Now more than ever before, we are all homing in on various aspects of our physical health and wellbeing. The responsibility of looking after an entire body can, in times like these, feel more like a burden than a gift, and ensuring that we are always striving toward optimal health is, quite frankly, a little exhausting sometimes.
The internet offers plenty of excellent resources for taking care of your body, whether you’re old, young, suffering from a chronic condition, or generally in tip-top health. The only trouble is, the internet is also prone to throwing up plenty of misguided articles that generate clicks through promises of shortcuts or simple, quick solutions to being healthy.
In truth, being and staying healthy is a lifelong job. Each and every day, we face any number of choices which could improve or damage our general sense of health and wellbeing, and part of living a good, balanced lifestyle means prioritising those things that are good for us, and easing off those things that maybe aren’t so good for us.
Of course, some things are much worse than others. While we know that a slice of cake is better off as an occasional treat, the same can’t be said for liver detoxes which, although touted by some as the solution to full-body health, risk overturning it in a matter of days.
In this article, we are going to go into a little more detail with regards to the dangerous myths behind detoxing — and why you can skip that post-holidays green juice cleanse in 2021, and every year after that.
What is a ‘Detox’?
A detox is a catch-all term that refers to a crash-diet designed to rid the body of any build-up of harmful toxins. Those undergoing a detox will typically fast, and then rely on just water and juice as their only source of nutrition.
This, coupled with working up a sweat in the gym and avoiding solids, is designed to ensure that the liver is ridding the body of as much harmful waste as possible via urine, stool, and sweat.
This is what the liver already does on a day-to-day basis, without the need for prolonged fasting or nutritional deprivation.
Do Our Livers Need ‘Help’?
For a healthy liver with normal function, the task of eliminating toxins from the body is par for the course on any average day. Of course, if you are suffering from a condition the affects the liver, the story will be different, and your doctor will already be working on treating and managing the condition with medicine, rather than fruit juice.
In essence, however, no. Healthy livers do not need help to function properly. They can, however, derive a number of benefits that assist with keeping them healthy from certain vitamins and naturally-derived substances.
Take, for instance, the growing body of research dedicated to understanding how marijuana effects the liver and its ability to keep your entire body healthy and free from harmful toxins. The use of marijuana within the medical field is a fascinating and exciting subject — and, while research remains limited at this stage, we can already see some potential for the cannabinoids found in this plant to be used as preventatives and therapeutic treatments for a wide range of conditions.
It is, however, not yet fully understood whether marijuana can help or hinder those suffering from chronic liver conditions, so always consult a doctor first.
Another substance famed for assisting normal liver function is water. Disappointed?
Medical professionals aren’t preaching that we should drink between 2.7 and 3.7 litres of water each and every day for the good of their health — it’s for ours. By ensuring that the body is always hydrated, every system — not just the liver — is able to work to the very best of its ability.
But, while drinking plenty of fluids offers untold benefits to our liver health, it is not the only thing we should be doing. Our livers, like the rest of our bodies, rely on a steady supply of a wide range of nutrients and vitamins in order to remain healthy — many of which will not be found in a glass of pure orange juice.
This list of foods and drinks that support strong liver function is not, for instance, limited to just one food group. From oatmeal to avocado, brown rice and olive oil, eating the rainbow is about more than just liquidising the contents of your fruit bowl.
Are Detoxes Harmful?
So far, we have talked about ways of supporting the liver naturally, through a healthy and balanced diet. In doing so, there is no need to perform a ‘cleanse’ or ‘detox’ on the liver, as its primary function is to do that, day in and day out, to support the rest of the body.
With that in mind, a detox is already shown to be extraneous, and a waste of our time and money. Unfortunately, that’s only half the story; they can also be detrimental to our health.
Severe nutrient restriction can, in the short-term, make us feel tired, dizzy and cause headaches and stomach pain. If we make it a regular occurrence, our immune systems and general sense of wellbeing can take a hit. You could start to lose hair, and your skin could begin to suffer. You may also need to wrestle with another side effect of hunger — insomnia — and the many consequences of missing out on a good night’s sleep.
Exercise will also be more taxing on the body, as you will likely be low on protein if fruit juices are your sole source of nutrition — even if only for a few days, or a week. The high levels of sugar will also take their toll on your dental health.
What’s more, the laxative effect of these diets could alter normal bowel function indefinitely, and destroy the health bacteria that exists within our digestive tract.
These are all side-effects that can affect otherwise healthy individuals. For anyone with any underlying health conditions, the impact of a detoxification diet could be far more serious.
Supporting your liver’s usual function is a daily task. Getting the right nutrients and ensuring that it is kept healthy is not something that any crash diet or faddy cleanse can get right; it takes plenty of mindfulness and balance to ensure that our entire bodies are getting the support that they need.