Is Detoxing Pseudoscience?
Perhaps you’ve noticed that over the past decade or so there’s been a war on holistic approaches to health.
Admittedly this war has been going on for a long time, but with the advent of social media, there are now so many outlets for people with extra-loud opinions to sound off on their distaste for integrative approaches to health.
This has definitely intensified in the past 2 years (since 2020).
One of the things that people on the Internet love to knock on is “detoxing.”
Now I’ll be the first to admit there are plenty of people and companies out there that have overstepped the line and made detoxification protocols seem like they can cure all diseases… and that anything and everything under the sun can help you detox.
But the fact of the matter is there are legitimate ways to increase the rate of detoxification, the efficiency of the natural detoxing systems in your body, as well as the quality of detoxification.
So, in short, detoxing is not pseudoscience, but some bad actors have made it so detoxification has gotten a bad rap.
I’ll expand on detoxification, how it’s gained a bad reputation, as well as evidence-based ways that anyone can boost their body’s natural detoxification systems.
What Is Detoxification and How Did It Get a Bad Rep?
Our bodies are the most complex organism in the universe. Even the universe in all the galaxies that exist pale in comparison to the sheer complexity of human bodies.
Trillions of cells work together to help us form thoughts, create vast structures, love, forgive, and dream.
To experience health at its fullest, we have to be able to deal with toxins that enter our bodies.
The world we live in is littered with toxins. Many of these toxins serve some beneficial purpose, but in excessive amounts, can be harmful.
Others are toxic by their design (i.e. a toxin in a plant is made to keep it alive and to hurt the animal that eats it), and if we’re exposed to them we need a way to both neutralize them and to eradicate them.
Detoxification is an incredibly complicated process (from a biological perspective) but is a pretty simple thing to explain.
Our bodies have a few main organs that help with detoxification. Our skin is one, as it is a filtering mechanism for environmental toxins.
Internally you have your liver, your kidneys, your intestines, and your lymphatic system.
Your liver is the main detoxifying organ and your kidneys are a filtering organ that helps to move the detoxification processes along.
To detox, our bodies draw upon nutritional reserves to help bind toxins, neutralize them, and excrete them. I’ll expand on what those are in a moment, but first to explain how it works.
There are three phases to detoxification.
- Phase 1 is where our body oxides the toxin. Oxidation is the process where your body uses elements to change the physical makeup of a toxin, actually shifting and changing its structure of electrons.
- Phase 2 is where we conjugate the toxin. Essentially this is where the body assigns a biological tag to the offending element which then makes it both easier to excrete as well as help make it less toxic.
- And phase 3 is where you excrete it, either through your stool or urine.
Now, every single part of how you detox depends on what foods you eat. And that’s where some of the problems with detox as a fad have originated.
People, as well as companies, realize that certain foods and plants can supply nutrients to help with detox. And so they’ve created blends of drinks, pills, and programs to help you detox.
Some of these may work, but the expense and the craze of detoxing (and how much it can do for you) is overblown.
In truth, you don’t have to do all that much to your diet to enhance detox. And while there are other therapies you can apply for detoxing (like saunas, fasting, etc.), without these nutrients in your diet in substantial amounts, you simply won’t be able to complete the three phases listed above efficiently, or effectively.
What Can You Do to Improve Detoxification?
To properly detox you might be surprised to know that much of what works to ensure this vital system works comes down to what you’re eating. Specifically protein (and animal-based seems to be superior thanks to the addition of other detoxing agents like vitamins, iron, choline, and more).
The bottom line is healthy food is the difference maker in being able to detox.
Specifically, if you want to have a robust detox system then you’ll want to boost your protein intake, which is something that could help improve your overall health as I wrote about in this article
Now you don’t need to eat abnormal amounts of protein to ensure better detox, but protein is responsible for helping your body produce a “master” antioxidant and the primary antioxidant for detoxing, which is called glutathione.
In theory, if you were to increase your protein intake it would have a significant effect on how your body detoxes simply by improving glutathione levels.
Additionally, protein is needed to fashion dozens of enzymes that play a role in detoxification.
And there are plenty of other nutrients that come from eating protein (Again, animal-based seems to be better) that will help with detox…
As Dr. Masterjohmn writes:
Sulfate is [another] one of those things, you need to eat enough sulfur. A lot of the sulfur that you get comes from animal protein. A lot of the sulfur that you get comes from cruciferous vegetables. But that sulfur input has to be there.
Glycine is another one that you would use.
And glycine, you can make some glycine, but you also get glycine from the diet.
Really skin and bones, the sort of like eating nose to tail is the best way to improve your glycine status. And you can go on and on.
Methylation is another part of phase two and methylation is supported by folate which is vitamin B9, vitamin B12, choline, [iron and riboflavin too] A bunch of the B vitamins sort of are in the background supporting the methylation process. So, there is a diversity of things that are involved in phase two, but that really opens the door to a lot of nutritional effects. And then that, what we’ve been talking about is mostly detoxing organic molecules, which are large carbon-based molecules. There are also means by which you have to detoxify metals and arsenic is detoxified by methylation.”
The simple truth is you don’t need a program, or a green smoothie, to detox.
But anyone who tells you that you can “detox just fine without changing anything in your life” is flat out wrong if you’re not ingesting enough of the foods that are essential for detox.
Just because you have a liver and kidneys doesn’t mean they can do their job if you’re not supplying them with the nutrients they need to help you eradicate toxins.
And that’s why “detoxing” is not pseudoscience.
Are there other things you can do beyond eating well to amplify it?
Yes, and I’ll write about that soon in an upcoming article.