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Demystifying detox

New year – new me is often kicked off with a detox. This is usually a confusion of fad diets and foods leading to unsatisfactory results.
Detox has become increasingly popular and businesses have jumped at the chance to make money in the process.

Does detox actually work and are we actually doing it correctly?
I will try to explain the difference between detoxing and detoxifying and how our body has mastered the process.

Magdalena Marvell is a nutritional practitioner based in Sevenoaks

Detoxification – is something we do continually. Everyday a clever network of organs helps to neutralise, alter, store and remove harmful toxins from our body. Harmful substances aren’t just alcohol and cigarettes, examples include: harmful gasses, food additives, pollutants found in water (think heavy metals, pesticides, microplastic etc), steroid hormones in food, medicine, personal care products (i.e. hairspray, perfumes), processed foods, microorganisms and metabolic end products – the list goes on and our bodies work overtime to remove them from our system.

Our liver filters 1.4l of blood per minute. There are two phases of detoxification which support blood filtration. A healthy liver clears the majority of bacteria and other toxins from the blood during phase 1. Safeguarding enzymes (P450) [1] found in the liver cells get stimulated by exposure to specific toxins and help to convert them into less harmful chemicals.

Does even the smallest amount of caffeine keep you wide awake at night? This may signify you may have slow-moving phase 1 detoxification.
Specially targeted compounds and nutrients help to encourage and induce phase 1 detoxification, they include: indoles from cruciferous veg [2] lean protein, vitamins and minerals such as vitB complex, vitamin C and vitamin E, Mg and Iron and catechins found in green tea.

Herbs and spices such as milk thistle, dandelion root, turmeric root, artichoke leaf, dill seeds and garlic are also known from their detoxifying properties [2]. The phase 2 pathway also known as the conjugation pathway converts fat soluble toxins into water soluble substances which the body then eliminates via bile and urine. Specific substances are required to support toxin conversion during the phase 2 detoxification pathway – which includes amino acids like glycine and taurine (found in high protein foods) alongside glutathione, sulphate (e.g. Magnesium sulphate found in Epsom salts). Consuming sulphur rich foods such as: eggs, garlic, broccoli and cabbage supports the detoxifying function of antioxidant glutathione naturally produced by our body [2].

So if the body detoxifies all the time why are we so obsessed with detoxing?
Our environment is loaded with chemical toxins, heavy metals and carcinogenic substances. Exposure to too many harmful substances and other health issues can overburden our liver’s ability to detoxify resulting in a variety of symptoms such as unexplained weigh gain, headaches, migraines, cognitive issues, constipation, digestive issues, fatigue, eye itching, PMS, immune system issues (e.g. asthma) and sensitivities to smells. Many people tend to start in January because they’re suffering the effects from Christmas. Indulgence is not necessarily nutritionally balanced and too much processed foods, eating out, festive drinks and the stress of rushing about before Christmas can contribute to why we feel so sluggish come January.

When our liver becomes overtaxed and the recycling system overloads a good detoxing plan may come to the rescue!
There are many detox plans, some of them offer liquid fasting based on juices and soups, some based on calorie restriction diets, others promote plant based meal plans. When choosing your approach make sure you consider your metabolic needs to ensure you receive enough macro and micro nutrients to support your bodies functions. Don’t just rely on fruit juice fasting as fruits contain high amount of sugars, in large quantities they may affect your blood sugar levels and alter your microbiome composition [3] potentially contributing to dysbiosis or even a yeast infection!

Remember that prolonged low calorie liquid dieting may have diuretic effects and contribute to electrolyte imbalance by flushing them from your system [4]. This can result in unpleasant symptoms such as severe headaches, lethargy and nausea. If you are confused about where to start and would like help to find suitable detoxing approach please do get in touch at or email: or talk to your local health practitioner.

Here are a few suggestions on how you can support detoxification safely:
• Drink between 1.5 to 2l (about 8 glasses) of water daily – water helps to eliminate toxins from the body.
• Ensure that you rinse your dishes properly. Pollutants found in detergents can harm and penetrate the cell membrane and impair the livers cell contents.
• Tackle your gut health. Microbiome play an important role in protecting your gut and body from harmful toxins. Make sure your diet consists of fermented foods (probiotic) such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and kefir which contain the most common strains of beneficial bacteria.
• Swap black tea for herbal teas such as dandelion, red clover or milk thistle tea. The antioxidants extracted from these herbs are thought to support the liver’s natural ability to detoxify harmful toxins.
• Give your liver an alcohol free month – swap prosecco for a glass of kombucha; between 90-98% of alcohol is processed by our liver, excessive consumption can cause inflammation in the liver which in the long run may effect alcohol metabolism and its elimination from the body [5]
• Incorporate pulses, nuts and seeds into your diet – they are loaded with fibre which influences the transit of food and helps your intestines exert toxins. They work as chelators helping to eliminate waste.
• Use natural cleaning and personal care products (deodorants, shampoos) which don’t contain harmful substances such as aluminium or microplastic. Overexposure to too many toxins can overburden the liver.
• Exercise and sauna. Sweating helps remove toxins from the skin and sauna promotes circulation which pushes toxins in the blood to the liver and kidneys for elimination. Exercising stimulates the breaking down of fatty tissue where toxins stores can be found.




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