The words "Detox" or "Detoxification" get thrown around a lot these days but few people know what these words really mean.
Detoxification in reference to human health refers to your body’s ability to convert, or biotransform, waste products and toxins into non-toxic substances that can be excreted from the body.
We acquire these toxins several ways. Some toxins are the end products leftover from normal metabolic processes in our bodies (endotoxins) while other toxins are taken into our bodies from our environment (exotoxins – drugs, agricultural chemicals, food additives, household pollutants, environmental contaminants, microbial).
The liver, kidneys, and GI tract are the organs involved with detoxification, with the liver playing the key role. One of your liver’s main jobs is to transform toxins and excrete them.
There are 2 phases of detoxification in the liver. Each phase is critical for maintaining our health. If one phase isn’t working properly, there is an increased risk that toxic substances will circulate back into our bodies potentially damaging body cells and being stored instead of being excreted. According to some scientists and medical providers, this backup and storage of toxic substances in the body (mainly fat cells) can lead to illness and disease. So it is very important for all phases of liver detoxification to be working properly.
Phases of Liver Detoxification
Phase I – Fat-soluble toxins go through a series of reactions to make them slightly less fat soluble but some may become MORE reactive and dangerous as they enter the Intermediary Stage.
Intermediary Stage – These new reactive oxygen metabolites prepare to go through Phase II. If this step is not working properly, these reactive substances re-circulate and can interact and potentially damage parts of our body cells like protein, RNA and DNA.
Phase II - Here the highly reactive metabolites are further transformed through a series of reactions into water soluble substances that can be excreted from the body in urine, solid waste (stool) and sweat.
(Click on picture for a printable version)
Numerous vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients play a key role in making sure each metabolic process works in the liver. Notice in the chart above the different nutrients necessary for each phase to carry out its tasks. If your diet does not provide these essential nutrients, you may not detox well.
Foods That Support Healthy Detoxification
Though this may seem complicated, it's actually quite simple if you make some strategic choices every day. The chart below lists foods that contain the nutrients necessary for healthy detoxification. Including a variety of these foods in your eating plan every day will give your body a head start to healthy detox.
(Click on picture for a printable version)
The Bottom Line:
For healthy detox, make sure your daily eating plan includes:
- Brightly colored vegetables and fruits
- Organic leafy greens
- Antibiotic, hormone and chemical free, lean protein sources
- Plenty of fresh, clean water (2 – 3 quarts a day) (not from plastic bottles)
Since pesticides and environmental toxins have to be transformed and eliminated by the liver, it makes good sense to avoid exposures to toxins when possible. Buying organic versions of some produce helps reduce your toxin exposure. Click here to check out this Chews Strategically post to learn about the Dirty Dozen, the twelve vegetables and fruits that are best to buy organic.
Institute for Functional Medicine: Textbook of Functional Medicine, July 2006.
Institute for Functional Medicine: Clinical Nutriton: A Functional Approach, 2nd Edition, 2004.
Hyman, Mark, MD, The Ultra Mind Solution, 2009.
Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine, The Integrative RD, Spring 2012
Very Berry Smoothie
Makes 2 Servings
This smoothie contains 7 Detox Foods and it is scrumptious!
Make a batch to drink now or whip up a batch or two and freeze in individual portions for later. Take one out of the freezer to thaw for about an hour or thaw overnight in the refrigerator. This nutrient packed smoothie is great for an energy boosting breakfast, snack or sports nutrition recovery drink.
2 large handfuls (2 – 3 cups) baby spinach* (Detox vegetable)
1 cup blueberries – fresh or frozen (Detox fruit)
1 cup blackberries – fresh or frozen (Detox fruit)
1 cup raspberries – fresh or frozen (Detox fruit)
¼ cup unsweetened pineapple tidbits – fresh or frozen (Detox fruit)
6 – 8 pitted cherries – fresh or frozen (Detox fruit)
1 pitted date
¼ - ½ cup water or 4 – 6 ice cubes
2 – 3 scoops whey protein isolate or 100% pea protein powder (48 gm total protein) – (Detox amino acids)
- Place spinach in bottom of blender container.
- Layer all fruits on top of spinach.
- Add water or ice and blend until smooth (1 – 3 minutes depending on your blender.) **
- Add protein powder and blend for 1 more minute until smooth.
*Buy organic when possible.
** If using frozen fruit, add water. If using fresh fruit, add ice cubes. Both will provide a frozen-type smoothie. If you prefer a non-frozen smoothie, use water.
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Stay Tuned: Take detox to the next step with these tips in Lifestyle Habits for Healthy Detox.