Detox Diets? Not For Me!

        Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS         January 3, 2016


Detox Diets?Your body knows how to detoxify. With the New Year, there are so many claims by so-called experts who want to sell you their special detox diet or cleanse kits. Detox diets and cleanses are not for me! A published review of the literature in 2014 showed that claims by these detox diets are very questionable and not well substantiated.


I have written about this before.  Your body has many well-designed systems to get rid of the junk.


Individual cells have genes that create natural biochemicals to rid your body of unnecessary and damaging elements by way of the Nrf2 pathway. Your liver is the primary organ that performs detoxification. Then there are the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, skin and lungs that all play a role in the elimination of unwanted and toxic substances.


Therefore, it is critical to provide the nutrients necessary to maintain a healthy functioning body. Healthy food choices give your body the nutrients to successfully manage most toxic loads. Healthier lifestyle choices can avoid and eliminate most other stressors. A primal or Paleo diet and lifestyle are the means to the end – the end being to make your body function as it was meant to function.


Special cleanses that are touted to detoxify your body are not the answers, in my opinion. There has not been any well-designed, published research in peer-reviewed journals proving these are effective. I believe the answers lie in what you eat, in what you don’t eat, and in how you take care of the rest of your body.


What these cleanses apparently do very thoroughly are to remove dollars from your wallet.

Detox Products: Scam? or Science?

evolution rI have a pet peeve – professionals using their credentials to oversell products. They first present great information, but then they embellish it and sell a truckload of questionable products.


I do understand that there are people who are sick and need help. I do believe that some of these people need a jumpstart to help their bodies get on the right track. Healthcare professionals dealing with these medical situations must initiate active treatment for acute problems.


Yet, the facts are that when people eat unhealthy foods and lead unhealthy lifestyles, their bodies respond in unhealthy ways. The first treatment after acute care should be to initiate healthy life changes. Most people who are suffering could be helped tremendously by simply giving their bodies what they need and most importantly by avoiding what their bodies do not need. That goes not only for overall health, but also for mouth health.


This brings me to the topic of detoxification. A study by NIH showed that the money spent on alternative medicine in 2007 was $34 billion annually. I suspect the money spent just on detox products today has generated a multimillion dollar industry annually – selling whatever miracle concoction that is popular at the moment to make your body do what it was designed to do in its natural state.


What Is Detoxification?

The word detoxification in the health world has two meanings:

  • One is the medical treatment for people who have drug addictions. This medical practice of detoxification allows the body to rid itself of a drug while managing the symptoms of withdrawal. It is designed to prevent potentially life-threatening complications that might appear if the patient were left untreated with their chemical addiction.
  • One is the process that has become popular with entrepreneurs who promote products to help your body rid itself of harmful toxins. The question is, “Are these products necessary above and beyond what your body is capable of doing through its normal process of detoxification?”


No question that there are many toxins getting into our bodies that never were there a few decades ago. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2010 that 212 chemicals were found in people’s blood or urine, 75 of which had never before been measured in the U.S. population.


These chemicals could present a toxic burden to the body if your liver and kidneys could not remove them or if you were exposed to so many that your body could not deal with the total toxic load.


How Do You Detox?

The main detoxification organ in your body is the liver. Everything you breathe, digest, and absorb into your bloodstream passes through the liver, which is your body’s main filtering system. Many commercial detoxification products make the claim that they “cleanse” your liver. Your liver does not store toxins. The liver actually turns potentially harmful toxic material into water-soluble chemicals that can be removed by your body in a natural way through sweating, exhaling, urinating, and defecating.


Your liver uses a two-phase process to break down chemicals and toxins. During phase 1, toxins are neutralized and broken into smaller fragments. Then, in phase 2, they are bound to other molecules, creating new non-toxic molecules that can be excreted.


It is essential for your body to have adequate nutrients so that liver detoxification can work properly. Many of these nutrients also stimulate the Nrf2 pathway, which in turn begins the body’s process of creating detoxifying and antioxidant biochemicals. If phase 1 and phase 2 of liver detoxification were not to work properly, toxic substances could build up in your body creating disease. Some of the specific foods that provide specific nutrients that support healthy detoxification are:

  • Deep colored fruits and vegetables
  • Sea vegetables
  • Avocados
  • Protein from pastured animals
  • Pastured eggs and organ meats
  • Wild caught fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring
  • Cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts
  • Onions and garlic
  • Nuts like almonds and walnuts


A healthy liver will do a great job of removing toxins, but there are a few diseases that could compromise the process. Diseases like viral hepatitis or alcohol-induced liver disease may not allow normal detoxification. Some nutrients like vitamin A, iron, and copper in high concentrations could also create problems. Disease states of the liver must be treated by a healthcare professional. Detox products have never been demonstrated to treat a diseased liver.


Kidneys also are a part of the detoxifying system. They filter the blood, remove excess water, pass urea that is a byproduct of protein metabolism, and eliminate these wastes through urination.


When healthy nourishment and lifestyle are introduced, the body is able to detoxify continuously and naturally 24/7.


Best Way To Detoxify

When it comes to cleansing the body, one of the best techniques has been fasting. Possibly, the real benefit from the popular cleansing products in the market may be that many of them restrict food for a certain period of time. Some of the medical benefits of fasting include lowering blood sugar, fighting cancer (here, here, here), and causing the death of old and diseased cells.


I practice intermittent fasting in my personal diet. I usually finish eating for the evening after completing dinner by 8PM. Then my next meal the following day generally would be about 1 PM. That translates to an intermittent fast of about 17 hours. Eating six meals a day doesn’t align with our ancestral history.


My Bottom Line

I detoxify daily by eating nutrient-dense foods and practicing intermittent fasting. Science supports these methods.



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