Resetting Your System: Do Cleanses or Detoxes Work?
The holiday season often brings joy and festivities, but if you are like most people, you can overindulge in sugary and fatty foods, excess carbs, and alcohol. This can put an extra stretch on your waistband, but did you know your poor liver gets overworked and makes you feel less than jolly after the holidays?
You may be tempted to start a detox or a cleanse. But should you? And what does it really mean to be on a liver cleanse or detox anyway?
You’ll hear many people say it’s just a fad, but supporting your liver’s detoxification pathways can truly get you back to feeling better and start you on a positive health journey in the new year or any time of the year.
What’s the difference between a cleanse and a detox?
In my opinion and how I explain it to my patients, I define a cleanse as a gentle detox. A cleanse takes a little longer and avoids the detoxing feeling that people complain about. The way I set up a cleanse, you can avoid that horrible detoxing feeling, because as you read further you will see that the feeling of brain fog, fatigue, and just feeling crappy that goes along with some detoxes that are too much too fast, is the result of overloading one phase of the liver’s detoxification process instead of supporting the healthy and efficient movement from one phase to another.
So let’s first help you understand the liver’s detoxification/cleanse process and how a gentle cleanse can be crucial for bouncing back to optimal health.
Understanding Liver Detoxification
The liver’s detoxification is a two-phase process:
Phase 1 Detoxification (Functionalization Phase): Imagine your are making a recipe. You have all the ingredients that are going to go into the recipe to make the dish but you likely also have remnants from some of the ingredients that you throw out. The ingredients’ remnants and some leftovers might end up in your garbage disposal. The food is pulverized in that disposal and heads through the plumbing into the city’s system and eventually to a wastewater treatment plant. Now think about the food that you eat and what you drink. Like the garbage disposal, your stomach breaks down the food so it can travel through the body’s plumbing (the intestines) more easily.
After food is digested in the stomach and intestines, nutrients (along with other substances, even toxins) are absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to the liver. The liver acts as a processing center, converting these nutrients into forms the body can use or something to get rid of. Think of your liver as the city’s treatment facility. The first phase of liver detoxification involves your liver acting as the treatment plant. It uses special tools (enzymes from the cytochrome P450 family) to collect and treat the substances that travel to the liver and lets the body use some of the nutrients and some to be stored, but it also packages some to be removed. What the body tries to remove are called metabolites. Some of these metabolites may be useful and some just need to be eliminated. If these metabolites don’t move to the next phase in the process efficiently (like the remnants of food that get stuck in the treatment plant that get smelly and gross), these metabolites can sit around and wreak havoc on our system, making you experience hangover symptoms, sluggishness, brain fog, irritability or fatigue. The metabolites produced in this phase can become problematic if they linger too long.
Phase 2 Detoxification (Conjugation Phase): The Trash Disposal Process
Phase 2 is like taking those smelly processed remnants of food and adding a special powder at the treatment plant to break them down, or neutralize them. In the body, some examples of substances added to the remnants from digestion are called glutathione, sulfur, or amino acids, among others). At your city’s treatment plant they neutralize the odors and break down the sewage into a form that can be reused or gotten rid of. In the body, this phase converts the metabolites of Phase 1 into water-soluble forms that can be excreted. Our liver is converting these metabolites into forms that the body can excrete so they don’t cause more inflammation and other problems by getting back in the system when they should be eliminated through urine, bile, and feces. At least, that is the way it is supposed to go, if the liver is working well.
This efficient two-step process of collecting and then properly disposing of what our body doesn’t need helps to ensure that our body remains healthy, free from the discomfort of accumulated waste products. Just like how a well-maintained house with plumbing that works, feels more comfortable, smells more pleasant and just feels healthy to live in, a body with an efficient detoxification process feels more energetic and vibrant and is easier to live with.
The Impact of Overindulgence on Liver Health
Excessive consumption of alcohol, highly processed carbs, and fatty and sugary foods during the holidays can overwhelm these detoxification phases and slow them down. If you have ever experienced a hangover, you know what I am talking about. The feeling of being hungover is the result of those inflammatory metabolites broken down from the alcohol that are hanging out in our bodies and not getting moved from phase one to phase two efficiently.
Can you help this detoxification process move along?
Absolutely! Getting back on track with a healthy eating plan works well as does staying hydrated and exercising. Staying hydrated is essential for flushing out toxins. Regular exercise enhances circulation and promotes sweating, aiding in the detox process. But a cleanse to assist the liver and its processes can be beneficial too.
What Can I Take To Help Support Liver Detoxification
Research has shown that fiber is an excellent adjunct to helping you improve your digestion and liver detoxification pathways.
What does fiber do?
- Binding Toxins: Fiber, especially soluble fiber, can bind to toxins and other waste products in the gut. This binding action helps to prevent the reabsorption of these toxins back into the bloodstream, which would otherwise require additional processing by the liver. By reducing the toxin load that returns to the liver, fiber indirectly supports the liver’s detoxification efforts.
