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Detox Diets Demystified

Note from GGS: Between overindulging during the holidays, and people clinging to their New Year’s Resolutions for dear life, many people are tempted to turn to “detox diets” as a quick-fix to shed some pounds and feel better fast.  The problem is, these “detoxes” aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be.  Thankfully, our good friend Dr. Brooke is here to set us straight!  Check it out!

cleanses-432x437Few health trends are as hip as the “detox”. As an ND, I giggle a bit when I see the marketing for these cleanses, with their slick packaged green juices and somewhat arbitrary nutritional guidelines. With their popularity though, I suspect someone is giggling all the way to the bank

Is detoxing all nonsense? No, but let’s start with what detoxing is—and then what it’s not.

Detoxification is something your body—namely your liver—is doing all the time (you’re doing it right now, actually). Our world is full of chemicals, allergens and other excessive gunk like hormones in our meat and dairy, parabens in our skin care and the list goes on. We also make our own share of garbage from our normal metabolic processes. All of this stuff must be dealt with, everyday.

Think of your detox capacity like a bucket that’s being filled up from the top with toxins and trash, and there’s a release valve at the bottom. How well you are able to keep the bucket empty depends on the rate at which you’re filling it up (in other words, your exposure) and how quickly you can empty it (aka your detox capacity).

Your rate of filling up your toxic bucket depends on how “clean” your diet is, your exposure to chemicals and toxins and how burdened your metabolism is (i.e. is your body dealing with just your own hormones or are you also say, taking the birth control pill upping the amount of estrogen your liver must clear each day).

green-drink-350x375Your rate of dumping the bucket depends on the health of your digestion and the capacity of your liver to clear this stuff out. So where do the fancy juices and 7-day cleanses come in? Truthfully, they don’t need to come in at all.

Keep your bucket from getting too full by avoiding as much garbage as you can: eat organic, free range or grass fed, hormone and antibiotic free meat and dairy; opt for organic produce; minimize or avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugar and refined, packaged foods; and choose paraben and phthalate free cosmetics and skin care whenever possible. And consider non hormone treatment options for conditions that often get a prescription for The Pill such as acne, PMS, migraines and irregular periods.

If your bucket isn’t dumping out fast enough because you are unable to empty it effectively, you should work with a nutritional or functional medicine practitioner to safely and effectively aid your liver in processing toxins and clean up your gut (restoring proper balance of normal gut bacteria, identifying and removing food allergens and healing any inflammation). For example, at my office if your job exposed you to a lot of chemicals, I would support your detox differently than if you had bad PMS and breakouts or digestive woes.

But what about those green juices? Sorry folks. here is nothing inherently “detoxing” about these juices, although they do give you another dose of green stuff so you’re bolstering your nutrient intake overall (you could also just eat a salad – and this way you keep all that great fiber!).

One thing to avoid for sure is fasting or “juice cleanses” where you eat very little to no food, but drink juices for three or more days.

Remember that mechanism to dump the bucket? It’s entirely dependent on sulfur containing amino acids and guess where those come from? Namely animal protein. So if you want to see your detox ability screech to a halt, stop eating protein. The juice only fasts are also a nightmare for blood sugar and will often leave people feeling ‘great’ for a few days, only to crash and binge on a doughnut.

What was that great feeling? Adrenaline! If no sugar is coming in, we use stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) to break down stored sugar and fat to fuel ourselves. Not as healthy as it sounded huh?

real-food-450x301Want a quick-and-dirty detox that’s relatively free and doesn’t leave you packing around your cooler of “fancy pants” juices?

For one week:

  • Avoid packaged foods, alcohol, caffeine and sugar.
  • Opt for organic produce and high quality meat products.
  • Skip common allergens like dairy and soy.

Voila! You’ve just lowered your rate of junk dumping into your bucket…and you’ll feel better very simply for it.

Give this “detox” a try for one week and let us know how you feel!



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About The Author: Dr. Brooke Kalanick

Dr. Brooke Kalanick earned her Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University. Known as “The Hormone Whisperer,” Brooke's balanced approach to health, using both conventional and alternative therapies, allows her to successfully treat patients with Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism and PCOS as well as other female hormone imbalances. Learn more about Dr. Brooke on her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.