Do we need to detoxify?

There are plenty of herbal teas, fluid supplements and various diets available to buy that all claim to detoxify the human body. Detoxify from the English dictionary means “to remove poison.” As humans do we really need to detoxify?

The answer is No.....

Having studied human physiology degree standard, there is one organ that already detoxifies our bodies (amongst other things) every day and night. It doesn’t rest and it will work harder when we do ingest a poison which is toxic to the body i.e. alcohol. This organ can still work effectively if it had been damaged and only a third remained in your body, and it will even grow back to its original size over time. This organ can be successfully transplanted from donor to recipient and continue to work effectively.  

Let’s hear it for the Liver!

 Functions of the liver

  • Once absorbed from your gastrointestinal tract the Liver processes the macronutrients that come from your diet e.g. Carbohydrates, proteins and lipids (fats), hence all three are majorly important in your daily diet.

  • It detoxifies or degrades (breaks down) body waste and hormones, as well as drugs like alcohol and caffeine.

  • It makes proteins that are transported through your blood e.g. clotting protein, useful if you cut yourself to stop bleeding and other hormone carrier proteins e.g. thyroid hormone for metabolism and cortisol hormone for adrenaline synthesis.

  • If you regularly participate in sports, the liver stores your carbohydrate as glycogen and works effectively with regular carbohydrate intake. The glycogen stores are automatically released when you are doing intensive activity after about 40 -50 minutes.

  • It also stores fat, iron which is essential in the transport of oxygen around the body, copper and vitamin A.

  • It activates vitamin D from sunlight working closely with the kidneys.

  • It produced macrophages (a bit like Pac man), which remove old blood cells and bacteria in the body.

  • It helps with excreting cholesterol and bilirubin ( a waste product of worn out blood cells)

  • It also helps with electrolyte balance e.g. sodium and potassium ensures that with adequate hydration that this remains normal.

Given the range of complex functions from the liver, it is an amazing organ and we actually have our own detoxification occurring in our body all the time. If you feel tempted to buy “detoxification products” think again as they are not needed and are often expensive and tasteless. If you are detoxifying then you are probably not eating much at all, although you will lose weight as you are reducing your calorie intake this can leave your immune function reduced, hence you are more likely to suffer coughs and colds and other conditions. In fact people who have detoxified have reported that they felt weak, tired, starving, dizzy and angry, which sounds more poisonous to the body and those around you.

Be nice to your Liver and it will look after you.

  • Maintain a balanced diet of the 3 macronutrients, carbohydrate, fat and protein.

  • Ensure adequate fluid intake daily this includes all fluids (except alcohol) tea, coffee, water, juice, milk and soups.

  • Watch your alcohol intake do not exceed the guidelines which are the same for men and women now no more than 14 units a week and not all at once.

  • Keep physically active

  • Stop smoking.

Claire Chaudhry RD BSc(Hons)