A guilt-propelled detox plan often follows the festive food binges. People always want to start the new year with a "clean slate" and assume that detoxing is a good way to do it.
The so-called "detox cure" is also called an in-depth body cleanse. It is based on the idea that the accumulation of toxins inside the body leads to illness and thus, regular purification is necessary.
Detoxification can be in the form of taking laxatives, drinking copious amounts of lemon juice, avoiding certain foods, eradicating waste with herbs, taking regular sauna sessions and consuming nutrient supplements. Experts said that these detoxification schemes are, in general, a waste of effort and money.
"Anyway, no one-off detox regimen can 'erase' the effects of weeks' worth of excess and years of sluggish lifestyle habits. There's no scientific basis or high-level evidence showing the benefits of commercial short-term detox programs," wrote dietitian Veronique Chachay from The University of Queensland.
The Body's Internal Detoxification System
In medicine, detoxification is a process wherein poisons or accumulated toxic substances are purged from the body. Large amounts of toxic substances come into the body through consumption, inhalation or skin exposure.
Medically speaking, detoxification is done only when the body's innate detoxification systems aren't enough to cleanse itself because of the toxin type and amount. Toxins are purged from the body through sweat, sebum (sebaceous glands' oily secretion), bile, urine, lymph, and feces. The body's internal detoxification system is therefore made up of the skin, gall bladder, liver, kidney, lungs, intestines and the lymphatic system.
Body toxins can come from internal and external sources. Internal sources of toxins include waste products from cells and the normal physiological processes the body undergoes daily. For instance, when the body uses oxygen to break down food to create energy, it creates unbalanced molecules called free radicals. These unstable free radicals can result in toxic buildup if not neutralized.
External toxins, on the other hand, come from beverage and food compounds. For instance, baked, char-grilled and deep-fried foods contain molecules that could be toxic for the body. Processed foods, alcohol, tobacco smoke and medication are also external toxin sources. Exposure to pollutants can also lead to toxin buildup.
We're Living In A Toxic World
External toxin sources are also called "xenobiotics," fat-soluble compounds capable of accumulating in fatty tissue. Modern lifestyles add to the increased exposure of humans to xenobiotics. When soil and water are contaminated by industrial waste, the agricultural products become compromised.
In addition, many large-scale agricultural operations use chemicals in their products, causing leftover residue that often end up on the dinner table. However, food is not the only thing that's compromised. Cosmetics, body care products, food and beverage packaging are also exposed to a concoction of harmful chemicals.
Because of the lack of data on the safe ranges for all the chemicals present in the environment, it is often assumed that since toxins are present, they could be harmful and should thus be removed. However, the human body is a highly capable self-repairing machine. So whether or not you're doing a green juice cleanse, trust that your body will still do its job to purge toxins.