There is an infatuation among health-conscious devotees for “detoxing” in order to clean out the gastrointestinal tract, lose weight, getting rid of harmful substances or improving their general wellness. But is this all necessary?
When it comes to detoxification, there are a number of conflicting views from health experts, with some arguing that the kidneys and the liver don’t need any assistance to detox the body while others support the idea of detox contortions.
Gabriel Eksteen, head of nutrition and exercise at the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, says the human body has an extremely effective detoxification system, with liver, kidneys, gut and immune system responsible for cleansing the body.
“Pollutants can still build up in places like the liver and the fat. We don’t completely understand the health risks of many pollutants, but some can contribute to inflammation and the development of chronic diseases. It is possible that some nutrients can enhance the liver’s detoxification abilities, although there is currently little scientific proof for this,” says Eksteen.
He adds that there is no simple answer to know if detoxing is correct and healthy, partly because detox diets vary greatly. “Some may be harmless while others are downright dangerous. Whether it’s healthy or not depends on what you are taking or adding to your diet,” says Eksteen.
For example, if a person does a sugar detox, then removing excess sugar from your diet is a good thing. If a detox requires you to eat too much of one food or remove whole food groups, then it can be counter-productive.
While some of the detox mixtures promise faster metabolism or weight loss, Eksteen argues that most herbal remedies that are available in health food stores and pharmacies are not well regulated and many make unsupported health claims, adding that “natural” or “herbal” does not automatically equate to harmless.
There are many detoxing methods available; one that is no stranger to many is fasting and a liquid diet. It has been one of the most loved and shared methods for generations.
Eksteen says there are various types of fasting such as continuous fasting or intermittent fasting that can reduce food energy intake and thereby assist in weight loss and may offer other health benefits too - but it’s still not the best way to achieve weight loss in a healthy manner.
Here are some of the things you can explore to detox.
Dry brushing with a loofah sponge is a wonderful way to stimulate blood circulation and your lymph (infection-fighting vessels) and brush off that old skin. The lymph plays an important role in ridding the body of waste and keeping the immune system in top form.
There are some simple bath soaks that can open up the pores and encourage the skin to release toxins. A cup of Epsom salts in a hot bath will open pores and allow toxins to be released as well as replenish the body with a dose of relaxing magnesium.
Also, try a mix of one cup sodium bicarbonate with one cup Epsom salts as it helps neutralise chemicals in the bath water. Clay baths draw heavy metals and toxins out through the skin.
A good deep tissue massage will get the blood circulation going. Alternatively, a little self-massage with a few drops of detoxing oils (such as coriander, grapefruit or juniper essential oils) are also a great way of detoxing.
Cupping is an ancient art that is experiencing renewed interest. Cups are used to create a suction on the skin to get the energy and circulation moving, which is great for releasing blocks and promoting detox.
Sweating is one of the most effective ways to remove toxins from the body. Saunas are wonderful to help unload some of those nasty toxins. Even better, infrared saunas can penetrate more deeply into your skin, releasing stored toxins as well as promoting relaxation and a stronger immune system.