The world of health is incredibly complex, and it's riddled with people just waiting to take advantage of that complexity. Biology and medical science are incredibly deep and complex fields, such that people can spend decades studying a single kind of process in the body and still not entirely understand everything it affects. For example, did you know there are hormones we've identified but don't know what they do?
As a layperson, it can be difficult to understand what's real and what isn't. Physicians often aren't the best at explaining things in concise terms, and there's even disagreement in the medical community about certain subjects. All of this results in the millions of websites claiming to have the secret to solving all manner of medical issues, using such and such a process, supplement, ingredient, diet, or plan.
Detoxing is no different. There are some truths, some widely-believed half-truths, and some falsehoods on the market. It's important that you know the facts before you invest too heavily in any one product or process.
What Is a Metabolic Detox?
Today, we wanted to talk about metabolic detox. This form of detox differentiates itself quite a bit in comparison to the normal detox process.
First, though, let's talk about detoxing in general. It's true that our lives are saturated with toxins. Our bodies make some, simply as byproducts of natural bodily processes. We take in others, through the foods we eat; our bodies process a lot, but not everything. We're also exposed to yet others, through the water we drink, the air we breathe, simply saturating the planet as part of over a century of industrialization.
Our bodies can naturally handle a lot of toxins. Our digestive systems are adept at separating nutrients from toxins, shuttling the nutrients away to be used and the toxins down the pipe to be excreted. Our livers help filter our blood, our kidneys filter blood as well, removing excess acids and water from our systems. (Did you know that too much water is dangerous? It's true!) Toxins are isolated, broken down, and expelled through breath, sweat, urine, and stool.
The thing is, our bodies evolved to handle the environmental toxins present on the planet at the time. We're talking things like too much salt or minerals in the water, or food that itself absorbed nastiness from the ground. Natural elements like arsenic, for example. We didn't evolve to handle complex pesticides, industrial run-off, microplastics, and all the other nonsense our society has shed into the environment over the centuries.
Our bodies sometimes can use a little bit of help with the natural bodily processes that remove toxins from our systems. That's where detox comes in to play.
What's the Difference Between a Regular and a Metabolic Detox?
You've probably heard of detoxing before, and you picture skinny women drinking shakes or suffering through days where the only thing they can drink is some lemon-infused water. Thankfully that's mostly just a stereotype. Proper detoxes can also come in all forms of supplements and juices to make things a little easier.
The primary goals of detox methods are to rid your body of toxins, lose weight, and generally raise your standard of health.
Metabolic detox is a bit different than normal detox. A metabolic detox recognizes that your body has an existing process to handle toxins and that it can occasionally become overwhelmed with the volume of what it has to process and ends up accidentally storing some unwanted toxins. Metabolic detoxification adjusts your diet to "unlock" those toxins, freeing them up so your body can appropriately deal with them.
That being said, not everyone's body will be able to keep up with a metabolic detox. Not everyone is going to have the same results, and as we mention later there are some side effects that may come as a serious hurdle.
How Does a Metabolic Detox Work?
A typical metabolic detox has three phases, though we believe there should be a fourth as well. Those phases are:
Phase one: unlock. The first phase is designed to stimulate your body into unlocking toxins stored in your body alongside nutrients. This transforms the toxins into more water-soluble forms, which makes it easier for your body to process and remove them.
This phase is the most dangerous because unlocked toxins are free to move throughout your body. If that sounds scary, don't worry; it's a natural bodily process that happens all the time anyway. All you're doing is assisting it. That's why this phase is immediately followed by:
Phase two: neutralize. The second phase uses a combination of specially chosen nutrients that target and counteract extant toxins and others that bolster and augment the function of your metabolic systems, including your liver and kidneys. It's meant to capture those extant toxins and neutralize them, processing them to be excreted at the next available opportunity. This leads us to:
Phase three: eliminate. The third phase promotes excretion. That means drinking plenty of water to aid in digestion and bodily processing, as well as some laxative ingredients that promote the passage of stool.
Phase four is not actually part of a traditional detox, but we like to recommend it as well; protection. This phase is ongoing adjustments to your diet and lifestyle to eliminate sources of toxins. Switching away from junk food and towards healthier foods. Switching from factory-farmed foods to organically and naturally farmed produce. Switching to more natural forms of transportation, getting more fresh air, and so on. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say. If you avoid toxins as much as possible in your day-to-day life, you'll have less of a need for a cleanse or detox along the way.
What to Expect When Doing a Metabolic Detox
You're used to the daily processes your body goes through, and the generalized aches, pains, and other symptoms you experience in your natural cycles. When you detox, you're accelerating those processes, making them work faster, harder, and more effectively. Unfortunately, this process is not without its side effects. So what kind of side effects might you expect?
