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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Eki Wari and Physician Lim Sock Ling on September 20, 2022

Do’s And Don’ts When You Go On A Detox Diet

A detox diet doesn't have to be a diet at all. Incorporate these tips into your daily routine and you'll naturally support the organs that purge toxins.

Dos and donts detox diet min scaled

A detox diet is usually advertised as a quick way to lose weight, purge toxins, and fix underlying health issues.

However, many are not safe. This is especially true if they ask you to limit your calorie intake to dangerously low levels. Other harmful techniques include taking laxative pills, which can dehydrate and cause digestive upset.

The truth is that your body is already equipped with all of the detox equipment you need. Namely, your liver, intestine, kidneys, sweat glands, and lungs already take care of this.

Therefore, if you want to detox, consider supporting these organs to help your body naturally purge toxins.

In this article, we’ll discuss the do’s and don’ts of doing on a detox diet. You’ll also learn how to safely purge potentially harmful substances from your body.

Why Do We Need A Detox Diet?

Detox diets have negative stigmas attached to them, usually because they ask you to limit calories to very low levels.

Detox diets are designed to get rid of toxins in the body.

From pollution to food additives, environmental toxins are all around us. However, there are other toxic materials in our bodies, too.

Known as endogenous toxins, these toxins are by-products of the metabolic process. They are produced during the breakdown of sugar, fat, and protein.

An overaccumulation of endogenous toxins can lead to organ dysfunctions and chronic illnesses. For example, the over-accumulation of glucose can result in diabetes and its complications, including heart disease.

There are also exogenous toxins, such as heavy metal poisoning, which occur due to food consumption or the use of certain medications. 

What Does TCM Say About Going On A Detox Diet?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) classifies toxins as external (Wind, Heat, Cold, pollution) and internal (Stagnation, Blood Stasis, accumulation of Phlegm, and a build-up of Heat). 

The Liver is in charge of removing toxins from your body, producing bile, and performing essential metabolic functions. It also regulates qi (vital energy), and stores blood, which circulates qi around the body and supports the functioning of your organs, limbs, and tissues. If it isn’t in tip-top condition, it can cause serious health problems.

Some signs of poor Liver health include a pale complexion, acne, bloodshot eyes or blurry vision, muscular weakness, and insomnia. The Liver also helps regulate emotions. If you’re experiencing unexplained irritability and anger, it might indicate a problem with the Liver.

In TCM, there are some key recommendations and products that can become part of a detox program. TCM practitioner in Singapore, Physician Lim Sock Ling offers the following insights.

Physician Lim suggests eight detox methods: 

  • Perspiration 
  • Purgation 
  • Harmonization 
  • Warming 
  • Heat-clearing 
  • Regurgitation 
  • Elimination 
  • Nourishment 

“These are safe when used appropriately according to one’s body constitution,” says physician Ling. “For example, should there be food stagnation leading to abdominal discomforts, poor appetite, or constipation, using herbs with the purgative effect would be appropriate and safe.” 

Physician Lim also suggests some TCM treatments and herbs that can help you eliminate toxins. Herbs that support the Liver in its natural detoxification process are ginger, saffron flower, turmeric, dandelion root, and Chinese barley. These herbs also work to detox the Lungs and Kidneys 

In Western medicine, herbs like coriander, nori, and olestra are known to have detoxification properties.

Tips For Doing A Detox Diet Correctly

The safest way to remove toxins from your body is by keeping the organs that naturally detoxify your body in tip-top condition. Here’s how.

1. Eat a “clean” diet

Clean eating refers to eating whole foods that are high in antioxidants and fiber, such as fruits and vegetables.

A clean diet is necessary to maintain health. Complete your diet plan with fresh fruits and vegetables every day. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are known to have detoxification properties include:

  • Bitter gourd
  • Sweet potato leaves
  • White radish
  • Tomato
  • Mushroom
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Kelp
  • Celery
  • Apple
  • Lemon

Remember to limit your intake of processed, oily, deep-fried, cold, raw, and fatty foods containing high levels of salt or sugar. 

Eating clean is also about having good eating habits. Avoid overeating.

