To Detox or Not: The Facts

3 Mins
January 26, 2017

Hello! I am Bezalel Adainoo, the author of Stay Well Now. My friends call me Bez. As a professional food scientist, I have been asked many questions by people from different walks of life seeking the right information on what food to eat and how that will affect their health.

In recent times, consumption of a special food or drink with the aim of cleansing the body has become the in thing to do. We are just a few weeks into this new year and I’m certain a lot of people have already had their doses of herbal infusions and detox diets.

The name detox was adopted from the medical procedure used to remove life-threatening concentrations of drugs, alcohol and/or poisons (often in drug addicts, alcoholics and people who have consumed some poison). And in this procedure, medications and some other forms of therapy are used to help the body to eliminate the toxic substances. With this concept in mind, some people have come up with forms of diets which have been thought of as a way to remove toxic substances from the body. In an article published in The Lancet, detox has been described as “a figment of contemporary imagination…a mass delusion that has spread from nowhere…” Many writers and even some professionals have made this a money-making venture; selling detox plans. What is even alarming is the post-Christmas/post-holiday craze about getting a detox.

Do you really need a detox?

The body has mechanisms through which it removes substances which could pollute its systems; and these mechanisms work perfectly well, except in extreme cases like in the case of a drug overdose or high concentrations of a poison where the body may not be able to clear out all the dangerous chemicals in a short time for the individual to survive.

The body’s mechanism for removing toxins involves certain organs and organ systems (a group of organs which work together to perform a specific function). These are the kidneys, the skin, the respiratory system, the immune system, the intestines and the liver.

The kidneys play a crucial role in filtering the blood to remove toxic substances and excrete them through urine. Most of the waste materials from the breakdown of the foods and drinks we take are all removed from the body by the kidneys.

The skin (the largest organ in the body) serves as a barrier against microorganisms (like viruses and bacteria) and harmful substances like heavy metals and toxic chemicals. The skin also helps the kidneys to remove waste products (produced from the body’s metabolism) through sweat. Sometimes, the skin clears out toxins in the form of rashes.

The respiratory system detoxifies the body by removing some of the toxic substances through the air we breathe out and quite often through phlegm in the form of mucus. So, whenever you’re coughing up phlegm, remember it’s all part of the body’s detox mechanism. Also, there are tiny hairs in the respiratory tract that also prevent dust and other particles from entering the body.

The immune system is responsible for identifying substances that are foreign to the body and eliminating such substances as they may pose a health risk.

The intestines. Even the intestines. The intestines have in themselves lymph nodes (small bean-shaped structures) which detect harmful organisms and other potentially harmful chemicals which may be in the food you eat before the nutrients are absorbed into the blood so that your body doesn’t get polluted by such parasites and chemicals.

The liver functions as the main filtration ‘equipment’ for the body; it is the body’s main detoxification system. It transforms some waste materials into a form that can be excreted by the kidneys or intestines. The liver also renders certain substances (like medications, food additives, excessive hormones and harmful minerals) inactive and also detects bacteria, fungi, viruses and cancer cells to destroy and eliminate them from the body.

What your body really needs to keep clean

The best recommendation for anyone who is thinking of getting the next ‘detox’ is to eat healthful diets always; not a  once in a while quick fix, exercises regularly , drink adequate amounts of water, get sufficient sleep and as much as possible, get regular medical check-ups.

This is particularly prime because for instance, for the kidneys effectively do their work of filtering the blood, the blood pressure must not be too high nor too low and your daily diet plays a crucial role in determining your blood pressure so if you’re only waiting to use one herbal infusion or diet or even medication to get it all done at once, it won’t be good for your health. Because by the time you know it, your unhealthy lifestyle would have caught up with you.

To detox or not

According to the British Dietetic Association and Harvard Health Publications, the idea of detox is just but balderdash and the recommendations described above are good enough to keep your body clean.

Remember this: eat healthy, exercise regularly, drink adequate amounts of water and get enough sleep. These will get you through much better than any detox formula would.