IMG_1762I have previously written a post about detoxing. In this article, I took a fairly strong stance against detoxing, as our organs and immune system handle detoxification on their own already. One of the reasons I took a strong stance against detoxing is because the term ‘detoxification’ has been overused and misused by nonscientific practitioners, self-educated consumers, and the media. Detoxing is celebrity endorsed, heavily promoted and is becoming big business. 


A great example of this is the documentary ‘Fat Sick and Nearly Dead’. This documentary made a good initial point – we are overloading on empty calories but we are malnourished at the same time, as we are not getting an adequate amount of micronutrients. The film reveals that only 5% of the Standard American Diet (SAD) is made up of fruits and vegetables. In the film, Joe Cross pushes this to 100%, as he goes on a 60 day juice cleanse, eating only fruit and vegetables.

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A 60 day juice cleanse can be harmful and counter-productive

I’m skeptical, as I believe that this method might not be the best way to lose weight and improve your health. What happens to your body when you undergo a 60 day juice cleanse?

  • You are slowing your metabolism down, in response to a semi-starvation state. This means you body wants to store more of the energy that you take in, instead of utilizing it.
  • You are losing lean body mass during the juice detox, as your body will burn muscle during a semi-starvation state, especially if you are not intaking an adequate amount of protein.
  • You are forcing yourself to deny normal hunger cues, which leads to craving and a fixation of food, especially high-calorie foods.
  • You will feel downright miserable, as  you will likely experience weakness, headaches, nausea, etc.
  • This juice detox can be very costly.

There is, however, some emerging research about nutritions role in detoxification. The specifics of which foods aid in detoxification is still is under way.

Physiologically speaking, detoxification is the primary biochemical process for removing toxins by converting non–water-soluble toxic compounds into water-soluble compounds that can be eliminated through urine, sweat, bile, or feces. In general terms, the detoxification process involves two, potentially three, phases. We do know that the detoxification system already depends on specific nutrients from the diet, and certain foods and nutrients have been found to be associated with the upregulation, or inducing, of detoxification enzymes, leading to more enzymes being present and a faster rate of xenobiotic detoxification. When something is upregulated, it’s ‘turned on’ or activity is enhanced, and when it’s downregulated, it’s ‘turned off’ or blunted. So eating certain foods has  potential to help facilitate or speed up the detoxification process.

Which foods have the potential to help with our bodies own detoxification processes?

1. B vitamins have been shown to assist phase 1 detoxification. Foods that are rich in B-vitamins include fish, poultry, dairy products, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds and grains.
2. Green tea has potential benefits in detoxification. One study showed its particular promise in promoting the induction of phase 2 detox enzymes.
3. Cruciferous vegetables, onions and garlic contain phytochemicals that induce phase 2 enzymes.
4. Fibre intake supports regular elimination, which is crucial for excreting toxins through the bile and stool. Brown rice fiber may be particularly beneficial in eliminating fat-soluble toxins.
5. Turmeric/curcumin has shown promise in protecting the gallbladder and promoting bile flow

Although research on specific nutrients and foods to assist with detoxification is still in its infancy, there is no harm in incorporating more of the above foods into your diet. I urge you not to take any drastic detoxing measures and continue to follow a whole foods, plant-based diet. Visit a Registered Dietitian for an in-depth diet analysis and to calculate your individualized needs.


Resources:

Ferguson LR. Nutrigenomics approaches to functional foods. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109(3):452-458.

Jeffer EH. Diet and detoxification enzymes. The Proceedings from the 13th International Symposium of the Institute for Functional Medicine, Managing Biotransformation: The Metabolic, Genomic, and Detoxification Balance Points. Altern Thera Health Med. 2007;13(2):S98-S99.

Konsue N, Ioannides C. Modulation of carcinogen-metabolising cytochromes P450 in human liver by the chemopreventive phytochemical phenethyl isothiocyanate, a constituent of cruciferous vegetables. Toxicology. 2010;268(3):184-190.

Liska DJ. The detoxification enzyme systems. Altern Med Rev. 1998;3(3):187-198

Rasyid A, Rahman AR, Jaalam K, Lelo A. Effect of different curcumin dosages on human gall bladder. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2002;11(4):314-318

Written by Nicole Osinga, RD, MAN, BASc

I'm a Registered Dietitian who works with clients in the Durham Region! I use evidence-based recommendations to help you achieve your nutrition goals. I have many hearty and delicious recipes to share! My office is in Courtice, ON. I regularly work with clients from Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Newcastle, Bowmanville and Courtice.

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