New detox programs appear all over the internet, yet many of us don’t know what detox really means and how to choose what is right for us. We often detox when we feel sluggish, overweight, or get a general sense of poor health. But before you dive into a detox program that promises a quick fix, know that some methods can be incredibly taxing to the body’s systems because they aim to rapidly rid trillions of cells of toxins all at once. When you appreciate the main detoxification station—the...
New detox programs appear all over the internet, yet many of us don’t know what detox really means and how to choose what is right for us. We often detox when we feel sluggish, overweight, or get a general sense of poor health. But before you dive into a detox program that promises a quick fix, know that some methods can be incredibly taxing to the body’s systems because they aim to rapidly rid trillions of cells of toxins all at once. When you appreciate the main detoxification station—the liver—you can detox in a manner that is optimal for your precious health.
Your Liver: the Unsung Hero
Viewed in many Eastern medical traditions as one of most important organs, the liver is generally underappreciated in the West for its myriad life-sustaining functions. It is the most vital nutrient-processing organ in the body, your major organ of metabolism. While it only weighs about 3% of total body weight, the liver uses about 12% of the body’s total energy, and it must generate this energy in its own cells. The liver routinely performs over 500 known functions to regulate your cells’ metabolism. And while our skin, liver, kidneys, and lungs all act as barriers to or as processors of toxins, the liver handles the lion’s share of the detoxification.
The liver must break down toxins, like metabolic waste, unnecessary hormones, drugs, and alcohol, along with the 10,000 or more new post-industrialization chemicals that now pollute our food, air, and water. These chemicals and unhealthy lifestyle choices can challenge our liver’s capacity. When the liver’s load becomes too great, the excess waste chemicals are stored in fatty tissues, first in the liver itself, then in other parts of the body.
Dangers of Power Detoxing
Liquid diets, starvation diets, and other new detox trends should be viewed with caution. Because your liver is already detoxing you all day long, adding a detoxification program on top of its daily functions further taxes your liver. This is why it is so important to find a detox method that will support your body.
Potential risks of doing a detox improperly, in addition to taxing the liver, include muscle breakdown; upset of blood sugar, potassium, and sodium levels; inability to flush out the good bacteria that keep the intestines healthy; brain damage and reabsorption of the toxins into the bloodstream and kidneys.
Perhaps the highest risk in over-taxing the liver is that it will compromise its most important job: converting vitamins, minerals, and amino acids into their biologically active forms. When nutrients cannot be converted and used, you are deprived of the fuel needed to power your body and regenerate your liver.
A Safe and Sane Approach to Detoxing
The need for detoxification becomes apparent in the face of the growing number of man-made chemicals we ingest or inhale. Toxin overload in the body can lead to malfunction, breakdown, inflammation, mutation, and disease.
Then, how do we safely detoxify while keeping our priceless, multi-tasking liver in good health? First, start with the basics of detoxification. After you have mastered those, it is safe to consider detoxification and cleansing programs. In that order.
“The Detoxing Basics” will help you gently turn your body around, without taxing the liver and the body as a whole. So demanding is the process of cleaning out trillions of cells from toxins, it is unwise to go from a horrible lifestyle to a “perfect” one. Transform your lifestyle into a healthy one first, and then go the last ten yards with a cleansing program.
The Detoxing Basics: Three Common-Sense Steps
When you’ve “had enough” of your toxic body, and start thinking about a 180-degree change, remember how much strain and risk that will put on a body already loaded down with toxins.
Go slow and steady and you will win. Support your liver to handle all its roles in keeping you healthy.
How to Select a Detox Program
After you have done the basic detox—because you know it makes no sense to engage in daily behaviors that add toxins to your life—then it is okay to start thinking about a “cleanse.”
A cleanse should:
Just because you have toxins, self-imposed or otherwise, doesn’t mean you need to punish the toxins out of yourself. Go slow, tune into your body, and work steadily to support yourself.
Nature’s best detox program is the natural functioning of the body—leverage it instead of putting yourself at risk. The easiest way to detox is to take baby-steps, and continue to take them throughout your life.
We have compiled a list of the foods and behaviors that impact the liver the most. Pick 1 thing a week to stop doing and 1 thing a week to start doing:
Consider doing one of these every week:
Top Harmful Things to Avoid
Small lifestyle choices that compound over time all add up to create your health. You have the power to purify as much as you can in your life and shape your health destiny.
Susan Moores, R.D.. "Experts Warn of Detox Diet Dangers," May 18, 2007.
Mike Adams, "Why your detox is making you sick: Must-read article reveals dangers of aggressive detoxing," Apr. 20 2014.
BBC News, "Woman left brain damaged by detox" Jul. 23, 2008.
Cari Nierenberg, "6 Potential Dangers of Juice Cleanses and Liquid Diets," Nov. 24, 2014.
Dr. Edward Group DC, "14 Foods That Cleanse the Liver," Jan. 31, 2013.
Karen Asp, Reviewed by Michael Cutler, DO, PhD, "9 Essential Facts About Your Liver," May 24, 2016.
Laurie Barclay,MD "Liver Detoxification -- Fact or Fad?" 2001.