Do we need to Detox?

Updated: Jan 19, 2019

There are many schools of thought regarding detoxing and it can even be quite controversial, as to whether or not we even need to do it. The idea behind a detox diet is to assist the body in removing accumulated and unwanted toxins, and to support liver detoxification.

The word Detox is often associated with January and New Years weight loss programmes, especially as many people are feeling the after effects from overindulgence over the Christmas period. However, it’s not just after Christmas that we should consider undertaking a cleansing diet or a detox diet.

We are exposed to toxins on a daily basis. The water that we drink, the air that we breathe, pesticides and herbicides on our fruit and vegetables, preservatives and chemical additives in processed foods, hormones and antibiotics found in mass-produced meat and fish, chemicals in our clothing, cleaning products, personal hygiene products, medications, smoking, alcohol, and caffeine, all add to our toxic load.

And to add to that, BPA (bisphenol A) found in plastics are known endocrine disruptors, which means they can upset our hormonal balance leading to thyroid issues, diabetes, prostate disease and numerous female health problems (1). BPA and other synthetic chemicals are found in the lining of metal food tins, plastic bottles and containers, children’s toys, and even some tea bags! They are known to leach out into our food, drinks and the environment.

Furthermore, heavy metals from standard dental practices, and certain employment industries may expose many of us to toxins that we don’t even give a second thought to.

It is suggested that detoxification should not just be employed as an annual detox programme, but rather we could be considering embarking on regular cleansing throughout the year. If you experience digestive distress such as gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, or fatigue, or mood swings, then it is likely you would benefit from a cleansing diet. As the gut is our gateway to good health, largely because 70% of our immune system lies within it, it’s essential that we look after it. Removing inflammatory substances such as gluten, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and dairy, even if only for a short time, can greatly improve our gut function. It’s important not to restrict too many foods for too long, unless it is absolutely necessary.

While there has been an increase in the number of chemicals used since the advent of industrialised and intensive farming methods, unfortunately many of these chemicals have not yet been tested for their potential risks and hazards to human health. And while there is some uncertainty regarding additive effects, we do know that certain toxins can accumulate in the body, which may be harmful to our health (2).

Moreover, many people’s genetics cause slower detoxification pathways, for instance, those people with the Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) genetic variation. This variation makes these individuals poor methylators, meaning that their detoxification process is impaired. In these instances, it may be necessary to supplement with specific B vitamins. It is estimated that around 50% of the population might have this genetic variation. Those affected may benefit from increased detoxification support. When detoxification pathways aren’t working optimally, for example, the methylation pathway, the risk of chronic health conditions increases. Therefore, employing as many toxin avoidance strategies as possible is recommended.

Detoxification is a vital cellular process that involves the mobilisation, biotransformation, and elimination of toxins both from exogenous and endogenous origin. Exogenous toxins originate from external origins (i.e. from our external environment) and endogenous toxins are by-products of our own metabolism, such as used hormones (3). So while the liver and kidneys’ job is to process these toxins, anything we can do to assist this process is going to be beneficial to our health in the long term.

Many of the factors associated with toxicity are out of our control, however, some of them we can control. These include:

· Consuming organic food and drinks, where possible

· Using natural cleaning products in the home

· Using natural skin care and personal hygiene products

· Avoiding taking unnecessary medications

· Avoiding burned foods

· Quitting smoking

· Reducing plastic use by choosing glass containers or jars for storage

· Reducing our alcohol and caffeine consumption

· Increasing our intake of leafy green vegetables, and other colourful fruit and vegetables

· Drinking plenty of water in between meals

· Exercising

· Getting enough sleep

If you think toxicity may be affecting your health, specific functional testing may help to uncover the source of your problems. Book a one-to-one nutritional therapy consultation where I can help with identifying the root cause of the issue, and working on eliminating the sources.


1. Singh, S. & Li, S.S.L., 2012. Bisphenol A and phthalates exhibit similar toxicogenomics and health effects. Gene.

2. Klein, A. & Kiat, H., 2014. Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. Journal of human nutrition and dietetics : the official journal of the British Dietetic Association.

3. Cline, J.C., 2015. Nutritional aspects of detoxification in clinical practice. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.

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