique nutrients that play peripheral roles in healthy detox. For instance, lemons and other citrus are packed with a compound called D-limonene, which increases liver enzymes so that the body is better able to eliminate excess hormones.
#3: Eat broccoli & other cruciferous vegetables.
The cruciferous vegetables require a special spotlight when we talk about detox because they provide a host of pro-elimination nutrients that activate detoxification enzymes in the liver. They also provide sulfurous compounds that promote elimination of excess estrogens—one of the greatest contributors to toxic load in modern society. Include cauliflower, bok choy, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts in your diet daily.
#4: Eat natural chelators.
Natural chelators are food or nutritional compounds that attach to heavy metals and other toxins to help remove them from the body. The most effective food-based chelators can easily be added to your diet everyday:
Garlic has been shown to reduce organ damage from mercury exposure and has an overall protective effect against heavy metals.
Pectin is a fiber that can improve removal of heavy metals from the body. It is found in fruits and vegetables such as apples, cabbage, beets, grapes and carrots.
Cilantro and parsley contain protective compounds against mercury that helps remove it from water.
#5: Eat healthy fats—salmon, grass-fed meats, seeds, nuts & avocado.
Foods rich in healthy fats contain antioxidants that help neutralize the free radicals produced during elimination. Additionally, the omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA, that are found in fish promote estrogen elimination safely down a pathway that doesn’t cause cancer.
Step 3: Aid Elimination With Supplements
Hopefully, you’re on board with the idea that to truly “cleanse” or “detox” your body, you need to adopt habits that promote healthy and effective elimination every day. No suffering, complicated juices, or special potions necessary.
That said, there are certain supplements that can support elimination in specific situations. These tend to be called for when you have been hammering your gut with medications or have a compromised immune system due to massive stress or illness.
#1: Try glutamine.
Glutamine is an amino acid that is the primary building block in the intestinal lining. Getting enough will help to seal the cellular wall in the GI tract, improving digestion and elimination.
#2: Try digestive enzymes or apple cider vinegar.
If you have low stomach acid, your body won’t completely break down food and large particles will make it to your intestines, causing a whole list of problems you don’t want to deal with. You can supplement with digestive enzymes, or if you have a mild version of the problem, taking a shot of apple cider vinegar before meals can due the trick nicely.
#3: Take alpha lipoic acid.
A super-powered antioxidant, alpha lipoic acid, is less known for its chelating abilities. Take it to help eliminate heavy metals and support the overall elimination process.
#4. Take n-acetyl cysteine.
An amino acid that is used by the body to produce glutathione, n-acetyl cysteine is also a great chelator that supports elimination and immunity.
#5: Drink plenty of water.
Water, though not a supplement, is worth mentioning because sometimes it’s the little things that we forget. Obviously, you need adequate water for optimal digestion, gut, and liver function and it’s very important that your water be as free of toxins as possible. Unfortunately, contaminated water is not just a third world problem: Pesticides, animal-treated hormones, PCBs, dioxins, benzene, and dangerous bacteria are just a tip of the iceberg.
Therefore, it’s worth looking into water quality by getting a water quality report from the EPA. You can also buy a filter or test your water with a home test that can be bought online or at a hardware store.