If you've been browsing around in health circles for a while, you've definitely run into a variety of different detoxes and cleanses promoting their ability to heal all ailments, help you lose weight, and generally act as a cure-all for anything that's holding you down.
Unfortunately, the term "detox" has been used for everything from vitamin supplements to carefully-engineer diets. It's been used for so many different things that it has no meaning on its own.
A detox, ostensibly, is a supplement, diet, or program aimed at helping purge your body of toxins that build up through natural food consumption and environmental exposure. These toxins can be anything from some nebulously defined environmental poison to heavy metals like mercury.
The fact is, in most cases, your body has a natural way of detoxing; your liver. In conjunction with other organs, such as your kidneys, lungs, digestive system, and even your skin, your liver acts as the driving force behind natural detoxification.
Do detoxes work? Well, it depends what your goal is for the detox.
There's no magic cure-all that will purge your body of everything that ails it. "Detox" products that act as patches and pull toxins out through your skin, for example, are largely placebos. Conversely, detox products that work with your natural systems to bolster immune defenses and enhance liver function are much more likely to help.
The key to an effective detox is to boost the natural abilities your body already has, not to introduce a foreign system meant to help. Thus, good natural detox systems boost liver and kidney function, or help bind and pull toxins out of your system.
About High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a very common disease, particularly in America, though also throughout the world. It's a very dangerous disorder, and can lead to heart disease and other potentially fatal conditions.
Part of what makes high blood pressure so dangerous is that it can exist for years with no symptoms. It slowly damages your body from the inside out, while showing nothing outward that can point to it as a problem.
High blood pressure is characterized largely by tight, constricted arteries. Your heart tries to pump blood through your cardiovascular system, but the constricted arteries and vessels throughout your system make it more difficult. This puts pressure on both the heart and the arterial walls.
There are no outward symptoms for high blood pressure normally. In extreme cases you might experience headaches, shortness of breath, or nosebleeds, but these are typically symptoms that only occur when high blood pressure has already reached a critically dangerous level.
This is why doctors routinely measure blood pressure during normal visits. Even though it's an invisible disease, it's extremely easy to measure blood pressure using a cuff or other tool.
There are two kinds of high blood pressure.
The first kind is called "essential hypertension" and is simply a part of aging. Almost everyone develops this kind of high blood pressure gradually over the years, with no single definable cause.
The second kind is called "secondary hypertension" and it is more often caused by something obvious and definable. Causes range from tumors in the adrenal gland to birth defects to medication side effects to kidney disease.
The first kind of hypertension is the kind most likely to benefit from a detox, but only so long as that detox leads into a change in lifestyle to adjust to be healthier overall. Secondary hypertension isn't likely to be affected much by a detox, unless the cause is something that might be affected, like a thyroid problem.
What a Full Body Detox Does
A full body detox is the most comprehensive form of detox short of a medical intervention for drugs or alcohol abuse. Rather than limiting itself to a specific kind of diet, a specific set of supplements, or a specific set of habits, it combines all of them. Here's what a full body detox might involve:
Limiting or eliminating alcohol consumption. Alcohol itself is a poison, it's simply a poison that people enjoy in moderation. Worse, your body – specifically your liver – metabolizes alcohol into acetaldehyde, which is known to cause cancer and is a toxin itself. While there are some potential health benefits to small amounts of alcohol, such as wine, excess consumption is dangerous and can be deadly. Therefore, part of a full body detox is limiting or eliminating alcohol from your diet.
Focusing on sleep. Getting a good night's sleep is crucial for a number of bodily processes. It's a primary time where your body can focus on natural detoxification and healing. Taking steps to get better sleep – anything from adjusting evening habits to cutting out caffeine and sugar to taking medications – is critical.
Drinking more water. Your body needs water for just about everything, and almost no one gets enough water throughout the day. This is why juice cleanses can be beneficial; they're largely based in water, and increasing your water consumption helps your body heal and feel healthier.
Eating more antioxidants. Foods that are high in antioxidants can help your body with digestion, healing, and fighting off diseases. As part of a detox, you can get more antioxidants through supplements, through a changed diet, or both. This is why common detox instructions include diets full of berries, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and green tea, while eliminating processed foods, preservatives, and sugars. It's also why many detox supplements are high in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, lycopene, and other antioxidants.
Lowering sodium. Sodium, or salt, causes your body to retain water when it doesn't need to. This has various side effects from weight gain to bloating. Drinking more water helps with this, but so does reducing sodium intake. In some cases – so long as your doctor advises it – taking potassium supplements can help as well. Just be careful with this. Too much potassium can be just as damaging as too much sodium. You have to keep them in balance.
