With the start of the new year, you’ve probably already been inundated with ads for immediate fat loss, a quick liver detox, or even products that have detoxifying properties. Where do you even start? And how do you know what will actually work for you and be healthy in the long run?
With your Apeiron Life membership, you have access to experts who can help you understand the science behind the many weight loss and detox products and guide you through the best decisions for your body and your goals. Our very own Senior Client Advocate & Nutrition Innovation Advisor, Heather Rivera, MS, RDN, has long been interested in environmental toxins and the concept of detoxing. She put together the following information to help you better understand the rationale and science that is linked to detox programs.
If you want to learn more about this topic, feel free to reach out to your Apeiron Life Client Advocate. In this piece, Heather shares insight into detox myths and provides advice supporting valid detox themes based on science, not gimmicks.
Let’s get the myths out of the way.
The term “detox” often refers to enhancing the natural routes of detoxification and elimination of toxic compounds from the body. Engaging in practices that detoxify the body has been around for centuries and many of these themes are intuitively appealing. However, what gets portrayed in the media and popularly endorsed by celebrities are often claims not founded in science or incomplete truths.
These are the teas, supplements, extreme diets and promises that celebrities and popular yet often uncredentialed health gurus tout. Detox teas flush your lower bowels (which your body does naturally anyway) and in doing so, force water out of your system, which you actually need for the real detox work to be done in your liver on a daily basis. Also, supplements sold to detoxify the body can sometimes be counterproductive by damaging your kidneys and liver and can even occasionally cause life-threatening failures.
It’s important to keep in mind that while you may lose weight temporarily with some detox programs, including those that focus on dietary supplements, that weight loss is typically not from fat, it’s from water and the depletion of your glycogen (energy) stores. It will rebound once you come off of the unsustainable detox and your glycogen stores and hydration status improve. This is the case with low-carb diets or prolonged fasting regimens. The rapid fluid changes around the heart and lungs can have dire consequences. At best, without complications, your weight simply rebounds and you’re back to square one. However, there are some healthy approaches to weight loss that fall under the umbrella of detoxification themes that contribute to long-term reductions in body fat.
The Real Science
Step 1: Stop drinking from a firehose!
If you’re attempting to detox through a drip system but are drinking from a fire hose of toxins, you’re not going to get very far. Some experts have expressed concern that our everyday environments are filled with toxins that bombard our systems. The EPA’s list of approved chemicals is 84,000 and continually growing. Less than 10% of these chemicals have long-term health safety data available prior to being approved by the EPA for use.
The term “body burden” is often used to describe the overall toll various chemicals take on the human body in aggregate. While many chemicals in small quantities may have no adverse health effects on their own, when taken in sum with exposure to thousands of others in small quantities, they add up. As it stands, it is largely up to individual consumers to protect themselves and their families by making informed decisions about what types and how many products they come in contact with. To reduce or avoid exposure to some of these unwanted chemicals you can choose from a couple of the strategies listed below.
Alcohol. If you're trying to detoxify your body, alcohol won’t help. Alcohol blocks multiple pathways in the body from performing optimally. Your liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, and everything else will have to work harder to compensate. The same also goes for smoking.
Filter your water. RO filters are best for drinking water, though whole-home filtration systems are available too.
Choose Quality Foods: Organic produce, grass-fed meats, low-mercury seafood, and fewer packaged foods are a few ways to reduce the pesticides and chemicals you consume that can be quite high in conventionally grown and processed food products. If you're unable to source all your foods as organic, focus on the Dirty Dozen.
Cooking & Food Storage: Glass, stainless steel, cast iron, ceramic, and silicone are optimal cooking and food storage materials. Use a glass or stainless steel water bottle. Never heat plastic.
Breathe clean air. HEPA-certified filters or even just opening your windows can help. Dust/vacuum regularly to keep particulate matter from recirculating. Flying private? Consider how often you are breathing in fumes on the tarmac and how you can reduce that exposure.
Personal Care: Skin is absorptive. Reduce the overall number of products you use and absorb. Choose fragrance-free items and those without parabens, antimicrobials. Consider the perfumes, lotions, soaps, and other items that come in contact with your skin. Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database is a great starting place.
Indoor Home Care: Select cleaning products with fewer chemicals and fragrances. Consider specifying or buying for your support teams which cleaning chemicals you prefer they use. This also includes air fresheners, candles, laundry detergents.