Headaches. Headaches can be caused by two different issues with a detox. The first is dehydration. Even if you're drinking more water or water-based beverages like tea, your body is also using more water to do what it needs to do. Dehydration can lead to a headache. The other reason is withdrawals. When you're going through a metabolic detox, you're cutting out a lot of the toxins you take in, including caffeine, processed sugars, and other addictive substances. Your body, used to getting them, suffers without them. Headaches are one of the most common symptoms.
Tiredness and irritability. Dehydration and withdrawals from substances like caffeine can cause these issues as well. Headaches can lead to poor sleep, and all of the above can lead to irritability. You may also experience swings in your blood sugar while your body struggles to process all of these changes.
Cravings. There are two kinds of cravings you'll experience during a metabolic detox. The first is similar to withdrawals; the cravings you get for the foods and substances you're withdrawing from. When you cut out sugar, you'll crave something saccharine-sweet. When you cut out caffeine, you'll crave the energy boost. When you cut out junk food, you'll crave something you can't quite identify, which is usually just salt.
The other kind of craving is generalized food cravings. Metabolic detoxes generally limit what you can eat, though not nearly as much as something like a juice cleanse. You'll want to snack or break your fasts with treats, but you'll need to resist those urges.
There's also some evidence that suggests your gut flora may influence your cravings. Gut bacteria thrive on either fiber or sugar (in general), with the good bacteria liking fiber and the bad bacteria liking sugar. When you cut out sugar, your gut bacteria cry out, demanding more, and that triggers your body to crave it. Don't give in to those pesky little pests.
Digestive issues. A detox is a wild shift in what you're eating and, in some cases, how you're eating. You'll see quite a bit of change in your digestive routine as you settle in. Some people experience an initial bout of constipation, and then the opposite. Some people end up experiencing the push of the laxatives more strongly. Just about everyone will increase the amount of water and liquids they drink, leading to frequent trips just to pee.
You can do a little to counteract this, but in general, you don't necessarily want to. This is the third phase of your detox in action: eliminating the toxins. Keeping them inside your body for longer isn't going to do your body any favors, and while it won't necessarily hurt you, it's not really helping much either.
What Should You Consume During a Metabolic Detox?
The exact selection of foods you need to cut out, and what you need to consume instead, varies from person to person. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you talk to your doctor about adjusting your diet and proceeding with a metabolic detox. It might not be right for you, or it might risk exacerbating other health issues. On the other hand, it might be a great way to kick-start a healthier diet.
In general, you'll be looking at eating more of these nutrients:
- Vitamins. In particular, A, B2, B3, B9, C, and E are all beneficial in phases one and two of the metabolic process. They can help accelerate the transition of toxins from fat-soluble to water-soluble.
- Minerals. Iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, selenium, and zinc are all-powerful minerals for your body to use as fuel for certain kinds of biological processes. A good multivitamin likely has plenty of these, though you may want to ask your doctor if you have any deficiencies that should be addressed.
- Herbs. There are a handful of plants, both herbs, and vegetables, that include phytonutrients that are very good at assisting with the metabolic detoxification process. These include green tea, milk thistle, and artichoke. Tea also helps in that it's a good source of nutrient-rich water for your body to fuel its processes.
There are also a variety of amino acids, enzymes, flavonoids, and other compounds you can get to help with the process. Ingredients like sulfur, NAC, EGCG, silymarin, alpha-lipoic acid, and curcumin can all have a beneficial impact. Keep in mind, though, that studies on these ingredients individually aren't very conclusive, so you'll basically be picking a wide range of options and throwing them against the wall to see what sticks.
Is a Metabolic Detox Right for You?
To sum things up, the biggest question is right here: should you do a metabolic detox program?
We say yes, of course. A good metabolic detox regimen helps cut bad ingredients out of your diet and lifestyle, replacing them with nutrients your body needs and can use to thrive. Just remember that a metabolic detox may not be right for everyone. Every person's body is different and thus will react differently to different actions.
A metabolic detox can be an abrupt, large shift in your lifestyle. Some people aren't able to keep up with it, and it can trigger lingering health issues to come to the fore. You'll likely suffer for a short time before you overcome all of those symptoms and side effects. If you persevere, you'll likely come out the other side feeling better than ever, but it's easy to want to give up in the middle of the process.
We highly recommend focusing on lifestyle changes as well. The more you can do to remove environmental toxins and toxins from your diet, the better off you'll be. This can include a wide range of actions, from a healthier diet to using more natural cleaning products to avoiding high-pollution areas where you live.
Regardless of how you go about it, though, we wish you good luck on your journey.