Are Supplemental Detox Effective?

By Lisa Aparicio, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor 

It’s 2023! Time for a new year’s detox right? Wrong. This year we are doing our research and saving time and money. Have popular societal trends convinced you that certain detoxes will help you lose weight, improve your health, or get rid of toxins? Continue reading for misconceptions about the “benefits” of detoxing. 

Popular forms of detox are administered through the use of pills, teas, elixirs, and even recommended drastic dietary measures. These forms of detox cost money and sacrifice. At times advertised detoxes seen on social media can simply be scams and can do more harm than good. How do you know what is safe and effective and what isn’t? I can help to put your mind at ease. You’ll want to read on. 

Let me begin by saying our body is such a fascinating complex-full-functioning “machine”. One of the amazing features of our physiology is to eliminate harmful toxins in our system.

First off, what toxins in our body are we really trying to detoxify anyway? And how are toxins entering our body to begin with? Toxins are typically referred to as something that has a negative effect on your health. In today’s society, there is an increased amount of toxins we are exposing ourselves to. Environmental exposures can be intentional (consuming alcohol) and unintentional (drinking contaminated water or breathing polluted air).  Some examples of potential toxins may include: pollutants, synthetic chemicals, heavy metals, and processed foods etc. The extensive list of toxins also consist of products that you may have never even considered to be toxic such as commercial cleaning agents and personal care products (makeup, deodorants, moisturizers, shampoo etc.) 

Detoxes advertised on social media also claim to have other significant health benefits but is there any research to back up their claims? Are they at least FDA approved? The answer to both of these questions is usually no.  Unless you have a conversation with your physician and they recommend you try something for a specific issue you may be experiencing, you’ll be glad to hear that your body’s very own detoxification system may be the only thing you need! 

Some detox regimens may lead to electrolyte imbalances, kidney damage, diarrhea, dehydration, nausea, nutrient deficiencies, and even cause you to feel lightheaded, weak, and irritable during the duration of the detox. 

Ultimately there is no need to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation by following the latest detox trap. We have multiple organs in our body that are designed to help get rid of toxins, such as our liver, kidney, digestive system, skin, lungs… etc. 

What we can do to help optimize our body’s natural detoxification system:

Implement sustainable practices into our everyday lives to help our bodies be able to naturally detox and begin to feel better than ever. 

Here are 9 different ways you can safely and most effectively support your body with detoxifying and improving overall health. No extra money, not extra time, no extra measures, a simple lifestyle to promote health and longevity:    

  1. Limit alcohol– Keep in mind alcohol is technically a poison we willingly choose to consume. Over time alcohol reduces our liver’s ability to do one of its jobs- detoxify our blood. 
  1. Focus on sleep– With the proper amount of sleep we allow our bodies the time it needs for self maintenance. Our body performs important functions while we sleep and one of them is to remove toxic waste that accumulates throughout the day. 
  1. Drink more water– Staying hydrated is an important part of supporting our body’s detoxification system.  Water transports waste products in our body and expels them through breathing, sweating, and urination.
  1. Reduce sugar and processed foods intake– Increased amounts of added sugars and processed foods can increase the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes. This can put a strain on your liver and kidneys, reducing their effectiveness in detoxifying our body.
  1. Eat antioxidant-rich foods– Antioxidant rich foods reduce any damage caused by free radicals and supports our natural detoxification system by decreasing the risk of diseases. Some examples of antioxidant rich foods are: blueberries, strawberries, red cabbage, raspberries, and beans. Here is another good resource with more extensive list to check out: 
  1. Eat foods high in prebiotics– Keeping our digestive system working properly is also an important part in supporting our detoxification system and immune system. Prebiotics are found in garlic, onion, unripe bananas, and asparagus. Here is a resource that lists 19 natural prebiotic food options: 
  1. Decrease your salt intake– When we consume salt in excess amounts our body begins to retain excess fluid which can lead to bloating. Consuming too much salt and not enough water will prevent our body from detoxing by releasing an antidiuretic hormone that prevents us from urinating and therefore preventing the elimination of waste products from our body. 
  1. Stay active– Daily movement allows our body to detoxify through breath and sweating. It also helps to keep our detoxification system running smoothly by lowering inflammation in our body.
  1. Switch to natural cleaning products and body care– Toxic chemicals can be found in commercial cleaning products used at home. Switching to more natural products on the market or using vinegar and baking soda to clean can reduce toxin exposure. Switching to natural body care products can also limit our chemical exposure and enhance our body’s detoxification system. 

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