What Detoxing Really Means
At its most basic sense, detoxification means removing toxins that can harm the body. So then what are toxins? By living, breathing, and eating, we’re exposed to all sorts of harmful compounds every day. They’re both natural and artificial, and they’re in the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. Toxins are often associated with certain conditions and diseases.
Each time you go to the bathroom, you detoxify. But there’s a whole lot more going on inside your body—in the liver, kidneys, intestinal tract, respiratory tract, skin, and lymphatic system—when it comes to eliminating toxins. The liver, which is one of the largest organs in the body, converts toxic substances in our bloodstream into harmless substances or ensures we eliminate them. The kidneys filter toxins out of blood, which we then eliminate in the form of urine. The intestines absorb nutrients from the food we eat and then eliminate the food our bodies don’t absorb. After the liver does its job to detoxify the blood, it transfers toxins into bile, which is transported into the small intestine and eliminated into the feces. The respiratory tract gets rid of toxins via carbon dioxide each time we breathe out and sometimes phlegm. The skin, which is the biggest organ, gets rid of toxins by way of sweat. The lymphatic system helps get rid of toxins by creating white blood cells to defend against bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms in the blood.
What research has to say
Now that we know how our bodies detox on their own, let’s get into the ways we can purportedly improve our natural detoxification processes. Some studies suggest that detoxing diets—where you likely eliminate certain foods, add in other foods, or incorporate fasting periods—enhance liver detoxification and eliminate organic pollutants from the body. But, it’s important to note that a lot of studies on detoxing are done in animals and have small sample sizes or other limitations.
If the goal is to lose weight, many detox diets achieve just that—not necessarily because of what you consume, but rather how much. Research suggests that a lot of detox diets help people lose weight by restricting calories. And by cutting out toxic foods and drinks—such as alcohol and processed foods that often contain artificial flavours, colours, and preservatives—people on detox diets may lose a few pounds without changing how much they eat or exercise. (But that weight loss may be short-lived.) Moreover, while there’s little evidence to prove it, many people feel more energetic after detox programs because of all the junk they’re not eating. That added boost of energy can translate to more effort in the gym, thus leading to some potential weight loss.
While we still need more clinical studies to get a better handle on how detoxing works—and how certain foods, drinks, and activities can help us detox more or better—a detox program can be a great jumping off point for your wellness journey.
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