There are a ton of different detox programs out there. Some run for 7-14 days, some run for 30, and some are semi-permanent changes. It all depends on what your goals are, what your lifestyle currently is, and what changes you can make.
How a Full Body Detox Might Help
Hypertension may be extremely common, but it's also quite preventable. Using a detox to lead into lifestyle and dietary changes can be the step you need to deal with high blood pressure in a tangible way.
There are a number of different factors that contribute to hypertension. Some of them can be affected by a detox, and others cannot. Let's go through them!
Age. Sorry, but a detox isn't going to do anything about your age. No matter what you eat, it's not going to turn back time and make you younger.
Race. High blood pressure is more common amongst those of African descent, though it affects nearly everyone eventually. Again, this isn't a factor that a detox can affect, though it does mean that if you're of African descent, you may want to explore detox options earlier.
Family history. Genetic factors contribute to the risk of high blood pressure. If your family has a history of high blood pressure, particularly early onset high blood pressure, it might be an indication that you should start your detox and lifestyle changes as soon as possible, to help manage the risk.
Obesity. Being overweight is a huge contributing factor to high blood pressure. Obesity leads to a variety of peripheral diseases, including arterial clogging, fatty liver disease, and diabetes. Obesity makes it harder for your body to circulate nutrients to where they need to be. Additionally, the more tissue in your body, the more blood needs to circulate. The higher blood volume increases pressure on your arterial walls and on the heart.
A detox is important for obesity in that it can be the starting point for dietary and lifestyle changes that can help you lose weight. Be aware, though, that you aren't going to lose a significant amount of weight simply through some basic detoxification; you're going to need to make serious changes to both your diet and your activity levels to bring yourself down to a healthier weight.
Inactivity. A contributing factor in obesity, your level of physical activity is also a factor in high blood pressure. It might sound counter-intuitive, but the less active you are, the higher your resting heart rate typically will be. A higher heart rate means your heart is pumping harder, which increases blood pressure.
Tobacco use. Tobacco in general, and smoking specifically, is a dramatic increase in the risk of high blood pressure. The chemicals in tobacco are extremely damaging to pretty much every system they come in contact with. This includes your lungs, which ferry oxygen – laced with those chemicals – throughout your body. Tobacco use increases blood pressure immediately when you use it, and contributes to narrow arteries and high blood pressure both instantly and over time.
A detox may be a crucial part of weaning yourself off of tobacco use or going cold turkey. Of course, if you don't smoke or use tobacco at all, this isn't going to be a risk factor for you and a detox won't change it.
Vaping very likely has some negative health effects as well, particularly when the vape liquid you use is laced with nicotine. When used as a smoking cessation aid, this is fine. If you're vaping as a stand-alone habit and using nicotine products, it's possible that you're contributing to potential high blood pressure as well. More studies will need to be performed before this is confirmed, however.
Too much sodium. As mentioned above, having too much sodium in your diet can lead to a variety of negative symptoms. In fact, high sodium levels are one of the most common causes of early blood pressure, at least in Americans. Practically everything we eat is laced with sodium, either as salt or as sodium benzoate, a preservative. Avoiding it requires conscious effort.
In this case, a detox can help you adjust your diet to help minimize your sodium intake. Detoxing with any program that involves drinking plenty of water, alone or with a supplement or in a juice, can help as well.
Stress. High stress levels cause high blood pressure. This is often a temporary increase, though if you have chronic sources of stress in a stressful life, you may see chronic high blood pressure because of it.
A detox might or might not be able to help with stress. Detoxing can often be harsh on the body initially, particularly when you're doing a juice cleanse or other abrupt change. However, once you adjust and build healthier habits, the detox will help.
Medication. Some medications can cause high blood pressure as a side effect. This is commonly seen in birth control, cold remedies, decongestants, pain relievers, and some prescription drugs. So, basically, a little bit of everything.
A detox isn't likely to help with this unless it helps with whatever underlying syndrome is leading to your medication. If you have a cold, for example, a detox can help you get more water and nutrients to boost your immune system and fight it off, which means you won't need the medications. Conversely, if you're on a medication for chronic pain, or on birth control, a detox likely isn't going to do much to help.
Should You Try a Full Body Detox?
Why not? A detox is a great introduction to a healthier lifestyle. Starting a detox in conjunction with an increase in exercise and a shift to a healthier diet can go a long way towards curing various ailments and illnesses. A detox alone won't be a miracle cure, but it won't hurt you, and it has the potential to help. Why not give it a try?