Ebb & Flow -

We often hear the word detox being mentioned, especially in the early part of the year. But do we fully understand what that word really means?

Detox is about aiding our body to convert chemicals, toxins, hormones and other compounds into less harmful substances and ultimately excrete them out. In functional medicine we refer to it as “metabolic detoxification”, so it’s not just about cutting out drugs, alcohol or our phones for few hours a day and drinking juices.

Whether we realise it or not, this is actually a really important process that happens on an ongoing basis in our body. It is facilitated by many of our organs working together: liver, kidneys, gut, lymphatic system and sweat glands, and we should always make sure it is fully supported.

Failure to do so could lead to toxins accumulation in the body, as well as causing damage to cells and tissues, which may lead to symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue, low energy, bad breath and body odour
  • Skin problems like acne, eczema, and psoriasis
  • Digestive problems like bloating, gas, and constipation or weight gain and difficulty losing weight
  • Increased susceptibility to allergies and sensitivities
  • Mood changes such as irritability, depression, and anxiety

Did you know?

Our liver is the master detoxification organ, the one responsible for playing a crucial role in converting the harmful substances into less toxic forms so that they can be safely eliminated from our body. There are 2 main phases of detoxification happening in the liver:

In Phase I substances like caffeine and alcohol are neutralised, and harmful substances are transformed into “intermediate compounds” through a series of enzymatic reactions. These intermediate compounds are basically toxins converted into forms that can be more easily removed from the body. However, they can be more reactive and harmful than the original toxins.

In Phase II these intermediate compounds are then “conjugated” with other substances to neutralise them, making them more water-soluble and easier to eliminate from the body through urine or bile.

Following those 2 phases, the “conjugated toxins” are transported out of the liver into the gut, where they are eliminated from the body through bile (stool) and urine. This last part of the process is crucial to prevent the reabsorption of toxins and ensure their elimination. Ensuring this last part, the elimination, works as smooth as possible, even before doing anything else, is paramount.

Are you having daily bowel movements?

To facilitate this, it is always a good idea to ensure our diet is rich in both soluble and insoluble fibre, that we stay hydrated, and that we ensure movement and relaxation everyday. And yes, overall our body’s ability to detoxify properly does depend on several factors; diet, lifestyle, and exposure to environmental toxins, to name a few.

Let’s have a deep dive on diet first, what nutrients do we need to support our liver detoxification process?

  • Protein: amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, bind to toxins in the liver and support their removal from the body, so it is important to ensure we include protein at every meal.
  • Starchy vegetables (like sweet potatoes, squash and potatoes) containing both fibre and phytonutrients.
  • Non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens (rich in magnesium), cruciferous vegetables (with their sulphur compounds), artichokes (which contain a compound called silymarin that has been shown to support liver function and protect the liver from damage).
  • Healthy fats (like avocado, olives, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds) and antioxidants (like vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene rich foods) all support liver health and function.


When it comes to lifestyle…

…ensuring we have enough physical exercise across our week (whether it is cardio or more restorative solutions such as yoga & Pilates) and working on both our body and mind is key.

Physical activity can improve circulation and increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the liver, helping the liver to carry out its functions more efficiently, including detoxification. Exercise also stimulates the release of endorphins, which supports the reduction of stress and improvement of mood, while promoting better sleep, which is essential for liver function and overall health.

And don’t forget that reducing our toxin exposure by using more natural products for our body and home, limiting plastic and preferring organic foods is just as important!