- Promoting Gut Health: A healthy gut is crucial for efficient detoxification. Fiber is essential for maintaining a healthy gut microbiota, which plays a role in metabolizing and excreting toxins. A well-functioning gut also ensures that substances processed by the liver are efficiently excreted from the body.
- Facilitating Regular Bowel Movements: Fiber helps to bulk up stool and promotes regular bowel movements. This regularity is important for the timely excretion of toxins and waste products from the body, including those processed by the liver. Efficient bowel movements reduce the chance of toxins being reabsorbed into the bloodstream.
- Reducing the Burden on the Liver: High-fiber diets are linked to better blood sugar control and lower cholesterol levels. By helping to manage these aspects of metabolism, fiber reduces the overall workload on the liver, allowing it to focus more on its detoxification functions.
- Supporting Bile Excretion: Fiber can aid in the excretion of bile, which the liver uses to eliminate toxins. Some types of fiber bind to bile acids in the intestines and help in their excretion. This binding forces the liver to use cholesterol to produce more bile acids, which can have the beneficial side effect of lowering blood cholesterol levels.
- Anti-inflammatory Effects: Certain types of dietary fiber have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. Since inflammation can impair liver function, a diet high in fiber can indirectly support liver health by reducing systemic inflammation.
Note: If your body isn’t used to fiber it can actually back up your plumbing a bit (cause constipation) or irritate an inflamed bowel and cause diarrhea. So talk to your health practitioner before starting a fiber supplement.
What Herbs Can Contribute to Improving Liver Detoxification Pathways?
AIM’s Herbal Fiber Blend and Composure for Detox
For years now, I have been using a supplement called Herbal Fiber Blend for my patients wanting to start a gentle cleanse. I don’t believe in harsh detoxes. These ‘detoxes’ can make you feel much worse before you feel better. Instead, I find a gentle cleanse with fiber, herbs, and a good probiotic can really do the trick.
Herbal Fiber Blend in the United States has psyllium husk and herbs that can help the liver gently cleanse the system.
Some of the herbs beneficial for cleansing are
Rose Hips (Dog Rose)
Pumpkin Seed(Butternut squash seed)
Capsicum (Cayenne Pepper)
AIM’s Herbal Fiber Blend combines these cleansing herbs with fiber, essential for binding and eliminating toxins. They can help the inflammatory metabolites get converted and excreted out of the system so they are less likely to cause you to feel like you are detoxing. The blend also contains herbs that are natural laxatives so I don’t recommend being on this long term. But using it short term has helped many of my patients significantly improve bowel movements, decreases bloating, and feel like they are fully emptying without running to the toilet.
The supplement Composure is made up of mucilage herbs. They are herbs that help soothe the gut. Think of how aloe soothes sunburned skin. The combination of the herbs in Composure can do that for the gut as well as some of the herbs have been shown to aid in stress management, crucial for effective detoxification. I personally notice an improvement in my sleep as well with Composure.
The Role of Probiotics
Post-holiday cleansing should also include probiotics to restore gut health, crucial for effective detoxification. Probiotics can
- Strengthening The Lining of Your Gut: Think of your gut like a filter. Probiotics help make this filter strong so things that shouldn’t be getting into the blood stream are less likely to get in. . When less irritants reach your liver, it has less work to do in cleaning up.
- Lessening Bad Bacteria Toxins: Bad bacteria in your gut can create harmful substances. Probiotics are keep those bad bacteria in check. This means fewer harmful substances for your liver to deal with.
- Calming Down Inflammation: Inflammation is like a constant alarm in your body. It can make your liver’s cleansing job harder. Probiotics help calm down inflammation, making it easier for your liver to work.
- Helping with Bile Acid: Your liver makes something called bile to help digest food and get rid of toxins. Probiotics can help manage how bile is used in your gut, which indirectly helps your liver.
- Boosting Your Body’s Defense System: Your liver is a big part of your body’s immune system and it’s fight against bacteria, viruses, fungus, etc. Probiotics help strengthen your body’s immune system, so your liver isn’t overwhelmed.
- Helping with Fat in the Liver: Too much fat is bad for its health. A study on nature.com discusses how probiotics can decrease the symptoms of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and how they can improve liver function.
A post-holiday herbal cleanse is a powerful way to support your liver’s detoxification processes, especially after overindulgence. By understanding the liver’s two-phase detoxification process and incorporating specific herbs, probiotics, a healthy diet, adequate hydration, regular exercise, and stress management techniques, you can significantly enhance your liver’s ability to process and eliminate toxins and get your body back on track. Embrace this cleansing journey as a reset button for your body, setting the stage for a healthier, more balanced year ahead.
Call New You Health and Wellness at 414 299 8121, and we can drop ship a cleanse kit for you.
This information is for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor or pharmacist before starting any new supplement regimen, particularly if you have pre-existing health conditions or are on medication.
Aziz, M., Hemeda, S. A., Albadrani, G. M., Fadl, S. E., & Elgendey, F. (2023). Ameliorating effect of probiotic on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and lipolytic gene expression in rabbits. Scientific reports, 13(1), 6312. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-32584-7