The Scoop On Detox Diets

cup of coffee, x, check mark
When most of us think of detox, we think of drug or alcohol withdrawal.

But detox is much more; it is what your body does to get rid of unwanted materials and chemicals. It is the process of removing toxins or poisons from your body.

Dr. Frank Lipman explains that the intestinal tract, kidneys, lungs and skin are all involved in this complex detoxification system, but the bulk of the work is done by the liver.

This detox system is a key component of the body's functioning; it is working all the time and, in fact, uses more energy than any other system. The body needs hundreds of enzymes, vitamins and other molecules to help rid it of these unwanted waste products and chemicals, he says.

Although it is ignored by traditional medicine, there is a growing body of research supporting it.

Importance of detoxification
In our normal lives, we are exposed to thousands of chemicals on a daily basis in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink.

Our environment is polluted. A well functioning detox system is essential, Dr. Lipman says.

Ideally, we can detox all year round, but once or twice a year, it is a good idea to do a more intense detox, he says.

How to do a detox

  1. Decrease or avoid your intake of toxins: alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, sugar, refined foods, processed foods and foods you may be sensitive to, such as wheat or dairy products.
  2. Support your body's detoxification system to help flush out the toxins:

    a) Having good, regular bowel movements are essential. Make high-fiber plant foods a part of your diet and /or take some psyllium seeds or flax seeds or rice bran or wheat bran or oat bran or fruit pectin.

    b) Drink eight glasses of purified water a day. It helps the kidneys flush out the toxins.

    c) Exercise helps circulation and causes perspiration. Sweating helps the elimination of toxins through the skin

    d) Most importantly, eat foods and take supplements that support the liver: artichoke, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, watercress, oranges, tangerines, berries, onions, garlic, asparagus, avocado, walnuts and green tea.

  3. Use supplements. A good multi-vitamin has:
    • B complex
    • Folate
    • Milk thistle
    • Alpha lipoic acid
    • N-Acetylcysteine

Problems with some of these fad detox diets
Although most of them decrease the intake of toxins, they usually don't support the body's detox system with nutrients, Dr. Lipman says. So for very short periods, a day or two, they may not be a problem. For longer periods they can be more harmful than helpful. It is essential to give your body the extra nutrients you need to support your detoxification system.

These pose the risk of infection or perforation. Although these are rare, there are much better ways to clean the colon anyway, using natural laxatives like psyllium or rice bran, he says.

Detoxing is not recommended for people who are depleted of nutrients, underweight, or anemic. Pregnant or lactating women should not do a detox. People with weak hearts should not do a detox. Individuals with cancer should consult a knowledgeable practitioner before beginning any detox program. You also should not do a detox before surgery or for up to six weeks afterwards, while your body is healing.

About Dr. Lipman
Frank Lipman, M.D., is an internist and practitioner of integrated healing at the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City, which he founded in 1992. His practice combines alternative medical modalities, including Chinese medicine, herbal therapy, acupuncture, nutrition, meditation and yoga, with Western medicine.