While these tips are not all-encompassing, they are a great place to start in reducing the most common sources of exposure.
Step 2: Support All Routes of Elimination
Medical doctors and health care professionals can differ in their interpretation of how important different physiological systems are for eliminating toxins from the body. If your body isn't running smoothly, it is possible that normal detoxification pathways do not result in ideal health. Consider the following:
First, your liver works hard to take toxic compounds that enter the body and move them towards excretion. This can include anything from ingested alcohol to inhaled pollutants that enter the bloodstream through the lungs or are absorbed from topical skin applications into the bloodstream. The liver essentially has to package and sort these toxins so they can be safely transported and excreted via urine, stool, or sweat.
Critical nutrients in this process include vitamins A, C, and E, B-vitamins, minerals (zinc, copper), omega-3 fatty acids, and CoQ10 to name a few. Getting these nutrients through whole foods provides the added benefit of thousands of antioxidant compounds that protect your cells from damage these toxins can cause along the way.
Regular bowel movements are vital for toxin elimination and to reduce recirculation. Are you having a normal bowel movement 1-3 times per day? If you’re not sure or are interested in optimizing your gut health, stay tuned for our Gut Health Program coming soon!
Alongside the stool, kidney excretions carry cleared body toxins out via urine. Keeping hydrated will help this process occur regularly and prevent the accumulation and recirculation of toxins. The recommended amount of water you should consume is dependent on sex, age, activity level, and body composition, but the current generally recommended amounts are:
For females: 65 - 100 oz per day
For males: 90 - 125 oz per day
Skin & Sweat
The process of sweating expels toxins. Exercise is the number one option for inducing sweat because of its many other benefits along the way (i.e. bone density support, cardiovascular health, cognitive health, weight loss, lean body mass retention, lymphatic circulation, and more!).
Try gradually exercising in warmer and warmer spaces to sweat more but acclimate safely.
If you keep your home gym well air-conditioned, try cranking up that thermostat!
Sweat lodges, saunas, and even tasks such as housework or manual labor allow your body to sweat out harmful toxins too.
Replenish your water and electrolytes that you sweated out. Real foods rich with the electrolytes potassium, calcium, and magnesium are best: potatoes, bananas, kale, spinach, citrus, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and yogurt.
Another area in which exercise helps to encourage detoxification is in the lungs. Oxygen in and carbon dioxide out is a detox process we take for granted. The act of lung expansion helps the blood and lymphatic systems maneuver their fluids around too. Short, shallow breaths leave stale air in the lower part of your lungs, limiting the expelling capacity of toxins and the ability to take in fresh oxygen. Instead, try taking deep breaths and fully expelling the air in your lungs to clear the system.
The Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system is our body's superhighway to transport toxins and waste and is our immune system’s activation network. It's essential to keep this system flowing, and the best way to do that is through mechanical movement.
AKA - move your body! This causes contraction and expansion of the muscles and blood vessels that surround the lymph nodes and lymph vessels to help squeeze and circulate the lymph fluid. Think of wringing out your lymphatic system next time you're getting your blood flowing, muscles moving, doing a yoga twist, or stretching after a run.
Step 3: Get Advanced Detox Support
Regardless of how you define detoxification, your body can be a powerful detoxifying machine when given all the proper nutrition and lifestyle support to get the job done. Instead of gravitating towards one particular fad that promises detoxification, a healthier approach involves identifying priorities, revisiting health goals, and incorporating “detox” practices into your overall health and fitness routine. At Apeiron Life, we are interested in looking into the big picture and introducing interventions that contribute to long-term health but also allow you to enjoy rapid short-term gains.
Lean on your Apeiron Life expert team to help you make the most of your time and energy. We can help you strategically plan your days and weeks and get you the support you need so you can see progress on all fronts. Contact your Client Advocate to inquire about detox themes and practices to support all of your goals.
Hodges RE, Minich DM. Modulation of metabolic detoxification pathways using foods and food-derived components: a scientific review with clinical application. J Nutr Metab. 2015;2015:760689. doi:10.1155/2015/760689
Mahan, K. Raymond, J. Krause's Food & the Nutrition Care Process, 14th Edition, 2017. Print.
The Institute for Functional Medicine. Detoxification: Supporting Liver Function With Nutrition.
Paustenbach, D., & Galbraith, D. (2006). Biomonitoring: Is body burden relevant to public health? Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 44(3), 249–261. doi:10.1016/j.yrtph.2006.01.005