It’s not uncommon to see a health coach or other health “guru” offering up a juice cleanse or “detox” once or twice a year. Juice cleanses have been popular for years and many promote quick weight loss, improved health and more energy. But while there are so many touting the benefits of detoxifying the body through drinking some fruit and vegetable juice, understanding the detoxification process and what the body requires to detoxify shows that juice cleansing is not the best way to rid the body and liver from toxins. And it could even prevent the body from detoxifying effectively to begin with!
Let’s look at how the body detoxes
Everyone is constantly being subjected to toxins that need to be flushed from the body. While some of these come from external sources, such as the food we eat, the cleaning products we use for our body and our home and the environment, some are also the natural waste products that come from metabolic processes. But no matter what the source, these toxins need to be removed from the body so that they do not build up and cause toxic overload that leads to illness!
The body is designed to get rid of these toxins through the urine, feces, breath, skin and hair.
Most toxins are fat soluble, which means that they require fat to break them down. Because of this, they tend to be stored in the fat cells. Some toxins may stay in the fat cells for years until they are released in times of stress (when the body is using fat for fuel), during times of fasting and during exercise.
The most common toxins found in the body include:
- Metabolic waste products
- Food additives
- Environmental contaminants and pollutants
- Unwanted microorganisms
There are two phases of detoxification, phase 1 and phase 2
Phase 1 is all about oxidation. During phase 1, there is a family of enzymes used, known as the cytochrome P450’s. These enzymes convert the toxins from being fat soluble to being water soluble, through the process of oxidation. They convert the toxin into a more active form that is usually more toxic to prepare it to be processed out of the body in phase 2. When the chemical reaction occurs in this phase, free radicals are released. Because of this, the need for antioxidants is high in this phase to help reduce any damage that could be caused by free floating free radicals.
The body requires specific nutrients to complete phase 1 of the detoxification process.
- Glutathione (the master antioxidant)
- B vitamins
- Vitamin A
- Folic acid
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Carotenoids and antioxidants
In phase 2, it is about conjugation. The body takes substances such as amino acids and sulfur and binds them to the toxins. Once that happens, the toxins will either be neutralized. Or they will be converted to a form that can easily be excreted through bile or urine.
The nutrients needed in phase 2 are:
For phase 1, juice cleanses can be somewhat effective. The concentration of fruits and vegetables does help the body to release toxins from the fat cells. The low concentration of calories signals fasting and prompts the body to release fat, and the toxins in it.
But this phase also requires vitamin A and E…. both fat soluble vitamins. But most juice cleanses are very low in fat. As a result can cause the liver to become depleted in these vitamins. And it can compromise the effectiveness of the phase 1 process.
The body also requires fat to produce bile, which is one of the ways that toxins are removed from the body. So, without enough fat in the diet, bile production will not be adequate and fewer toxins will be eliminated from the body.
In phase 2, the body requires amino acids and sulfur. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are found in high concentrations in animal protein. While some amino acids are found in plant foods, traditionally juice cleanses do not contain all the amino acids required to fully detoxify out toxins effectively.
Amino acids methionine, taurine and cysteine, required in phase 2, are found primarily in animal protein such as grass-fed meats and raw dairy products. Without these amino acids, toxins cannot be effectively removed from the body and will circulate until they are pulled into other fatty areas for storage. Since the brain is high in cholesterol, there is a danger of toxins accumulating there, where they could disrupt brain function.
The liver requires protein and fat to adequately detoxify the body, and without them, the body’s natural detoxification pathways are not getting the proper tools to function optimally.
What can be done instead?
Doing a whole food diet cleanse is a much better option, and will support the body’s nutrient needs while detoxification takes place. This type of diet includes plenty of organic fruits and vegetables, grass fed, pasture raised meats and eggs, raw dairy (if tolerated), fermented foods and beverages like sauerkraut and kombucha….and some high-quality fat. It avoids all factory processed foods that are full of toxic additives, and focuses on clean, whole foods.
Liver health can also be supported by doing coffee enemas. This is a quick way to help flush the liver and is particularly useful for people who are in the process of losing weight (and releasing a lot of toxins into the body quickly) or who are showing the signs of a sluggish liver and want to boost liver health.
While it is beneficial to eat this way regularly, doing a whole food cleanse for at least a month can significantly help to reduce toxin levels in the body. This way of detoxing the body is gentle and natural…and can be done every day! It is much more effective for helping the body rid itself of toxins and will lead to a much healthier detoxification system as well…as well as improving overall health!