Don’t fall for the empty “New Year, new you” promises of the latest crash diet. The real solution is gentler, slower, and a whole lot healthier.
If you only give up one thing this January, give up the detox myth. The desire for quick fixes is human nature, but the “detox” industry preys on our vulnerabilities and sells empty promises. In this article Carolina Schneider, a Registered Dietitian in kencko’s nutrition coaching team, shares the benefit of her experience helping clients to break free from the destructive narrative of “clean eating” and find healthier ways to turn over a new leaf.
The detox myth
“I ate too much junk over the holidays, I need to cleanse my system.” “New Year’s was a cocktail car-crash, I need to detox!”
From juice cleanses to sweating it off at a sauna, a “detox” is broadly defined as a short-term intervention which proponents claim will eliminate or “cleanse” toxins from the body. These toxins are believed to be a result of overindulgence, poor quality diet, alcohol intake, drug use or environmental toxins (such as heavy metals, pollutants or chemicals). Detox solutions claim to either stimulate your liver to get rid of toxins, or eliminate toxins through sweat, urine or feces.
When it comes to nutrition, dietary approaches to detox include fasting, drinking only clear beverages, going on a “juice fast,” restricting the diet to a narrow list of “clean” foods, using herbs or supplements, and taking laxatives or other “colon cleansing” procedures. I can’t state this clearly enough: there is no high-quality research to back up such “detox” theories. Studies looking at “detoxifying” diets are lacking, and the ones out there are low quality (poor study design, small sample sizes, conducted in animals, short-term, not backed by peer review, etc.) and not compelling enough to support the use of detox diets. And it’s not just a harmless fad. Some of these methods are unsafe, with side effects such as dizziness, headaches, fatigue, low blood pressure, dehydration and diarrhea. Like that’s not enough, adopting extreme “cleanses” or detox diets can truly mess up a person’s relationship with food.
So that’s the bad news. The good news is, your body really can clean up its act - and you can help it, without spending a single penny.
The real detox
Whether we live like hermits or high rollers, the reality is we are always exposed to toxins, whether from the external environment or byproducts from metabolism. Most of the time, your body will get rid of these toxins naturally and “cleanse” itself. Take a moment right now to thank your kidneys and your liver. They are the superstars of detox - the real kind - and they do it daily, without any instructions. No need to embark on that drastic short-term detox program, because your organs are already on it, 24/7!
The liver is responsible for clearing toxins from the blood, such as drugs, alcohol, medications and natural byproducts of metabolism. It neutralizes these toxic substances so that they can be removed from the body safely. Therefore, it plays a crucial role in eliminating waste from the body. All the blood coming from your gastrointestinal tract - stomach and intestines - passes through the liver, where it is processed and cleansed. The liver determines which nutrients should be processed, what should be excreted, and what should go back into the blood.
Your other detox warriors, the kidneys, are two bean-shaped organs under your ribs that also play a role in clearing waste from the body. The way they do this is by filtering the blood to remove excess water and waste products that result from food consumption and normal tissue breakdown. Besides filtering our blood, the kidneys have many other important functions such as balancing bodily fluids, blood pressure and hormone production.
Before investing in a “kidney cleansing supplement,” try this: consume plenty of fluids in the form of water, fruits and vegetables, and other liquids, and guess what? Your kidneys will self-cleanse. That will not only save you some cash money, but it’s a much more effective (and safer) way to support your kidneys. Also, take it easy on the salt and the alcohol, as those can pose a risk to your kidneys and lower their ability to filter your blood.
The smart approach
When it comes to “detox,” rather than trying to compensate for overindulgence or other behaviors by adopting an extreme “cleansing” method, we recommend taking preventative measures and eating foods that support liver health. This way, you are helping your liver do its job effectively and lowering your risk of liver injury or damage.
Bottom line? If the “new you” the detox influencers are promising sounds too good to be true, it probably is! I know it’s boring, but the approach that works is the same one that has always worked. Eat a nutritious, balanced diet, engage in regular exercise, and consume alcohol in moderation.
Here’s a gentle but effective five-step plan to support your body’s natural detox functions.
1. Eat foods that support liver health:
Polyphenols: coffee, tea, grapes (find them in kencko jades and mochas)
Anthocyanins: blueberries, cranberries, blackberries (find them in purples)
Nitrates: beetroot and beetroot juice (find them in corals)
Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts
Vitamin E: nuts and seeds
Healthy fats: fatty fish, olive oil, walnuts, flax seeds
Others: grapefruit, asparagus, garlic, turmeric, leafy greens (find turmeric in kencko ambers)
2. Consume alcohol moderately:
Avoid frequent overconsumption of alcohol, and when drinking, consume plenty of water before, during and after.
3. Stay hydrated:
Drink at least 64 fluid ounces (eight cups) of water daily, plus other liquids, to ensure your body stays hydrated.
4. Be mindful of medications:
Long-term overuse of medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, can result in organ damage such stomach ulcers and liver injury. Always consult with your doctor before taking a medication, and always follow the suggested use/directions.
5. Work on weight management:
Overweight and obesity can result in fat accumulation in the liver, which is the first stage of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. But drastic detox dieting is not the answer: adopting a healthy diet and regular exercise regimen for the long term is important for maintaining a healthy weight, and a healthy liver.
If you’re trying to adopt a healthier eating pattern and start new habits for the new year - we are all for it! Besides our all-organic fruit and vegetable smoothies, kencko also offers one-on-one coaching sessions with our dietitians. Working with a dietitian can help you achieve your individual health and nutrition goals, as well learn the foods that can support your overall health in a sustainable and achievable manner. Visit our shop to sign up for a smoothie subscription and opt for free nutrition coaching as part of your membership package.
This January, you can also join in the four-week #kenckochallenge: a fun, free nutrition coaching program designed to help you integrate simple, sustainable changes to your daily routine. Non-members can sign up for free at kencko.com - no strings attached, no payment required. It’s our gift to you: we think you deserve it, after getting through a tough old year 😊.