The Science Behind the Detox

Our bodies are built to process whatever we take in, using what they can and excreting what they cannot. For the sake of this conversation, think of that process as detoxification. We detox all the time, through the ways you’ve probably already considered (urination etc.), but also through sweating and even exhaling. Yes, ridding your body of excess carbon dioxide when you exhale is detoxification at work.

The theory behind a detox program seems to be that with preservatives, pesticides, and all of the toxic spew that modern life has generated, we’ve given our bodies rather more than they are equipped to process efficiently and effectively. We’re breathing in smog and pollution while cramming all kinds of processed foods down our gullet.

OK, true, but consider that we are living longer, growing taller, etc., than we were 300 years ago, before smog and red dye #14 and high fructose corn syrup, so you could make the argument that many people’s bodies have figured out how to cope with the new normal.

The detox I’m doing claims to do two things:

  1. It gives the body something of a break by cutting back on some of the foods that are harder for the body to process.
  2. It supplements some of the nutrients that the body puts to use during the normal detoxification process so the body can really ramp up the process.

Take alcohol or caffeine, for example. The body can process them just fine, but the body can also do well without it. So it can’t hurt to eliminate them for a few days and give your body a break.

Also, consider free radicals and antioxidants. Without getting too deep into something I’m not qualified to explain, I’ll say that this blurb gives a pretty good overview of what free radicals are, why they aren’t great for us, and why antioxidants wear the white hats next to the free radicals’ black hats. (You can find plenty of info on the web about this, but I picked this one because it has scientific sources cited and is linked to a reputable university.) I’m taking a B-complex supplement during this detox, and there are some supplements in the protein shake, but I’m also eating a ton of foods that naturally contain antioxidants and all kinds of other things that are commonly accepted as good for people to eat.

I’m not entirely sure, as you can tell, that my body needs me to go to extremes to purge excessive amounts of toxins that used to be stored in my fat cells, which have become, thanks to losing all of this weight, much smaller.

My husband suggested that at some point during this process, we go to our favorite spa for facials. That made me think that I am perhaps judging this whole process too harshly. After all, I totally believe in treatments like facials and massages helping to release toxins from skin and muscles. I know that massage works, in part, to ease muscles after excess amounts of lactic acid builds up in them. I would hate to have to give up massage and facials because of a hard-line anti-detox stance!

I do believe that, regardless of the science behind it, this detox will help me re-set my palate. I developed a little taste for sugar over the holidays, and while I never went hog wild, I certainly have been hitting the TicTacs a little heavier and more often than I should. I also find myself craving sweets more often, which is probably a result of the TicTac usage. Eating super-healthy food tends to make unhealthy food less appealing, in my experience.

I think About.com’s Alt Medicine section has a nice overview of types of detox diets, and the list of foods to eat during such a diet looks similar to what I’ve received from my program.

One thing I believe very strongly is that you really should get input or advice from a medical professional who knows about your specific health needs. Yes, let this serve as my disclaimer that I do not recommend taking my advice or trying to do what I’m doing, because I’m definitely not a doctor.

So, onward. So far, by 4:30 p.m. on day one, I had eaten:

  • 1/4 c. of oatmeal
  • 2 eggs scrambled with bell pepper and onion, cooked in olive oil over relatively low/slow heat
  • 7 oz. of 2% Greek yogurt with 1/4 c. of blueberries
  • 3.5 oz. of sweet potato with 2 TBS of black beans, 1 TBS of 2% Greek yogurt, 1/4 of a tomato, diced, and a teaspoon of chopped cilantro
  • 2 stalks of celery, half a cucumber, another 1/3rd of a tomato, 1 TBS of yogurt, and 2 TBS of basil, minced
  • 1 stalk of celery with 2 TBS of hummus
  • 9 cups of water, spread out throughout the day

With all of that, I’m up to 668 calories which have come almost equally from fat (24g), carbohydrates (62g), and protein (52g).

I’m feeling a little down, but was feeling that way yesterday. I’m also a little wonky which could be the lower protein level than I’m accustomed to eating (I’m usually in the 80g to 100g range by day’s end), or could be my mind trying to convince me that something is different when really, what I’ve eaten is so far not much different than what I’m used to eating.

I’ll keep you posted. We’ll see how this goes.

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3 Responses to The Science Behind the Detox

  1. I’ve never tried a detox, but know lots of people who use them to jump start an eating plan or get back to feeling cleaner. I’ll be interested in seeing how you do – take care.

  2. Massages are great for detox because of your lymphatic system too. It can release build up of toxins if you have some and get things flowing on a different level of your circulatory system. I’ll take any reason to get a massage!!! lol 9 cups of water! Yay!

  3. Pingback: Sunday Stats – February 12, 2012 « nikkianne

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