Andrea du Plessis gives some valuable tips on looking after your liver.

The liver is the body’s most important detoxifying organ, taking charge of the continuous cleansing process of the body.

Your Detox Questions Answered

Q: What is detoxification?

A: Firstly, detoxification is not a process that starts when eliminate all unhealthy foods from your diet and start drinking litres of water. The detoxification process is an ongoing process of cleansing in your body.  Toxins and unwanted waste products are eliminated mainly through our skins via sweat, urine and digestive waste.

Q: What does your body need to be cleansed from?

A: The main excretory systems in your body, the digestive tract and the urinary system, eliminate a variety of compounds from your body on a daily basis. Your blood is filtered by your liver and kidneys that  assist in eliminating natural waste products and toxins from the body. Natural waste products include the metabolites or breakdown products from the foods we eat, as well as waste products from the body’s normal metabolic functions. Natural waste products include electrolytes, mineral salts, uric acid and urea from the proteins we eat, and even the breakdown products of vitamins found in the foods and nutritional supplements we ingest. Environmental waste products include pollutants that enter the body through the water we drink, air we breathe and foods we eat.  Well known dietary toxins include alcohol and caffeine.

Q: What causes the symptoms of detoxification such as headaches and joint pains?

A: Headaches are predominantly caused by caffeine withdrawal in cases where a person regularly consumes caffeine through coffee, tea, cola soft drinks, lemonade soft drinks, energy tonics, energy drinks, painkillers, slimming tablets and even chocolate, which contains a component called theobromine, similar to caffeine.  Dehydration may also contribute to headaches in cases where diuretics are used, or where fluid intakes are insufficient. Joint pains and body aches are caused by disturbances of the electrolyte balance, as well as the mobilization of unwanted substances or toxins previously trapped in your body tissues, resulting in higher levels of these harmful substances in your bloodstream.

Q: When do you need to follow a detox plan?

A: Ideally never. Detoxification should ideally not provide and excuse to smoke, drink alcohol, eat processed foods and following an unhealthy lifestyle of stress, insufficient sleep, lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet. People that drink 6-8 glasses of water per day, eat a diet filled with fresh organic produce, exercise regularly, sleep enough and manage stress do not need to follow any detox plans. In fact, people that follow this type of lifestyle usually do not experience any symptoms or side effects when following a detox diet, as their bodies are not overloaded with natural and environmental toxins.

Q: Are there any potential harmful effects of detoxification?

A: Detoxification should be exercised under practitioner supervision. Even though it is intended to benefit health, beware of the following unintended consequences.

Bad habits: Many people that regularly visit health spas lead pressured and stressful lifestyles lack regular exercise, sufficient rest and nutritionally balanced meals. Plus, in anticipation of a detoxification plan, many people feel entitled to overindulge in smoking, drinking, drug abuse and unbalanced meals high in additives, fat, refined sugars and starches, salt. The problem is that the harmful effects of an unbalanced lifestyle and unhealthy diet cannot be corrected or eliminated by a 10 day detox plan.

Weight loss followed by weight gain: Firstly, for those wanting to shed a few kilograms by following a detox diet, beware. The body’s metabolic rate slows down with up to 25% during a fast or energy restricted detox diet. Even though short term energy deprivation may help reduce body weight over the short-term, this is almost guaranteed to be followed by rapid weight gain after the person returns to their normal diet. Future attempts may be less successful, which is linked to our highly sophisticated metabolic responses to starvation.

Nutrient deficiencies: Any detoxification diet is likely to be nutrient deficient. Even a healthy balanced diet including 5 portions of fresh fruit and vegetables is not likely to provide optimum nutrition. This may be very relevant for a person with already low levels of essential nutrients such as iron.

Reduced energy and concentration: Many people feel exhausted and light-headed during detoxification. This may be the result of a drop in blood pressure and / or blood glucose levels. Ask any person who suffers with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or low blood pressure what these physiological states can do to your concentration and energy levels. People with low blood pressure are likely to faint while following a detoxification diet.

4 Foods to support liver cleansing:
  • ARTICHOKES: Artichokes and artichoke extract is well known for it’s role in stimulating the flow of bile from the liver to the digestive tract to aid in digestion.
  • BITTER VEGGIES: Bitter tasting vegetables such as endive and rocket are known to stimulate the liver to produce bile, which helps with the digestion of fatty foods.
  • PARSLEY: Parsley is packed with chlorophyll and antioxidants and it’s diuretic effects support the body’s excretion of natural waste products.
  • OAT BRAN: Oat bran is rich in soluble dietary fibre that is known to help with the elimination of cholesterol through re-absorption and excretion of cholesterol metabolites in the digestive system.