TCM believes that overeating can impair Spleen function. It overburdens the organ system, triggering excessive production of body fluids. These fluids can cause Dampness onset and turn into phlegm, resulting in symptoms of Phlegm-Dampness such as bloating, strong body odor, excess sweat or mucus, and feeling like your bowels aren’t emptied.

It’s better to consume several small meals a day instead of one large one. 

2. Drink lots of water

Dehydration will lead to a loss of qi and yin energies. Wash down your meals by drinking enough water. A cup of warm water in the morning can help flush out toxins. Try drinking six to eight cups of water daily. Insufficient fluids can cause issues that lead to toxin build-up, such as constipation and dehydration.

3. Have a bowel movement daily

Toxins can leave your body through bowel movements, so it’s important to be regular. People with constipation might find the use of laxatives appealing, but those can do more harm than good. Instead, try supplements for digestion problems made with natural ingredients. 

A high-quality probiotic supplement can help keep your bowels regular. You may also wish to take a fiber supplement to help you go to the bathroom daily.

4. Consider using herbs

Many herbs can help eliminate toxins. TCM believes that some herbs can fight the external and internal pathogens that poison you by acting on the detoxification organs, especially the Liver.

These herbs include ginger (Jiang), saffron flower (Zhang Hong Hua), turmeric (Jiang Huang), dandelion root (Pu Gong Ying), and Chinese barley (Yi Yi Ren). 

5. Exercise regularly

Working out is a sure way to keep your organs operating well. It also makes you sweat. Perspiration is one of the eight detoxification methods in TCM (the others being purgation, harmonization, warming, Heat-clearing, regurgitation, elimination, and nourishment).

6. Use TCM therapies

TCM focuses on treatments that can stimulate the detoxification organs and clear pathogens from the body. These treatments are: 

  1. Acupressure or acupuncture: Press on the Tai Chong (LR3), Zu San Li (ST36), and San Yin Jiao (SP6) acupoints to stimulate the Liver for detoxification.
  2. Cupping: To alleviate Blood Stagnation, rejuvenate circulation and remove Coldness and Dampness.
  3. Scraping (gua sha): To release the body from Blood Stasis and promote metabolic cell repair. 

7. Reduce stress and improve sleep quality

From TCM’s perspective, emotional imbalances can act as both the symptoms and causes of physical ailments. For instance, anger, depression, and stress can disrupt the workings of the Liver.

That’s why TCM recommends having a positive mindset and avoiding stressful situations to prevent the Liver from completing its detoxification process.

Emotional balance can also help you get a good night’s sleep, which has a positive impact on detoxification. In TCM, your body detoxifies toxins according to the meridian clock. The Liver meridian happens to fulfill its duty from 1 am to 3 am, while you’re asleep.

TCM suggests going to bed around 11 pm so the Liver can work optimally to dispose of toxins. Furthermore, high-quality sleep is crucial to strengthen immunity

A Detox Diet Doesn’t Have To Be A “Diet” At All

Drinking more water, eating healthy, and exercising regularly can help naturally cleanse the body.

A detox diet may be questionable, but clean and healthy eating habits are more reliable in removing toxins from your body.

Complement a balanced diet with enough water, exercise, regular bowel movements, sufficient sleep, and holistic treatments. Your body will thank you.

This is an adaptation of an article, “Do You Need a Detox?” that first appeared on the Health123 website.

References

  1. Medcrave. 2016. Endogenous Toxins as Disease Initiating Events: Future Targets of Drug Discovery Research [online]. Available at: <https://medcraveonline.com/JAPLR/endogenous-toxinsnbspas-disease-initiating-events-future-targets-of-drug-discovery-research.html
  2. Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon, On the Importance of Perspiration in Chinese Medical Diagnosis and Therapy, [online] Available at: http://www.itmonline.org/arts/perspire.htm 
  3. Researchgate, December 2020, Sweating as a Preventive Care and Treatment Strategy in Traditional Persian Medicine GMJ, [online], Available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/347909807_Sweating_as_a_Preventive_Care_and_Treatment_Strategy_in_Traditional_Persian_Medicine_GMJ 

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