New Year: Time to Cleanse? (Part 1: Detoxifying)

Taken by Francesca Hotchin
In the New Year, we often hear about juice cleanses and detox diets to “start the year off right” or “jumpstart weight loss” or “undo the effects of holiday indulgences.”

But are they really necessary? What are the risks and benefits? Are they safe? 

I'll explore these questions and more in a 3 part series. Let's begin...

Do I Need a New Year’s Cleanse?

NO! You absolutely do not need to do a juice cleanse or start a detox diet in the New Year.

Why not?

Our bodies naturally detoxify our bodies daily. Our kidneys filter our blood, remove extra or unhelpful elements, and then excrete them in our urine. 

This is one reason dialysis is important for people in kidney failure. Dialysis filters or “cleanses” the blood when are kidneys can’t do that.

We also eliminate waste products via stool. Some compounds are also removed via sweat or even breathing. 

You probably learned in school that we breathe out CO2. People with breathing problems sometime retain too much CO2, which can result in a variety of symptoms: confusion, panic attacks, muscle twitching, irregular heartbeat, seizures, and loss of consciousness.

With every breath you exhale, you remove a compound that can be harmful in high quantities.  
See? Your body is literally cleansing itself all the time.

I heard our bodies might not detoxify enough. Is that true? What can I do about it?

Yes, it is true that sometimes our bodies do not remove toxins well enough. 

This is one reason dialysis is important for people in kidney failure. Dialysis filters or “cleanses” the blood when are kidneys can’t do that.
Taken by Jonathan Perez

Doctors can also prescribe medications that help eliminate toxins. For example, people with kidney failure may take “phosphate binders,” such as PhosLo and Renvela. These drugs do what their name suggests—they bind to phosphate and remove phosphate from the body when the drug is excreted.

 As mentioned above, breathing problems can also affect elimination of harmful compounds. In this case, the patient may take medication to improve breathing or they may need mechanical or artificial respiration. 

There are a variety of other reasons and other solutions. For example, someone may have their stomach pumped after ingestion of a toxin or they may be given charcoal to neutralize the toxin. 

This is not the appropriate place to discuss all possible medical conditions related to ingestion of toxins or failure to remove potentially harmful compounds. 

If you think or know you have ingested a toxin, please contact call 911 or head to the nearest emergency room. If you are concerned about the possibility that your body is not properly excreting potentially harmful substances, please consult your doctor. 

Do you have more questions about juice cleanses and detox diets? Don't worry, there are two more posts about them coming soon. Ask your questions below and I'll answer them. 

Sneak Peek: Post 2 will discuss possible reasons for and the safety of cleanses and detoxes. In post 3, I'll recommend some other healthy eating and drinking ideas. 


The information provided in this blog is not intended to replace individualized medical advice provided by your own doctor, dietitian, or other healthcare professional.
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