The right way to detox

There’s so many ‘way to detox’ out there – but how do you know which is the right one? Good’s nutrition columnist Ben Warren has the answers 

Words Ben Warren. Illustration Janelle Barone from Makers MGMT

‘Detox’ stands for detoxification. Each and every day our bodies are exposed to all kinds of toxins, more now in our modern world than ever before – from those we ingest in what we eat, drink and put on our skin to those found in our environment and the toxins that are made as a by-product within our body. 

The main organs of detoxification are the liver, kidneys and skin, although the digestive tract and lungs are also heavily involved in the detoxification process.

Your liver is your major detoxification organ and the main cleansing house of all these toxins. It filters toxins out of the bloodstream and processes them so that they can be excreted via your bowel or urine. Over time, your liver’s ability to detoxify efficiently can become impaired due to the continual loading, and toxins can then become stored in body fat so they’re not causing harm to your vital organs. 

Excessive toxins left long enough in the body can present a whole host of problems and health concerns. When your liver eliminates these toxins, it releases them into your lymphatic system, kidneys and blood, therefore detoxing is not as simple as focusing solely on the liver, we need to also flush the lymphatic system, kidneys and the blood. 

When to detox The following diet and lifestyle factors can, over time, have an impact on the liver…

· Do you drink caffeinated beverages daily?

· Do you have more than seven units of alcohol a week? 

· Do you take birth control pills?

· Are you on estrogen or hormone replacement therapy?

· Have you taken antibiotics during the past 12 months?

· Do you avoid fats or eat a low fat diet?

· Do you often crave sweets, breads and high-carbohydrate foods?

· Do you have less than five servings of fruit and vegetables a day?

· Do you regularly sleep fewer than eight hours a night?

· Are the whites of your eyes not as white as they used to be?

What you should look for in a detox? There’s many fad detoxes out there, from the Lemon detox to various liver flushes.  The limitation I see in many of these detoxes is that they often limit nutrition, which is actually the opposite of what you want to do if you are trying to up-regulate your detoxification organs.  Ideally with a detox we want to be minimising additional toxins and increasing nutrition as much as possible to up-regulate the detoxification organs.

My top 5 daily detoxing tips- apply these tips over the next two weeks. 

  • Add a fresh vegetable smoothie to your day. Include plenty of leafy greens, beetroot and carrot. I prefer the new blenders for this over juicing, as the fibre is retained.
  • Alcohol free. Alcohol is incredibly hard on the liver so go ‘dry’ for a couple of weeks to give your liver a chance to catch up.
  • Exercise Your lymphatic system (which detoxes your cells) needs movement to do it’s job and so it really is essential that we are moving our bodies at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Caffeine free. If you rely heavily on caffeine then wean yourself off over a few days so as to avoid headaches.
  • Drink enough water. Your bowel and kidneys require water to work at their best. Make sure you are getting at least eight glasses a day. Add an extra litre for every hour of exercise you do.
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