Is A Detoxification Diet Necessary for Good Health?

Promoting detoxification using a natural detoxification diet is important to not only maintain good health, but may also help manage chronic health conditions such as, obesity, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome and certain neurologic conditions.

There is  evidence that diet and specific nutrients are associated with improving certain health conditions by influencing detoxification function.


The Debate: Does Your Liver Really Need Help to Detoxify?

In general, our bodies are capable of detoxifying IF we have the right materials available (mainly from our diet), optimum gut health and if the total toxin load isn't too much for your body to deal with.  Detoxification is highly complex and not only responsive to an individual’s environment and lifestyle, but also genetic uniqueness.  There is considerable individual detoxification variability based on genetics (“fast” or “slow” metabolizers, efficient or nonefficient detoxification and excretion), but certain nutrients have been shown to “turn on” genes that enhance detoxification function and in turn improve health symptoms and conditions.

Exposure to toxins impacts your health by changing your biology, biochemistry and body functioning.

Today, people are exposed to a number of environmental toxins which have been associated with many negative health effects and increased risk of chronic diseases such as, cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  There is also evidence that toxin exposure during prenatal life may be associated with increased risk of chronic disease in adult life. 

We are exposed to a heavy total toxic load and the body must deal with the total burden from factors such as, environmental toxins (air, water, food), paints, stress, medications, dysbiosis, food sensitivities, some disease states, genetics and poor diet/nutritional imbalances.  The body itself produces substances that also must be eventually metabolized and excreted such as, the hormone estrogen.  If the total load is too much for the body to deal with this leads to cellular damage and inflammation, which may lead to negative health symptoms and conditions.

Bottom line: Decreasing your toxic load, promoting gut health and liver detoxification through diet and/or supplementation is essential for good health and may help manage your health conditions.

What is a Detoxification Diet?  

There are many popularized “detox”, fasting and cleanse diets out there that are not based on good science or physiology.  While there is not a specific detoxification diet there are certain foods and nutrients that promote healthy detoxification.

A detoxification diet includes:

Decreasing your toxic load: From chemicals and toxic elements in the food and water supply to household cleaners and personal care products, everyone can benefit from decreasing their total toxic load from as many sources as possible.

Sidebar: Many feel that the burden to decrease environmental toxins lies with those who produce, import or use substances in question as well as with the government that sets methods of regulation.   Unfortunately, our current methods of regulating these toxicants dismiss the precautionary principle and often wait until damage is proven before action is taken.  Although a full discussion on this issue is beyond the scope of this page, I feel that it is such an important point that I wanted to include at least a few lines here.

How do you minimize your food specific exposures?  Eat clean foods and choose organic (especially when choosing meats, poultry and dairy products), avoid fish known to have high mercury levels such as, freshwater/river fish, tuna, tilefish, shark and swordfish, install water filters for chlorine-free water (New Wave Enviro is a quality brand), avoid plastic water bottles and food containers and foods in metal lined cans (or look for Bisphenol A or BPA-free canned foods) and avoid Teflon coated cookware (use cast iron or stainless steel).

Optimizing gut health or intestinal detox: Restoring gut health and function is essential to healthy detoxification.  This includes, ensuring open bowels for adequate elimination, resolving food sensitivities or other issues causing gut inflammation or “leaky gut”, providing nutrients that “feed” the gut and eliminating foods that result in oxidative stress and inflammation. 

Support liver detoxification with detoxifying foods: Detoxing the body begins with a food first approach and includes, adequate fluids, calories and quality protein as well as specific micronutrients, antioxidants and “detoxicants” that promote healthy total body detoxification.

Nutritional supplementation: Specialized supplements may be indicated to support gut health or promote healthy detoxification such as, medical foods, amino acids, B vitamins, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acid, digestive products, liver detoxification specific supplements and organic green drinks.  A full discussion of nutritional supplementation is beyond the scope of this page, but should always be personalized based on your specific needs and use of professional line products are encouraged.

This is a general guide to detoxification and a detoxification diet and may need to be modified based on your health condition/status.  This information should help guide you in the principles of restoring gut health and starting a natural detoxification diet. 

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Some resources: DIFM/AND. The Integrative RD newsletter Spring 2012;14(4); AAPI Nutrition Guide to Optimal Health: USING PRINCIPLES OF FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE AND NUTRITIONAL GENOMICS, 2012; The Center for Mind Body Medicine, Food as Medicine conference, 2012; IFM Clinical Nutrition: A Functional Medicine Approach, 2004,  IFM, Functional Nutrition Course, 2012; De Boo, H. et al. The developmental origins of adult disease (Barker) hypothesis. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 2006; 46: 4-14, Steingraber, S. Living Downstream, 2010

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