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Why a Spring Detox is All the Rage. Plus, Tips for Choosing a Quality Detox Program

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Have you ever made a New Year’s Resolution only to fall short soon after you began? Creating new habits during the new year may seem ideal, but in reality, it can be more challenging than you think. The calendar new year occurs amid winter – a season when your body craves rest, and your mind calls for introspection. Beginning new goals and habits during this time may conflict with nature and your body’s natural rhythm.  

If you have struggled to maintain your New Year’s Resolutions—don’t worry; there is still time for a new beginning: the spring equinox. In this blog, we’ll discuss why the spring season is the optimal season for change, how detoxification can help your health goals, detox “red flags”, and how to choose a quality detoxification program. Let’s dive in!    

Why Spring Is the Optimal Season for Motivational Change

Occurring on March 19th, the spring equinox is also known as nature’s ‘new year’ – a season of rebirth. Nature’s calendar is not the only one to begin its year with spring. The astrological calendar also starts in conjunction with the spring equinox, beginning with the first zodiac sign, Aries. Represented by the ram, Aries is bold, fiery, and takes charge. This season brings you overwhelming energy and determination to achieve the goals you set out to accomplish during the natural new year. These motivational aspects that naturally occur when spring arrives may be the reason, we may feel inspired to start new projects that tend to be focused on life improvements. Whether it’s tidying up your house, cleaning out your closet, or reorganizing the garage, these familiar home improvement chores often happen in the spring and give the term ‘spring cleaning’ its meaning! Spring cleaning is also a perfect metaphor for working on health goals, and engaging in a detoxification program is a perfect way to initiate a “spring cleaning” for your body and mind. 

The First Step in Any Self-improvement Project is to Remove Barriers – and Toxins Can Definitely be a Barrier to your Health! 

A body bogged down with toxins simply will not respond optimally to exercise, diet, supplements, and lifestyle changes. Think about toxins like a kink in a hose – you could have the very best water (food, exercise routine, supplements) flowing through the hose, but if the kink is there, it will prevent the water from reaching your tree and helping it grow and flourish. Clearing toxins from the body with a quality detoxification protocol can remove that barrier, allowing all the good things you do with your diet and lifestyle to have an optimal effect. In other words, detoxifying your body can give you the additional energy, mental clarity, and motivation you need to reach your goals!   

We are exposed to an alarming array of chemicals (many of which demonstrate harmful health effects) every day, far more than were faced by previous generations. And many of the toxins are man-made! Did you know we interact with at least 140,000 man-made toxins daily? Research shows that women are exposed to at least 168 of these synthetic chemicals daily while men are exposed to half as many chemicals (which is still a LOT of chemicals)! (Source)  

While our bodies have built-in detoxification mechanisms, today’s unprecedented toxin exposure can quickly overwhelm those systems, leading to health challenges. (Source)   

For optimal health, we do our best to avoid known toxins, and we should also help our bodies eliminate synthetic chemicals and recover from excessive dietary indulgences (like holiday sugar and alcohol intake) via a comprehensive detox at least once a year.  

How Detoxification Can Help Your Health Goals

Chances are, you have some health (and life) goals! You may be looking to conceive, lose those 20lbs, get your blood sugar under control, or run your first marathon. Detoxification can expedite your journey towards achieving these health goals (and more)! Here’s how:  

  • Toxin exposure is strongly associated with impaired reproductive health in men and women and difficulty conceiving. For example, bisphenol A (BPA) found in plastics, the lining of canned foods, and thermal receipt paper decreases sperm quality and motility. Phthalates in soft plastics and personal care products can reduce egg quality. Toxins can also impair fertility by altering hormone levels and impairing egg implantation. (Source, Source, Source)  
  • Toxin exposure (especially to plastic chemicals and PFAS) may drive weight gain (and weight regain after dieting) and make it difficult to lose weight. It’s possible that reducing one’s toxin burden may make weight loss easier and more sustainable. (Source, Source)  
  • Preliminary research suggests that toxins may impair cardiorespiratory fitness, including reducing the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood, which can impair athletic performance. If you have athletic performance goals, a detox might help! (Source, Source)  

How Does Detoxification Work?

To understand what to look for in a high-quality detox, it is essential to understand what is happening in your body during detoxification. Detoxification can be broken down into phases: Phase I, II, and III.  

In Phase I detoxification, your body uses enzymes (especially cytochrome P450 enzymes) to add a reactive substance, such as oxygen, to toxins to prepare them for the next detox stage, Phase II. While we often associate detox primarily with the liver, Phase I detox occurs in the liver, gut, kidneys, brain, and lungs.   

Phase I can create highly reactive metabolites; if these are not quickly shuttled into Phase II, oxidative stress and inflammation can occur.  

In Phase II, your body attaches compounds like glutathione and glycine to toxins, making them water-soluble and ready for excretion. This process also happens in the liver.   

In Phase III, tiny transporters in cells in the liver and gut move toxins out of cells and into your bile (a crucial digestive fluid that becomes a part of your stool) and urine so the toxins can be removed from your body.   

As you can see, detoxification is a complex process! This is why fad juice cleanses and bone broth “fasts” simply don’t cut it to support detoxification. In fact, detox programs that ignore all phases of detox can cause free radical damage (through improper Phase II support) and toxin recirculation (through improper Phase III support), making you feel worse rather than better! 

Red Flags to Look Out for in Detoxification Programs

There are several red flags to look out for that may indicate you’re looking at a fad detox rather than a real, effective detox:  

  1. “Detox” diets that are overly restrictive (such as those that only allow the consumption of juices or broth)  
  1. Detoxes that promise BIG results in a short period  
  1. Detoxes that promise rapid weight loss  

Red Flag #1: Beware of Detox Diets That Are Overly Restrictive  

While restrictive “detox diets” like a juice cleanse or bone broth fast may sound like a fast pass to detoxification, the reality is that these diets don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to supporting detoxification!   

