Because the two are not the same. 90s supermodel-turned-nutritionist Rosemary Ferguson breaks it down for us.
WelleCo (W): Is detoxing the same as detoxification?
Rosemary Ferguson (RF): Detox has become a buzzword in the health and wellbeing space over recent years and as a nutritionist, I come across a lot of confusion around what it actually means.
To be medically accurate, you can’t detox your body with a specific food, drink or programme. Most people seem to think a ‘detox’ product or diet is going to give them a quick weight loss fix or help purify their bodies after a period of indulgence... but you can’t simply rid your bodies of toxins overnight. More importantly, this process of detoxification is what our bodies do naturally, without the need for any particular diet or plan – all day, every day - it’s our liver’s main function!
What we can do is give our body a helping hand by giving it more of the antioxidants and vitamins that it uses to naturally detoxify itself.
W: How does the liver work to detoxify the body?
RF: Our body is constantly working and interacting with other organs to neutralise, transform and remove harmful substances, otherwise known as toxins. Harmful substances are everywhere, unavoidable and a normal part of life and the body works away the whole time to remove them from our system.
Our livers filter 1.4 litres of blood every minute. Filtering the blood requires two phases of detoxification:
Phase one helps to neutralise baddies - this phase is where you need antioxidants such as glutathione and vitamins E and C.
Phase two adds chemicals to make the bad stuff soluble and possible for the body to excrete it. This is where you need things like glutamine, glycine and sulphur foods such as cabbages and broccoli.
by including fresh, anti-inflammatory foods, increased plants, hydration and avoiding the other toxic vices we normally have, we are bathing ourselves with all sorts of helpful micronutrients that our liver needs...
W: If the body detoxifies itself naturally, why worry about it?
RF: Our liver and kidneys take very good care of us, but the toxic load we carry is getting greater all the time. There are many more pollutants these days, self-inflicted and unavoidable, so our organs of detoxification will be working harder than ever.
Detox plans usually consist of radically changing the way we normally eat, drink and behave. By taking in a diet that is vastly superior on the nutrient front than our usual - usually by including fresh, anti-inflammatory foods, increased plants, hydration and avoiding the other toxic vices we normally have, we are bathing ourselves with all sorts of helpful micronutrients that our liver needs for phase one and phase two of the detoxification process.
W: Are there any tell-tale signs that the body needs help detoxifying that people can look out for?
RF: When your body needs help, it will show you signs. This can be symptoms such as lack of energy, constant fatigue, dull hair, dull skin, digestive issues, mood swings, inflammation. All of this can be shown in the forms of bloating and breakouts in the skin.
If you want to feel the benefits that detoxification products offer, it would be best to give your body a helping hand by changing what you eat to fuel the body with the nutrients it needs to detoxify effectively. This means cutting out sugar, alcohol and caffeine, eating a balanced diet of plant-based, anti-inflammatory foods alongside plenty of hydration.
Doing this will help your body get on with the day job and could have added benefits for your skin, mood, energy levels, weight and sugar cravings. What’s more, it can be a really useful opportunity to ‘check-in’ with your body and see how different foods make you feel.
W: How can we tell if a detoxification aid is working?
RF: When your body is detoxifying itself at an optimum level, you can expect to see an improvement in energy levels, your skin glow, your mood, your sleep, your weight and sugar cravings. It’s good to try and reset once in a while, and by boosting the detoxifying process with a well thought out plan - over a short period of time you can expect to see the impact of what eating well can do for your body, and your mind.
By changing up our food, giving the wine and coffee a break, consuming supplements, and drinking beverages that are rich in the vitamins and minerals that our body uses in the liver pathways, we can support our body in its daily battle with the bad stuff.
Giving the body a bit extra to work with, while reducing the stuff that slows our systems down from time to time, can really help the body detoxify itself at an optimum level.