This blog post is my first one, so a quick primer is in order. This will be the first of the "Tall tales" series. These posts will be directed at busting fitness myths and providing more helpful advice in their place. Let's get to it!
At this time every year after too much holiday indulging, the fitness wagon is loaded up to full capacity, and gyms everywhere are more crowded than any other point of the year. There are also countless numbers of people who decide to begin a new years detox program. It may seem like the perfect way to get a jumpstart on your goals, but do you know if it is the right step for you?
The first thing that people often forget is that our bodies are constantly detoxifying themselves. If we weren't, we would all be in big trouble. Our bodies are under constant stress from toxins in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Not to mention the products we put on our skin and in our hair. The purpose of this post isn't to figure out all the possible sources of this problem. It is to help you understand how we eliminate any toxins already in the system. The question we ask next is how to help support our body's natural ability to rid ourselves of these undesired toxins.
Here is a quick primer on the phases of detoxification. This is definitely a simplified version of the process but is a good starting point.
Phases of detoxification
Phase 1 Oxidation- In this stage the liver uses oxygen and enzymes to burn toxins. It makes fat soluble toxins more water soluble so they can be excreted. This process leaves certain end products that need to be carried on through phase 2.
Phase 2 Conjugation- This stage combines the end products from stage 1 with sulfur, specific amino acids or organic acids, and excreted in bile.
Phase 3 Elimination- Sweat, urine, and bowel movements complete the removal process.
I had this process described to me with the following analogy; Phase 1 is like placing your garbage in the wastebasket. It is a way or keeping things organized and ready for removal. Phase 2 is you taking all of your garbage to the dumpster. You have to get it out of the house. Phase 3 is the garbage truck hauling everything away. Each of the steps must be done in order and fully completed to make sure you get rid of all the trash and aren't left with the mess.
Problems with the process
if any of these stages are not carried out completely, the detoxification process is not successful. Jeffrey Bland PhD is known as the father of functional medicine. In his words "Detoxification should be specifically tailored to the individual." The problem with most of the well-known products or systems out there is that they are not specific to any one individual's needs, or they lack support for all three phases of detoxification. For example, an all juice cleanse might be great at stimulating phase 1 oxidation. However, with a lack of amino acids the body is left with even more dangerous chemicals that can't be moved through phase 2. That's right, lack of protein in a diet can impede detox! Even worse, any prescription medication, cigarette smoke, or even an over the counter painkiller can complicate this process and even create sometimes life threatening circumstances ending in hospital stays.
The hardest questions sometimes lead to answers that are right under our nose. We can enhance our natural detoxification by implementing some easy changes. Drinking more water, eating more organic fruits and vegetables, and choosing organic free range meats free of added hormones and chemicals will provide raw materials that assist our bodies with the never ending task of toxin removal. A daily habit of one high quality green drink and exercise that creates a sweating response can greatly assist the process in a safe and manageable way.
Before beginning any detoxification program you should ask yourself the following questions.
Do I have a measurable tool such as blood-work that can quantify a need to detox to resolve an issue? Am I healthy enough to see a positive outcome from the program?
A health professional can help you identify any specific detox needs and make sure it is done in a safe and effective way. Make sure you contact your healthcare provider to gain some helpful insight and have any relevant tests run to increase your success.