Cleanses and detox diets are all the rage. Are they legit?
Experts claim we’re exposed to more toxins today than ever before in human history—pesticides, heavy metals, petrochemicals, molds, medications and more. They also claim our toxin load, the amount of toxins we carry in our body at any one time, could be related to problems ranging from fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, attention deficit disorder, depression, food allergies, bloating and headaches to, yes, difficulty achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
So it makes sense that we should periodically fast, or follow some master plan for detoxing, to cleanse our bodies, right? Not so fast.
The fact is that our bodies are very efficient detoxing machines. We’re built to identify and eliminate potentially damaging substances that we eat, breathe or manufacture internally. Today’s problem is that at the same time we’re overloading with toxins, we’re not supplying our bodies with the nutrients we need to get rid of them.
You can support your body’s natural ability to protect your health and achieve a healthy weight with a plan that reduces exposure to toxins while at the same time ramping up your ability to eliminate them. Here’s how.
- Eat clean. Selecting organically produced food—both plant and animal—is perhaps the most recognized way to reduce exposure to toxins. According to the Environmental Working Group, you can significantly reduce your overall exposure to pesticides by buying organic when you choose items listed in the Dirty Dozen. Organic meats and milk help reduce exposure to pesticides as well as synthetic hormones and antibiotics. Also minimize use of over-the-counter medications, nicotine, caffeine and alcohol.
- Eat plenty of produce. Colorful fruits and vegetables power up your detoxing ability. Fill half your plate at lunch and dinner with them, and feature them at breakfast and snacks, too. Choose plenty of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts. Garlic and onions provide sulfur, an important mineral for detoxing.
- Drink clean water—and lots of it. Water helps flush toxins from your body. If you don’t know the quality of your water supply, use filtered water.
- Stay active. Exercise gets everything moving, including your blood supply and lymphatic system, which transports nutrients and plays a role in the elimination of toxins. Aim for a balanced plan of cardiovascular, strength and stretching exercises at least five days a week.
- Sweat. Our skin is one of the primary routes for eliminating toxins, which it does through sweating. Chances are you’ll work up a sweat with exercise, but think about adding saunas and steam rooms to your regimen.
- Keep your gastrointestinal tract moving. Daily bowel movements are important to get rid of wastes of all kinds, including toxins. If you’re falling short there, try adding ground flax seed and/or probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt and kefir to your diet routine.
- Relax. Did you know stress produces significant amounts of toxins, too? That makes learning how to relax and otherwise take care of ourselves just as important as everything listed above.
Marsha Hudnall, RD, MS, CD, is a nationally known nutritionist with more than 25 years experience as a weight management specialist. She is the owner and program director of Green Mountain at Fox Run, a women’s weight loss programand spa retreat. She heads up a program for Green Mountain called Healing with Food, designed to help discover underlying physical problems that may be getting in the way of achieving a healthy weight.