You can't detox your body, say The Guardian - click here. The article dispels the myth that surrounds the health industry's fad of detoxing - it just simply ain't so, they say.
I don't disagree with The Guardian's article in that anything that stems from a fad impulse, creates a wave of misinformation and dubious health practices - has no place in my health protocol. However, on reading this article I wonder if by making a valid point, they've missed THE point.
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 on this degree of consumption of refined, processed and non-nutritious food, 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.
So back to The Guardian. Detoxing as known of late complete with the pills and elixirs to help you eliminate toxins is simply an unsubstantiated fad. However, consumption of rich mineral broths and nutrient rich green drinks (often promoted on a detox) is simply feeding your body the nutrients it actually needs to function. This is otherwise known as food. You don't need to purchase these processed as the Detox market will have you think - you can buy as whole food and simply distil your own mineral packed broth and drinks. (see my recipes page).
Calorie reduction or fasting, in my view, can be a very beneficial tool in creating your health. I say the proof is in how you feel and I feel fantastic after a short fast, a rest from consumption. I shall continue with the discipline as long as I see benefits in my personal health and well-being.
Therapeutic fasting is best conducted under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner and/or facility.
Deborah McTaggart is a registered nutritionist practising in Barnes, South West London, and global via Skype and Zoom. Deborah has a special interest in high energy demand, high performance, travel health, stress and sport recovery and performance for the busy professional, frequent traveller and recreational athlete.
Deborah works as a Consultant with The Resilience Institute, UK who work with global leadership to sustain high performance and long term health resilience. Contact me here for further information on detoxing, eating healthy for busy people and improving your health.