What is a Detox

I am often asked about detoxing and what it involves.  I write this from a detox centre in Turkey (!) and I wholeheartedly believe in taking the time to heal your body.

Detox, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is - 

"a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances; detoxification."

I would challenge anyone who defended the Western diet, the mass food industry and our urban environments and lifestyle - as healthy substances.  We are still ultimately paleolithic in design.  We are not designed to be healthy with this degree of consumption of refined, processed and non-nutritious food, which are all highly inflammatory to our body.

Fasting, perhaps a more appropriate term for what people now are calling detox - can work to create health.  Humans, like our cousin the chimpanzee, have the ability to survive on water for an extended period of time - an adaption that has allowed us to sustain life even in food scarcity.  To enable this we adapt to burning triglycerides as the major fuel source, transformed into ketones.  All of this is sourced from our adipose (fat) tissue.  By prioritising fat metabolism our weight is reduced.  This starts after only 12 hours of fasting once the liver's glycogen stores have become exhausted and the body’s glucose reserves can only be sourced from fat reserves and non essential tissue.

However, on a longer sustained fast we will cross a health threshold as this metabolic process is essentially catabolism, we are breaking down our body to feed our body, with the ultimate result being organ failure.  

Toxins are stored throughout the body with a large contingent in fat cells.  Therefore, by mobilising fat cells, we must be mobilising the compounds within the cells.  This would suggest that to some degree, toxins are being released back into the body's system. 

The therapeutic concept of fasting is not about weight loss, but instead about allowing our cellular systems to function more efficiently in the absence of digestion.  It is believed that this creates a period of rest-oration, resulting in better cellular function.  The body has an enormous capacity to heal - it just requires the right environment, fuel and circumstances in which to be allowed to do so.

Digestion takes up an enormous amount of energy.  Calorie reduction arguably is one of the only proven methods of longevity.  The answer to why calorie reduction works, is the same as to why a 'detox' can be positive to your health.  

One of the earliest doctors to use therapeutic fasting in the US was Isaac Jennings (1788-1874).  He discarded the use of drugs and created his 'natural hygiene' protocol, which advocated fasting, a vegetarian diet, pure water, clean air, sunshine, exercise, rest and emotional poise.  

Many medical doctors followed his tradition and ultimately published works on lifestyle, diet and fasting.  Seminal works from 1923 Fasting an Undernutrition, and Ancel Key's The Biology of Human Starvation(1950) observed in detail 32 volunteers who fasted for up to 8 months.  They compared these findings with food deprivation observations made during the Second World War.  Interestingly, their observations found that fasting did not cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies.  Further related research in other developing countries observed that those who fasted completely, lived longer than those on protein deficient diets.  The studies have continued, demonstrating positive benefits on every organ system from chemical poisoning to diabetes and cardiovascular disorders.

A real detox involves fasting, sweating it out, and the support of the correct supplements to feed your cells the nutrients they need, even if your body is not getting energy in the form of calories.  Your body can throw up a lot of symptoms when you're detoxing, and your emotions may feel low.  This is best done with support and I personally find a retreat at The Life Co, Bodrum-Turkey, the best support for undergoing this type of detox.  

However it is not always possible to leave our busy schedules and this shouldn't stop up from allowing our body down time on a regular basis. I can help you find a protocol that works for you, with detoxification or intermittent fasting and recommendations of saunas, colonics and massage therapies to support your detoxification. 

Please get in touch today if you're interested in detoxing.  

Deborah McTaggart is a nutritionist practising in Barnes, South West London, and can be contacted here for further information.