At this time of the year, newspapers and magazines are filled with weight loss, fitness and detox stories. I admit, I do enjoy reading them and seeing what nutrition & exercise (mis)information is being passed around.
One of my biggest gripes is seeing articles that talk about needing to detox post Christmas, with claims that a 3, 5, 7, 10 (you choose a number of days!) day detox will cure everything that ails you.
The biological reality is that your body is constantly detoxifying itself – that’s what your liver, kidneys and skin are for. And the by-products of the perpetual detoxification are stool, urine and sweat (really! they’re not just annoyances!).
The liver is the body’s waste purification plant and it is perpetually in motion, 24 hours a day. The more toxins you put in, the harder the liver has to work to remove them. Your body really doesn’t want toxins to build up. So much so, the liver has a two stage detoxification process to make sure all the waste is removed – anything from alcohol to heavy metals to pesticides to hormones. The liver is continuously converting these substances to inactive forms for excretion in urine (via the kidneys) or stool.
So knowing all this, the real question (which is less of a quick fix and not as sexy a ‘detox’): how can I consistently support my liver and kidneys?
- Drink lots of water throughout the day. Most people are slightly dehydrated and often mistake thirst for hunger, so the bare minimum to aim for is 1.5L of water across the day.
- Eat green leafy vegetables. These contain the micronutrients and enzymes that support the first stage of liver detoxification and kickstart the second stage.
- Eat enough protein. Red meat, nuts, eggs and fish are amongst some of the protein sources that contain the amino acids needed for the second stage of liver detoxification.
- Don’t drink alcohol every day. Metabolism alcohol puts pressure on the liver and diverts it from its other important functions, such as bile secretion, which is helps the body digest fats.
- Get sweaty at least 3 times a week. A good excuse for a run, a spin class or a shag!