Importance of Detox

March 9, 2022

What is Detox and Why Do We Even Need It?

Following are the reasons why we must seriously consider detox as part of our health journey. 

1. We are surrounded by toxins that we aren’t even aware of

The modern world that we live in is full of visible and invisible toxins. We are surrounded by environmental toxins that come from air, water, soil and even certain pathogens and mould exposure too. For a person to avoid coming into contact with these toxins, it would be practically impossible, even if you live in a natural environment like a forest or even a village as dust particles and electromagnetic waves travel long distances, even into remote areas. Also, the food that we eat, be it organic can still be contaminated with toxins such as pesticides and toxins that can travel in the air from a nearby non-organic farm to the organic farm and this process is known as pesticide drift.1

Various toxins come from our day to day use of household and body-care products like soaps, perfumes, cosmetics, cookware, cleaning products, food and water containers, air fresheners, insect sprays, paints, batteries and the list goes on. You might not immediately feel the effects of these toxins, but when they build up over time, you will start to feel the effects and their damages caused internally.

Another major issue is with endocrine disruptors that come with products like toys, plastics, cosmetics, perfumes, pesticides, detergents, food can liners, etc. These Endocrine disruptors include a wide range of substances, both natural and human-made, that may interfere with the body’s endocrine (hormone and cell signalling) system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immunal effects. Endocrine disruptors usually mimic estrogen and are found in many everyday products we use.2

Also, there are many known and unknown environmental toxins which are cancer-causing chemicals and endocrine disruptors, both human-made and naturally occurring, that can harm our health by disrupting sensitive biological systems and thereby creating a hormonal imbalance in the entire system.3

There are also environmental toxins that include naturally occurring compounds such as lead, mercury, radon, formaldehyde, benzene, cadmium, etc They also include human-made chemicals like BPA, phthalates, and pesticides.

It is also an undeniable truth that plant foods contain anti-nutrients or phytochemicals like phytates, lectins, oxalates, etc that can create various issues in the body and reduce nutrient absorbtion.4,5

The same is the case with health supplements, even the most organic ones aren't completely preservative-free and a few of them contain harmful additives like titanium dioxide, magnesium silicate, hydrogenated oil, artificial colours, flavours, vegetable gum, sodium benzonatate, etc.

Even if you were to hypothetically stay away from all the toxins, there are still toxins/harmful byproducts that are produced in our own body as a result of our internal metabolic processes and these include example ammonia, CO2, lactic acid, etc.6

2. Fancy detox diets simply don’t work and can even lead to negative consequences.

The point of this article is not to scare you, but to educate you and your family that we are surrounded by these toxins but there is a way to reduce and remove most of them out of your body.

When it comes to detox, there are probably two schools of thought that are mainly discussed in the mainstream by various health educators. The first one says that we need to be constantly detoxifying our bodies as toxins are everywhere and we need to ingest these fancy juice cleanses, smoothies, packaged teas and powders and various supplements that will somehow magically help you detox your body and there would be no consequences. The second group of people think that detox isn't required and detox is just a fad and the body can detox itself automatically and it does this process all the time 24 x7.

Well, like most times, the truth lies somewhere in the middle; we do need a detox program and even if the body seems to detox itself to an extent, it can only effectively do that process under specific conditions where the right kind of food and environment is provided and all the obstructions are removed. It is advisable to follow such a detox plan only from an expert who understands physiology and biochemistry very well.

Fancy detox diets and foods simply don’t work and any benefit that you can get from eating them is because most detox diets refrain you from eating junk and packed foods and also include a diet that may include fruits, vegetables, etc. When a person stays away from junk food and includes a few vegetables and fruits in his diet, automatically he/she feels a tiny net benefit from it temporarily, that he/she would not have felt while eating a standard modern diet.

But few of these fancy green juices, smoothies and blends can land you up in the emergency room if you are not careful. A similar incident happened with senior nutritionist Ryan Andrews who along with his wife tried these 3-day fancy detox juices and a detox schedule just for curiosity and ended up visiting the ER twice.8

But don’t be scared by listening to the above incident, here at iThrive we have got you covered with all the scientific knowledge related to detox. As I discussed earlier, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, although most detox plans out there can be very ineffective, still, a good, scientifically-backed detox plan is necessary. Well its true that your body is constantly automatically detoxifying itself through all the detox organs but still it's important to plan the right detox diet which supports all the biochemical pathways that would allow for effective detoxification and not block any detox pathways and routes as well as not harming your body in this process.

Certain rapid weight loss and detox diets make you lose weight rapidly but there are lots of downsides to rapid weight loss. Toxins are mostly stored in adipose tissues/fat tissues and once you go into a hypocaloric state, toxins start leaving those fat cells and start entering into the bloodstream along with the free fatty acids. If a very harsh hypocaloric diet is incorporated, then a high amount of toxins get released into the bloodstream at a single time and these toxins can get oxidized along with the free fatty acids inside the cells and act as mitochondrial toxins.7 Therefore it is always advisable to start slow while doing detox and to address any negative symptoms that may occur during this process.

3. An effective detox program is built around three pillars :

  1. Supporting mobilization of the toxins from where they reside to various organs of detoxification (Hypocaloric diet is a must).
  2. Supporting all the specific detox phases. i.e Phase 0, Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 and at the same time not blocking them.
  3. Supporting an effective excretion process of these toxins through various organs.

Phases of Detoxification :

Phase 0: This is the entry gate phase. This is the phase where the toxin leaves the place where it recedes and enters the organs of detoxification and cells.

Phase 1: This is the phase where the toxin type is identified and it is then converted into water-soluble from fat toxin as most toxins are lipid-based.

Phase 2: This is the conjugation phase. It takes the products from phase 1 and binds them with phase 2 substances (conjugate) to make them less harmful and more water-soluble for easy excretion. Conjugation pathways include Amino acids, glutathione, methionine, sulfur, Methyl group.

Phase 3: This is the excretion phase. Here water-soluble conjugated molecules are ready to be removed from the body.

Right foods and supplements can boost these detoxification pathways and at the same time wrong foods and supplements block these pathways. Certain amino acids like taurine, binders like activated charcoal and psyllium husk, B vitamins, minerals like magnesium, etc are really necessary for this process and no matter what your detox guru says, without certain nutrients, detox isn't possible. On the other hand, certain supplements like milk thistle can block phase 3, certain fruits like apple, guava, mango, oranges, etc can block different phases and therefore we need to be careful about which foods and supplements we use for detox.

Also if your body’s general health is impaired then and you have internal inflammation and deficiencies, your body will give priority to fix those issues first rather than the detox. Therefore first we need to fix our overall health and nutritional deficiencies and then one should opt for detox and this is exactly what we do at iThrive in our Alive program.

It is also very important to reduce the amount of psychological stress during a detox program as elevated stress leads to elevated stress hormones and the body might switch all its attention to mitigating that stress instead of focusing upon the detox process. Also, detox should first begin in your mind. Our thoughts are the ground-substance from which our choices are made, choosing to clean the internal and external environments is the first step! Our words express our thought and perceptions; if our mind is sick, that illness is reflected in our bodies. A sick body-mind naturally makes sick choices and actions.

References : 

Aditya Sangore
R & D Supplements

Aditya holds a bachelor's degree in psychology and he's currently pursuing his master's degree in clinical psychology. He is passionate about research in the field of health supplements and works as a researcher at iThrive.He is also an instructor for iThrive Academy where he shares his knowledge regarding toxins and detox.

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