9 Signs you need to do a Detox Diet

The term “detox diet” is broad, divisive, and often conjures thoughts of cleanses featuring cayenne-laced lemon water that promise to curb cravings, boost energy, and help you lose weight. Many people are quick to say they’re all a hoax, too, since the body is more than capable of taking care of itself, thanks to our built-in detoxification system starring the liver.

But while our liver is always detoxifying our bloodstream, it’s not necessarily working optimally. The truth is, our bodies aren’t necessarily equipped to deal with the burden they’re now facing. Today, more than ever, we’re bombarded with countless toxins—from pollution to chemicals in skin care products to (perhaps most of all) sugar and preservatives in the foods we eat. These can throw blood sugar totally out of whack, deplete nutrient stores, cause a buildup of dangerous substances in the body like heavy metals, and lead to chronic inflammation —all of which can make us tired and sick. And we’ll continue to feel this way unless we make a shift.

While we can’t necessarily control the world around us or our exposure to all pollutants and chemicals, we can make strategic dietary changes that will help counter their effects by supporting the liver, reducing inflammation, healing the gut, balancing blood sugar, and lightening our overall toxic load. This, in broad terms, is what a detox diet should do.

Signs and symptoms you should try a detox diet

Think back to the time in your life when you felt the healthiest. How does your current state compare? If you feel significantly less vital, or you’ve never felt that great to begin with, it could be time to try a detox. Here are some specific signs it’s time to make a change:

  • You crave sugar and carbs
  • You experience digestive distress like bloating
  • You feel spacey or foggy
  • You’re always exhausted
  • Your joints are achy
  • You’re stressed, depressed, or anxious
  • You can’t lose weight
  • You have trouble sleeping
  • You can’t concentrate

What to eat on a detox diet

A common misconception is that detox diets must be extreme or that they’re expensive or that they’re all green juice misery—but this doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, they can (and often should!) resemble a pretty simple, balanced, whole-foods-based diet. No pricey prepackaged meals required.

Since there’s no official definition of “detox diet,” the suggestions and foods below should be considered a framework that can be customized based on your specific needs and preferences rather than a set of strict rules.

Step 1: Start with a strong, whole-foods-based diet.

A good first step is ditching the packaged foods and focusing on whole, preferably organic foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, sustainably raised meats, fish, eggs, and minimally processed oils such as olive or coconut oil.

This means you’ll be taking a break from most of the foods and additives that tax your system (e.g., added sugars or artificial sweeteners, refined carbohydrates, trans fats), as well as some chemical pesticides from conventional produce, and adding in nutrient-dense foods that will nourish the body and keep blood sugar levels stable.

Step 2: Consider eliminating common food intolerances.

Sometimes the “toxins” that are making it more difficult for our bodies to function optimally are foods that we’re intolerant or allergic to, but we don’t know it yet. Allergies are more obvious and often involve swelling and trouble breathing. But intolerances and their symptoms are and can trigger an inflammatory response in the gut that leads to full-body inflammation and symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, eczema, joint aches, and migraines.

Common food intolerance’s include those to soy, gluten, corn, eggs, peanuts, shellfish, and dairy. If you have some of the symptoms above, consider eliminating potential trigger foods for a period of time (it usually takes a few weeks to notice a difference), preferably under the supervision of a doctor or registered dietitian. You’ll also want to eliminate alcohol since your body registers alcohol as a toxin and relies on your liver to process and eliminate it, which can put stress on the organ.

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