Many people turn to detox diets for quick and easy ways to fight fatigue, lose weight, and cleanse their bodies. Detoxification, or its more well-known short form detox, is a very trendy word in today’s world. Typically, when we search online, half a million of searches return with lots of recommended health products, but what is the whole deal about really? Detox implies following a certain diet or consuming special products that claim to clear toxins from our body, thereby enhancing health and to a certain extent, supporting weight loss. It is actually our body’s instinct natural process to rid toxins and body wastes through the liver, and primarily excrete out of the body through the kidney and thereafter urinary tract in the form of urine or digestive tract in the form of poop. If the body is set to detox by itself, why are so many companies still making loud statements that their products provide the miracle fixes? Most of the times the weight loss from a detox is temporary and is simply the results of severe caloric restriction. What we lose during a detox program is usually a few pounds of water.
What Are Toxins?
The word “toxin” in the context of detox diets is poorly described. It typically includes pollutants, synthetic chemicals, heavy metals, and processed foods, all of which can negatively impact our health. Detox products often involve the use of laxatives and diuretics to promote urination and defecation to rid the body of toxins. We have our own ways of eliminating toxins that engages different organs and only when these organs are healthy can they work seamlessly to remove unwanted matters. Here in this article we discuss about how we can include supplements to support and optimise our body’s natural process to detox.
Prebiotics & Probiotic
Gut health is vital in keeping our digestive system healthy as the intestinal cells are involved in the detoxification and excretion processes that protects our gut from destructive unwanted substances. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria called probiotics that comprise our gut microbiota. Consuming balanced amounts of both probiotics and prebiotics can help warrant that we have the correct balance of these bacteria to keep our gut microbiota healthy. This allows digestive system to function properly and help process and expel toxins. Probiotics bind toxins to their cell wall and reduce the intestinal absorption of toxins leading to toxin inactivation and help with the removal of toxins from the body1,2.
The photosynthetic filamentous cyanobacterium that is generally known as blue-green algae3, spirulina is a powerful detoxifying agent owing to its intrinsic antioxidant activity. It is among the world’s most popular supplements. Its main active ingredient is called phycocyanin4, which is an antioxidant that also gives spirulina its exclusive blue-green colour. Spirulina alkalises the body thereby maintaining its internal pH. It is also worthy to mention that spirulina is reported to improve the growth of probiotics5 thereby improving the condition of gut microbiota. A total of 58 studies reveals the alleviative effect of Spirulina against experimental arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury toxicities3.
Turmeric is a plant with a very long history of medicinal use. Because of its brilliant yellow color, this golden spice is also known as “Indian saffron.”6 Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. Curcumin has shown in various studies its therapeutic effect against environmental and occupational toxins. It is reported to hinder hepatoxicity effects induced by arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead and mercury thereby inhibiting histological injury7. The preventive effect of curcumin on the offensive effects provoked by heavy metals has been attributed to its scavenging and chelating properties7. Being fat soluble, it is advisable to take turmeric with a fatty meal.
Green tea extract supplies numerous bioactive compounds, including polyphenols and catechins, that are known to protect against oxidative stress, aid weight loss and supply energy for better sports/ tasks performance. Polyphenol oxidase contained in the tea is a heat-labile enzyme8. The activity of this enzyme is reduced by steam heating during the fermentation, and hence green tea contains more polyphenol compounds (and therefore higher antioxidant activity) compared to black tea8. Green tea does not actively detox toxins on its own but rather it is rich in polyphenols that support the body’s normal detox system9. Polyphenols is observed to have the ability to regulate the enzymes involved in the detoxification process such as glutathione peroxidase, catalase, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH), quinone oxidoreductase, glutathione-S-transferase, and/or activity of the P450 enzyme8,9, rendering cancerous chemicals harmless.
We now understand that it is the body’s instinct to detoxify unwanted wastes and thereafter remove them from the body. The supplements mentioned in this article aim to provide synergistic functions in nourishing the body’s detox mechanism. Furthermore, to support detoxification, drink at least 2 quarts of water (approximately 2 litres) daily. There is no magic behind the cliché advice to drink water as hydration keeps our cellular machinery at peak performance. Water also works by transporting the waste products, efficiently removing them through urination, breathing, or sweating10. Therefore, staying properly hydrated is important for detoxification.
- Schatzmayr G., Zehner F., Taubel M., Schatzmayr D., Klimitsch A., Loibner A.P., Binder E.M. Microbiologicals for deactivating mycotoxins. Mol. Nutr. Food Res. 2006;50:543–551. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.200500181.
- Markowiak P, Slizewska K. Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health. Nutrients. 2017 Sep; 9(9): 1021. Published online 2017 Sep 15. doi: 10.3390/nu9091021
- Bhattachaya S. The Role of Spirulina (Arthrospira) in the Mitigation of Heavy-Metal Toxicity: An Appraisal. J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol. 2020;39(2):149-157.
- Grover P, Bhatnagar A, Kumari N, Bhatt AN, Nishad DK, Purkayastha J. C-Phycocyanin-a novel protein from Spirulina platensis- In vivo toxicity, antioxidant and immunomodulatory studies. Saudi J Biol Sci. 2021 Mar; 28(3): 1853–1859.
- Finamore A., Palmery M., Bensehaila S., Peluso I. Antioxidant, Immunomodulating, and Microbial-Modulating Activities of the Sustainable and Ecofriendly Spirulina. Oxid. Med. Cell. Longevity. 2014;3247528:1–14.
- Prasad S, Aggarwal BB. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Chapter 13Turmeric, the Golden Spice. From Traditional Medicine to Modern Medicine.
- García-Niño WR, Pedraza-Chaverrí J. Protective effect of curcumin against heavy metals-induced liver damage. Food Chem Toxicol. 2014 Jul;69:182-201. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2014.04.016. Epub 2014 Apr 18.
- Yan ZM, Zhong YZ, Duan YH, Chen QH, Li FN. Antioxidant mechanism of tea polyphenols and its impact on health benefits. Animal Nutrition Volume 6, Issue 2, June 2020, Pages 115-123.
- Abbas M, Saeed F, Anjum FM, Afzaal M, Tufail T, Bashir MS, Ishtiaq A, Hussain S, Suleria HAR. Natural polyphenols: An overview. International Journal of Food Properties Volume 20, 2017 - Issue 8. Pages 1689-1699.
- Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, Hydration and Health. Nutr Rev. 2010 Aug; 68(8): 439–458. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x