Never underestimate the difficulty of changing false beliefs by facts. Henry Rosovsky
Fallacies are not just crazy ideas and usually have at least some element of plausibility, “detoxification” sounds like a good thing right, so an industry of snake oil salesmen thrive on nothing more than word association to convince impressionable and naïve people to spend valuable vacation time in detox centers and consume concoctions supposed to clean the liver and digestive tract in a similar fashion to a colonoscopy preparation regime: make no mistake about it those who use the term “detox” in serious conversation are either naïve or unscrupulous and often both. On the other hand detoxification is a complex and vital process to the health of individual cells and the body as a whole but it’s not something that we can go away one weekend a month for or indulge in the occasional chemically induced episode of diarrhea. Before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, there are ways to enhance the body’s natural detoxification processes but first we have to better define the biological processes involving detoxifying functions.
Autophagy (self-eating): At the cellular level substantial amounts of potentially toxic proteins are constantly produced and need to be broken down and recycled in order to prevent cell stress and dysfunction which can ultimately lead to premature cell death and degenerative conditions like dementia. Sophisticated systems have evolved (autophagy and ubiquitin/proteasome machinery) to recycle not only proteins, but mobilize fats and carbohydrates for energy use during times of fasting. For instance this is accomplished during sleep where brain cells switch energy resources to the task of clearing a backlog of protein fragments generated during periods of consciousness and we now know that sleep deprivation can cause increased neuronal cell death. The link between fasting and cell detoxification may explain the beneficial effects of calorie restriction on longevity but also suggests that the sensing mechanisms of fasting, such as lower glucose levels, enhance cellular detoxifying via autophagy as well. Abundant glucose dramatically increases insulin secretion and the insulin signaling system suppresses autophagy as does high amino acid levels from high protein consumption.
Liver Function: At the whole body level the liver is the main organ of detoxification of enormous amounts of endogenously produced waste products as well as potentially harmful substances absorbed from what we eat. Fat soluble waste is excreted into the gut as bile and water soluble waste via the kidneys as urine. The role of water in urine excretion is self-evident but the role of the bile and digestive tract is detoxification is not so widely appreciated. One of the many remarkable functions of fiber is the enhancement of removal of fat soluble excretory products in bile.
Take Home Message! Eat low glycemic high fiber foods: Foods that produce low levels of glucose and only moderate amounts of protein are good for cellular detoxification and high fiber foods are good for liver and gut function.
What to eat and avoid?
Harmful Foods-Minimize these
Over 70% of calories consumed by children and adults alike are quickly digested carbohydrates resulting in large increases in blood glucose that prompts insulin secretion resulting in fat deposition, stops energy production from fat and increases food consumption and hunger. Long term effects of frequent spikes of high blood sugar are cell damage and inflammation, hypertension, metabolic syndrome that can lead to serious problems later in life such as heart attacks, strokes, cancer and dementia.
- Sugar, High Fructose Corn syrup, all caloric sweeteners including honey and agave syrup, sweets & candies. Use low calorie sugar substitutes if necessary
- All Juices, even orange juice, eat the fruit instead, sodas, energy drinks, gatorade, powerade, grape juice, cranberry juice, etc. Also avoid cocktail drink mixes like margarita and sweet and sour mix.
- White flour, bread, pasta, cakes, cookies, biscuits, etc.
- Potatoes, white rice, corn flour products, chips, etc.
Beneficial Foods-Instead Choose to Eat High Fiber, Low Glycemic Foods
Carbohydrates can be roughly categorized by the speed of their digestion into simple sugars; the faster the worse for health and slower the better, with fiber on the most beneficial end of the spectrum, which also minimize the amount of simple sugars obtained from your diet. Low glycemic food choices, vast, varied and enjoyable include many foods that were previously stigmatized like eggs, dairy and meat. Calorie counting is unnecessary if high fiber plant foods are the bulk of your diet as they are satiating and suppress hunger due to slow digestion and low insulin response, in addition they contain thousands of phytonutrients which protect against stress, inflammation and cell damage.
- Unlimited consumption of salads, leafy green vegetables, whole fruits, and nuts.
- Moderation but not overindulgence in all sorts of interesting foods, including meat, fish, cheese, butter, eggs, olive oil, rape seed/canola oil, herbs and spices. These are what make foods enjoyable and they are mostly nonfattening and nutritionally beneficial
- Peas, lentils, legumes and beans are high in protein and fiber good in moderation as they still contain digestible carbohydrates.
- Whole grains, while much better than refined flour are still high glycemic carbohydrates and counteract ketogenesis if you are trying to lose weight or reverse hypertension and metabolic syndrome. Oat bran and oat germ are an inexpensive alternative, as are wheat bran and wheat germ.
- Drink: water or tea (green tea), coffee, diet drinks if necessary. Again avoid drinks with any sugar, HFCS, or any other calorie containing syrup.
- Alcohol: Fine in moderation: red wine may have particular benefits.
- Supplements most are unnecessary and could even be harmful other than a source of omega3 and vitamin D such as in fish liver oils.