Do I Need to Detox?
It's January. And it's really cold outside.
For most of us, myself included, this means wanting to hibernate inside and procrastinating shoveling. This is also the time where we might begin reflecting on our New Year's Resolutions.
In my last blog post I shared with you that my goal is to be truer to myself. In keeping with that theme, when I heard the CBC Marketplace's "Detox" special was being aired I got a little excited. And then, frustrated at the blanket "detoxes do not work" approach. Finally, I felt like shoving forks into my eyes in exasperation over the picky eating, sugar guzzling and misinformation. So instead of fuming about this in the privacy of my own home, I decided to review my thoughts (hopefully calmly and collectedly) for you in this - my first attempt at a Video Blog..
My general thoughts are on detoxes are this:
1. We need to examine WHY we think we need to detox.
Do you feel that your body is inherently "dirty" and in need of cleaning? Are you unsatisfied with your health/energy/weight/self-esteem/sex life and feel that you need a change? Have you been watching Dr. Oz lately?
2. There are different kinds of "detoxes" and they are not necessarily safe, appropriate, cost-effective or useful for everyone.
Many over-the-counter products act as laxatives. Sometimes this is the only thing that they do. While it is true that we need healthy organs of elimination to remove run-of-the-mill toxins and excess hormones from our bodies, making you go Number 2 a lot isn't the only way of doing this. Nor is it getting at the heart why you are constipated in the first place. In fact, laxative abuse and over-use are a leading cause of malabsorption, sluggish colon activity, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Raw diets and juicing cleanses are also popular, and although they can be effective for some people, I am a firm believer in the Traditional Chinese Medicine school of thought wherein we should be eating according to the seasons. When it is this cold outside, it is simply too taxing on the body to be digesting that much raw food.
Dr. Oz's 48 Hour Cleanse is not inherently bad, I just don't think that 48 hours of eating a clean diet is enough for someone that is likely eating poorly in the first place. In fact, the recipes are similar to something that I would recommend, but I think the claims are grossly over-inflated. The best form of "detox-ing" is not needing to detox ie. eating a clean diet, exercising, allowing time for self-care, making stress management a priority.
3. A "detox" should not be a one-stop shop for your health care.
True wellness is about achieving balance physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially. A detox will never be effective if you are following an unhealthy lifestyle (irregular sleeping and eating patterns, too much sugar, alcohol, caffeine, not enough exercise, negative/self-destructive thought patterns), do the program for 2 or 5 or 30 days etc. and then go back to the habits that are making you sick in the first place.
As I mentioned in the video, doing an appropriate detox as a kick-start to healthier habits that you will be maintaining long-term makes much more sense than saying "I did my detox, I'm healthy for the year!".
4. A "detox" is not suitable for everyone.
Sometimes I see patients that say they felt great after doing a detox. If part of the program is eliminated sugar, refined carbohydrates, alcohol and eating lots of fresh healthy foods, doing yoga or walking etc., I'd say we are on the right track. Again, sustainable changes. However, I also see a proportion of people that say they've never felt worse during or after. This is because many toxins such as mercury, lead, DDT, bisphenol A, parabens and plastics are fat soluble. Once we start to mobilize these bad boys at an accelerated rate via sweating, supplements, fast weight loss, we have an increased amount circulating in the blood stream. Whereas before, there were tucked away in our fat cells (lovely picture, isn't it?), now they are free to run around and make us feel nasty. This is why I almost never recommend a harsh detox for someone suffering from chronic conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, SLE (lupus), rheumatoid arthritis, pain, cancer, or heart disease. It's too much too fast for someone already burdened by pain and low energy.
5. A good therapeutic "detox" works at stimulating your body's routes of elimination (skin, sweat glands, kidneys, bowel, lymphatic system and liver) so that your body does the work, not the product.
A tailored therapeutic detox will discuss healthy eating, exercise, stress management, emotional health, at-home self-care and perhaps some good-quality supplements specific for your needs. As I've outlined my Top 5 Tips for At-Home Detox in the video, I will finish by say that under-taking a
therapeutic detox - which definitely differs from an over-the-counter program should be taken under the guidance of a licensed and knowledgeable health professional, at the right time of year, and should be appropriate for your health concerns and goals.
Book a Health Discovery Session to see how I can help you meet your health goals.
1. Roerig JL, Steffen KJ, Mitchell JE, Zunker C. Laxative abuse: epidemiology, diagnosis and management. Drugs. 2010 Aug 20;70(12):1487-503. doi: 10.2165/11898640-000000000-00000.
2. Crinnion WJ. Toxic effects of the easily avoidable phthalates and parabens. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Sep 15(3): 190-6.
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Dr. Keila Roesner is a Naturopathic Doctor. When not treating patients she is also an enthusiastic barefoot-strolling, music-loving, yoga-doing kitchen wiz - who also happens to be a wrestling fan.