The word ‘detox’ is being heard far more often than ever before. Mushrooming spas and fitness centres offer special detox diets and programmes.
Promises of ‘detox’ include instant sanitation or cleansing of the system (literally like washing your sins away), weight loss and even magical cures to several ailments.
Detoxification refers to treatment protocols designed to help the body, rid itself of waste and toxic materials. The body excretes toxins through various systems including lungs, kidney, skin and colon. The liver is a key factor in detoxification. Its protective enzymes can oxidise and inactivate toxic compounds so that they can be excreted more readily. Some sensitive individuals lack important detoxifying enzymes, which makes them vulnerable to common drugs and toxins.
Drinking plenty of water helps the kidney work efficiently to cleanse the blood and to excrete waste products. The average amount needed to make adequate urine are about 2-2 ˝ litres and can vary for individuals, seasons and activities. Excessive amounts may not help.
Stimulant laxatives can damage nerve cells in the colon wall, decreasing the force of contractions and increasing tendency of constipation. Thus, strong laxatives can be counterproductive.
Techniques such as enemas and colonic irrigation have considerable potential for harm. The process can be very uncomfortable, since the presence of the tube can induce severe cramps and pain. If the equipment is not adequately sterilised between treatments, germs from large intestines can be transmitted to others.
Fasting to detoxify or lose weight is questionable. While it is prudent to balance out excesses and indulgences on routine days, fasting as a means to detoxify does not really help, especially when fasting is followed by feasting.
What really works is adoption of healthy eating and lifestyle practices on a regular basis rather than intermittent fasting and special detox diets practiced for a few days.
A good diet should emphasise whole, minimally processed foods with fruits and vegetables and supply adequate antioxidants including vitamin C, E, copper, manganese, selenium, and zinc needed by the body’s detoxification enzymes to function optimally. Foods like oats, amla, aloe vera, alfa-alfa sprouts, yogurt, garlic, mushrooms along with essential fatty acids may be good choices. The pesticide burden can be reduced by eating organic produce and washing and peeling fruits and vegetables.