Most restrictive diets lack nutrients your body needs for detoxification, such as fiber and adequate protein. With a strict vegan diet, you may come short on amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that support the production of key detox compounds, such as glutathione, not to mention vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and bioavailable zinc.   

A balanced diet centered around whole, organic foods with plenty of nutritious proteins, fibrous vegetables, healthy fats, and filtered water is a far better option for supporting detoxification than a restrictive fad diet. (Source)   

What about fasting? Fasting can indeed assist detoxification by upregulating a process called “autophagy.” Autophagy is your body’s cellular housekeeping process; it breaks down and eliminates old, dysfunctional cellular components to make room for new ones. (Source)  

However, fasting alone, without the strategic use of evidence-based detoxification ingredients, may not be enough to properly eliminate toxins and correct the multi-system dysfunction caused by toxins. Intermittent fasting can certainly be a part of your detox strategy (be sure to check with your healthcare provider before implementing any fasting). However, it should not be your sole detox strategy.   

Red Flag #2: Avoid Detoxes That Promise BIG Results in a Short Period 

Toxins build up in our bodies over weeks, months, and years. As a result, it takes some time to detox your body effectively. Be wary of detoxes that claim dramatic results in just a few days, as it is doubtful that these short-lived “detoxes” will deliver on those promises! Try a gentler but more prolonged detox so your body can eliminate toxins over time.   

Red Flag #3: Be Wary of Detoxes That Promise Rapid Weight Loss 

“Detoxes” that cause rapid weight loss over a few days or weeks are most likely causing you to lose body water, not fat, and may be doing little to nothing to support detox! Furthermore, these types of diets usually are followed by rapid weight regain as soon as you stop the diet.    

Losing body fat (the type of “weight” loss most people strive for) takes time. Expecting to lose many lbs. of body fat quickly is unrealistic and potentially harmful; rapid fat loss could release toxins from fat tissue into your bloodstream, acutely increasing the toxic load in your blood. Rapid fat loss may also downregulate your body’s basal metabolic rate (BMR), the number of calories your body burns carrying out essential functions such as heart and brain function; a reduced BMR can damage your metabolism and ultimately promote weight regain and weight loss resistance – not a recipe for success if weight loss is one of your New Year’s goals! Slow and steady fat loss is what we should strive for when detoxing.   

What to Look for in a High-Quality Detox Program

Now that you understand the three red flags of fad detoxes look instead for the following features that indicate an evidence-based, effective detox program:  

  1. Uses evidence-based ingredients.  
  1. Supports detox based on the phases of detoxification   
  1. Guides you through a structured detox rather than a haphazard detox plan  

Invest in a Program That Addresses the Three Phases of Detox 

Each detoxification phase requires specific nutrients for optimal function. For a detox to truly work, it should include ingredients that support each detox phase. Here are some phase-specific ingredients to look for in a quality detox program:  

  • Glutathione, the body’s “master antioxidant,” supports Phases I and II of detoxification. It can bind to various toxins, such as mercury and POPs, enabling them to be eliminated. (Source)  
  • Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), a sulfur-based compound that functions as an antioxidant, is part of the Phase II Nrf2 detox system. Nrf2 stands for “nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor (Nrf2) and is a protein that helps turn genes involved in detoxification “on” or “off.” ALA detoxifies heavy metals and helps regulate inflammation triggered by toxins.   
  • Milk thistle, an herb with a long history of use in traditional Western herbalism for supporting the liver, the body’s detox “hub,” can also help support Phase II detox through Nrf2 activation. (Source, Source)   
  • Bitter botanicals such as dandelion and myrrh link Phase II and Phase III detoxification, supporting Nrf2 and promoting bile flow, a key component of toxin elimination in Phase III. For example, dandelion (the same one that grows on your lawn!) enhances bile flow and upregulates the Nrf2 antioxidant pathway. Myrrh, a resinous substance derived from the Commiphora mukul tree native to India, increases the expression of the human bile salt export pump involved in bile production and enhances Nrf2 expression. (Source, Source, Source)  
  • Toxin binders are supplements that uniquely support phase III detoxification by “mopping up” toxins in your gut so they can be eliminated when you have a bowel movement instead of recirculating through your body. Natural toxin binders include activated charcoal, bentonite clay, and zeolite. For example, activated charcoal can detoxify gut-derived bacterial toxins, pesticides, and mycotoxins. (Source, Source, Source). 

Chances are your juice cleanse, bone broth fast, or strict vegan diet does not address each detox phase and certainly doesn’t provide all the nutrients needed to support each phase optimally.   

Choose a Structured Detox System 

Last, select a detox system that guides you through detox in a structured format. Your body processes toxins in a specific order, moving each toxin through Phases I, II, and III. An effective detox program should provide a structured system whereby specific ingredients are taken at consistent times to facilitate toxin metabolism and elimination.    

A structured detox will ensure that toxins are mobilized, transformed, and removed at a healthy rate that won’t overwhelm your body.   

The Bottom Line on a Spring Detox

There’s no better time than spring to invest in a high-quality science-backed detoxification program! When the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, you will have more success and consistency in your health routines. If you have big goals for your health, wellness, and performance this year, don’t let toxins hinder your success! “Cleaning and clearing” your body of toxins is a foundational first step towards building optimal health and having the clarity and energy to achieve your goals.  

To get the most bang for your buck, invest in a high-quality detox program that includes evidence-based ingredients, addresses the three crucial phases of detox, and delivers a structured system for cleansing your body. Cheers to a healthier, happier, rejuvenated you this Nature New Year!  

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