Detoxing: Why You Might Be Doing It Wrong

by Lara Adler

detoxify the right way

de∙tox∙i∙fy (verb)

1. a: to remove a harmful substance (as a poison or toxin) or the effect of such from
     b: to render (a harmful substance) harmless

Ever been on a detox? Chances are the answer is ‘yes,’ or at the very least, you know someone whose been on one…. and the numbers are growing.

Diet detoxes of all kinds have become hugely popular in the past few years, and have shifted from being a fringe practice reserved for über healthy yoga types to something far more mainstream and commonplace. You don’t have to search hard to find a celebrity-endorsed cleanse or juice fast, and if you’re already plugged into the health and  wellness minded community, then you know detoxes are everywhere – from quick 3-day detoxes to more intense 21-day juice fasts, complete with promises of weight loss, clear skin, a better night’s sleep, and boundless energy. While many diet detoxes are wonderful ways to reset healthy eating habits and (hopefully) pump the body full of nutrient-rich foods – and many of them are able to deliver on some of those promises – the results are often short lived.

In fact, most diet detoxes actually miss the entire point.

How so? By keeping people stuck in a “quick fix” mentality.

Let’s say that you’re a healthy person to begin with – you eat organic, whole foods, you limit your sugar intake, etc. – but you’ve gone off track during the holiday season. If you’re using a detox to simply lose those few extra pounds and regain your energy, then no, it didn’t miss the point at all.

But if you’re someone whose looking to a detox to, you know, detoxify your body, then it’s likely missing the point altogether.

Here’s what I mean: Diet detoxes focus on getting whatever kind of junk that’s inside of us out, but they do nothing to address the junk that’s constantly coming in. Most detoxes focus on flushing fat, cutting back on sugar, adding in more fruits and veggies, which isn’t a bad thing by any means, BUT there are other “harmful substances” besides the types of food that we eat. What are they?

ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS.

Eliminating these toxins is really the true meaning of “detox,” yet very few detoxes actually address this, which is precisely why they’re missing the point to begin with.

So, what are these toxins, and why should be we “detoxing” from them?

In the last 60-70 years or so, the number of synthetic, man-made chemicals used in commercial applications has skyrocketed. The DuPont company’s 1935 slogan “Better Things For Better Living Through Chemistry,” shortened to “Better Living Through Chemistry,” ushered in an age of rampant chemical use that has only become more pronounced. What we’ve ended up with are around 84,000 chemicals in commerce.

While many of these chemicals have benefited us through the production of machines, building materials, bike helmets, etc., and have on the whole made our lives easier, better, safer, and even longer, the vast majority have never been tested for safety.

Many of the chemicals found in the products we use every day and in the food and water we consume are making their way into our bodies where they have the potential to compromise our health in very serious ways.

What kinds of chemicals? Thyroid-disrupting PFOA from non-stick cookware and food packaging. Hormone-disrupting BPA from plastics, canned foods, and cash register receipts, which is linked to weight gain, insulin resistance and diabetes. Phthalates from scented detergents, lotions, and perfumes which are linked to birth defects, hormone disruption and behavioral and developmental issues. Pesticides from the produce we eat, linked to cancers, leukemia, and infertility.

The Centers for Disease Control routinely tests for chemicals in the bodies of US residents, and through this testing, has found more than 212 different synthetic chemicals inside of us.

While our bodies have systems in place to break down and detoxify many chemicals (think: your colon, kidney, liver, lungs, lymphatic system, and skin), they’re struggling to keep up under the relentless exposure we have from everyday living.

This is why we detox.

But if we don’t address these chemicals from the source, and they’re still flooding our system, we can’t ever properly detoxify our bodies.

There’s a story I like to tell to illustrate this point, and it’s the story of a prison superintendent, an inmate, and a faucet:

The superintendent of a prison asks an inmate to go down to the basement to mop up water from a faucet that had been left running. Hours later, the superintendent goes to check on the inmate, and finds him still mopping the floor. Furious, the superintendent asks why he didn’t just turn off the tap, to which the inmate replies, “I’m getting paid to mop the floor, not to turn off the tap.”

I’ve heard this story told in relation to allopathic medicine inferring that physicians are simply trained to mop up the floor – to treat disease symptoms – not to turn off the tap, or prevent disease from manifesting in the first place.

I see this story a little differently: I see us as that prison inmate – mopping, and mopping, and mopping to get ourselves healthy, but it’s not water coming out of that tap – it’s the flood of chemical toxins that are constantly flowing into our bodies. We can mop all we want – we can eat our kale and quinoa, drink our green drinks, do our cleanses and juice fasts – but if that toxic tap is still flowing, we’re still putting ourselves at risk for all of the diseases caused by those chemical toxins.

Detoxing should be about more than just dropping a few pounds for bikini season. Instead of using a detox to reset and revitalize our bodies a couple of times a year with the goal being to lose weight, we should be committing to a slow, continuous form of detoxing that’s incorporated into our everyday lives. Detoxing our personal environment – and in turn, our bodies – from the chemicals that have the potential to compromise our health is a process.

Not sure where to start?

Take it slow, and start with just 3 things: one thing that goes IN you, one thing that goes ON you, and one thing that goes AROUND you. Take a look at these examples below:

IN (as in ingest)

Skip Canned Foods.

Canned foods are lined with hormone disrupting BPA (Bisphenol-A), which can easily migrate into the foods in the can. This is especially true of canned tomatoes which, because they’re so acidic, have the ability to leach even more BPA from the lining.

If it’s canned, skip it! This includes, beans, soups, sodas. Instead opt for fresh, unpackaged foods when possible. Eden Organics sells canned beans that are packed in enamel lined cans rather than epoxy, BPA ones, and these are a safer choice. You can also opt for Eden Organics and Bionature glass packed tomatoes for your pantry!

ON (as in absorb)

Pass On The Fancy Body Lotions

Personal care products like body lotions are loaded with synthetic ingredients including preservatives, dyes, and fragrances. Most fragrances are made with chemicals called Phthalates (pronounced Thall-ates) that, like BPA, are hormone disrupting chemicals that are routinely and consistently showing up in the blood of people tested by the CDC. Instead of slathering these all over your skin, opt for more natural and chemical free choices like almond or coconut oil to keep your skin soft. These will not only save you money, but will help you avoid exposure to unnecessary and potentially harmful chemicals!

AROUND (as in inhale)

Ditch The Scented Candles

Scented candles and other air fresheners are often made with the same phthalates found in personal care products. Unfortunately, other than injection, inhalation is the fastest route a chemical can take into the bloodstream. Additionally, these only mask unpleasant odors, and can cause immediate allergic reactions or headaches in some people. Want to freshen your space? Open your windows, bring in some air-cleansing houseplants, and some fresh flowers instead!

In addition to these three things, I would also make every attempt at committing to purchasing organic foods whenever possible. If you can, make this a non-negotiable, at least when grocery shopping. If your budget makes this difficult, at the very least commit to buying organic versions of the foods on the the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List.

Detoxing is a process, not a 3 day, 5 day, or 21 day do-it-once-and-your-done kind of thing, and it’s totally okay to go slow. Start by making the three changes outlined above, and in time, you’ll be able to reduce your overall exposure to the environmental chemicals in your home.

About the author...

 is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Environmental Toxins Expert who trains & educates her colleagues in the holistic health and wellness community to have a greater level of fluency around how environmental toxins impact health. Learn more about Lara and her work at LaraAdler.com

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Carla July 25, 2013

I’ve been trying to get this out there and you post. 😉 So sharing…

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