To detox or not to detox?

To detox or not to detox?

There seems to be so much hype around detoxing these days. It feels like there is always some new ‘detox diet’ being touted online, or some far out cleanse, a ‘reset’ programme, a 'tea-tox' or some intermittent fast to ‘clean out’ the system. (As uni students, many years ago now, there was the detox that was done before a re-tox, but let’s not dwell on that here…) So is it actually necessary to follow a strict detox regimen? Or is it all just a big have?

The answer is not a simple yes or no. According to naturopath Deanna Copland, the body is always detoxing naturally. “However, actively increasing water intake, herbal teas, fresh vegetables and fruits, and avoiding liver loaders such as alcohol, processed foods, red meat and chemicals in our foods for short periods is better than not doing it if these things regularly feature in the usual diet.” In short, if you are generally following a fairly healthy regime with limited processed foods and lots of whole foods, a detox programme is probably not needed.

Supporting this argument that for most people a very strict 'detox diet' or 'cleanse' is unnecessary is Dr Libby Weaver’s ‘flexitarian’ approach - or the ‘zig and zag’ approach. If most of the time we ‘zig’ - eat wholefoods, avoid alcohol, sugar and processed foods - we can then enjoy a ‘zag’ every now and then, where we can relax, enjoy a treat and have a drink, in the good company of our friends, without any impact on our overall health and well-being. In her book Women’s Wellness Wisdom, Weaver points out that most of us eat 35 times per week (3 meals and two snacks per day). If we ‘zig’ for 32 of those occasions, we can ‘zag’ for three of them, and it won’t cause us to put on weight or derail our health. Personally, I love this because I am the sort of person who will plan and start a new regime with so much enthusiasm and resolve, but if it’s very restrictive I will have fallen over by the end of week 1 (my attempt at the Paleo diet became a Paleo disaster in this very way). Life is too short to never have the good wine or the good cheese or the good chocolate, in my humble opinion. So this ‘flexitarian’ concept works well, and removes the need for strict ‘cleanses’ and ‘detox diets’. Weaver does point out, however, that some people thrive on a stricter approach, just as others (like me) do not.


But there are some times where a new approach is needed, especially after a busy month of social events (hello Christmas parties and summer barbecues) and relaxing the rules too often. It doesn’t have to be a set detox or reset, and what might work for one person may not work for another. In Dr Libby Weaver’s new book, What Am I Supposed To Eat?, she argues against the old thinking that counting calories will help us to lose weight. This method doesn’t take into account where the calories are coming from, and other factors such as stress, caffeine consumption and alcohol intake are not considered in this equation. Weaver favours a simple approach - stop dieting and the restrictive mindset of deprivation this leads to, and start nourishing yourself through food. Eat real, whole food. As she says in her book, “when you stop eating processed foods that interfere with your body’s natural rhythms and signals, you will get back in touch with what your body, not your tastebuds, wants.” It’s not a food trend or fad - it’s a commonsense approach, of being consistent but not having to be ‘perfect’, and finding out which foods work best for you.

As for supplements, it can be a good idea to use one if you’re not getting your full daily intake through food. Because our modern-day soils are often lacking in certain nutrients, it can help to boost these through a whole food supplement. An alkaline body is healthy one, and stress, sugar, alcohol and caffeine can cause our systems to become acidic, so if you are often feeling stressed or consuming a diet high in processed foods and drinks, a supplement will help support your body's functions and give you more energy, and help you sleep better. Magnesium is also a nutrient lacking in our foods these days, so a bath with magnesium salts (often called Epsom salts) added or a magnesium oil applied topically can be helpful for regaining some energy and soothing sore muscles. Magnesium is absorbed through the skin and it helps improve sleep quality, reduce stress and helps alleviate muscle cramps.

So - to detox or not to detox? The takeaway is, if most of the time we don’t overload our systems with stress, caffeine, alcohol, processed food and sugar, we don’t need a special detox or cleanse. If, however, we have been doing too much of all of the above, a little too often, a new approach is needed unless we want our health to suffer in the long-term. In any event, we probably shouldn’t think of it as a diet or a detox, but should take a back-to-basics, consistent approach and learn to nourish ourselves every day. 

If you feel like you could do with more magnesium in your life, find The Base Collective Magnesium Oil, Soak Society’s Wellness Soaks and The Skin Kitchen’s Bath Salts online at temple+co. If you feel a whole food supplement could improve your health and energy levels, check out WelleCo’s Super Elixir Alkalising Formula.