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Globalisation and technological advancements have helped to increase our comfort and standard of living. On the flip side, it has also increased our stress and worries. Do you feel like you are perpetually tired even after a good sleep? Do you feel the need for some energy booster to keep going through the day?

At such times, we often turn to either caffeine or sugar to give the body the ‘kick’ it needs. But too much of these two can cause more harm, leading to a vicious cycle. Most of the times, this sluggishness and fatigue could be due to excess toxins in the body.

Symptoms of toxic overload

Liver is the largest organ that is involved in removing the toxins from the body. But sometimes, the accumulation of toxins is so much, that the liver cannot keep up. This leads to various conditions which may manifest in the form of the following symptoms:
  • Brain fog
  • Migraines
  • Fatigue
  • Body ache
  • Lack of motivation
  • Increase in body odor
  • Pungent breath
  • Increased skin reactions
  • Sensitivity to chemicals
  • New allergies
  • Belly fat
One way to get rid of these toxins is ‘detox’, which is a new dietary trend that is fast gaining popularity.

What is detox?

Traditionally, the Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of medicine have been using detoxification for removing the toxins from the blood and providing healthy nutrients to the body. It involves resting, cleansing and nourishing the body from within.

A large number of Naturopathic doctors in the United States use detoxification to treat the patients for environmental exposures, gastrointestinal disorders, autoimmune diseases and general cleansing of the body. Many of them use dietary measures for the same[1], which may include natural detox drinks.

Benefits of detox drinks

The major benefits of detox drinks include:

1. Removes toxins from the body

We are exposed to a large number of pollutants, chemicals, pesticides and other harmful substances, everyday. These get stored in our cells and tissues, especially where there is more fat. This can affect the various systems in the body including digestion, immunity, metabolism, etc.

A short 7-day detox program can bring about a 23% increase in the detoxification capacity of the liver. There was also a 47% reduction in the Metabolic Screening Questionnaire score, which indicates improved well being[2].

Detox drinks contain mainly water and other fluids, which help in flushing out the toxins from the body through the kidneys.

2. Reduces inflammation

Inflammation can be caused by various pollutants, metals, foods and even the normal metabolic processes of the body. These can interfere with the proper functioning of the body and can also lead to decreased absorption of certain vital nutrients.

Detox diet generally consists of foods which doesn’t require the digestive systems to work much, thereby reducing the inflammation.

In addition, certain ingredients like ginger, watermelon[3] are known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. When added to the detox drink, it can further help in reducing inflammation.

3. Aids in weight loss

Detoxification programs generally involve increase in the consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and more importantly, fluids, especially water.

Water is known to induce thermogenesis, that is, increase the heat production in the body, which ultimately increases calorie-burning. Consuming just half a liter of water has shown to increase the energy expenditure by 24% for about 1 hour after consumption[4].

Dietary modifications in a 21-day dietary purification program, which increased the consumption of fiber and other essential nutrients, showed short-term weight loss and improvement in the lipid profile of the participants[5].

4. Promotes healthy skin

Various environmental factors cause skin issues such as dryness, wrinkles, acne, etc. Flushing out the toxins and other harmful substances from the body helps to repair the skin and reverse the damage.

Detox drinks contain water and vitamin C, which helps in collagen synthesis, thus helping the growth of new cells and tissues and exerting anti-ageing properties[6].

5. Enhances mental alertness and boosts energy

Dehydration can cause drowsiness, decreased concentration and overall lethargy. Consuming fluids such as detox drinks, which are non-caffeinated, can help to restore hydration and reduce the brain fog.

Increase in consumption of water from less than 1.2 l/day to 2.5 l/day significantly decreased fatigue, confusion and thirst and lowered the sleepiness[7].

Detox ingredients and their benefits

Detox drinks are made up of natural raw ingredients such as various fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices. These ingredients are known to have specific components which help to boost the immune system and increase the antioxidants in the body, thereby aiding in the detoxification process. With the right mix of the right ingredients from this huge list, you can easily whirr-up a healthy concoction for yourself.

Vegetables


  • Cucumber-It is made, in most part, of water, which help to remove toxins out of the system. It also contains various polyphenols, which act as antioxidants and can naturally slow down ageing and the development of cancer, cardiovascular and other diseases[8].

  • Celery-Celery contains various nutrients which are beneficial in detoxifying the body. These include vitamin C, folate and compounds like caffeic acid, luteolin, kaempferol, etc. These have powerful antioxidant properties and can help in healing the body[9].

Fruits


  • Lemon-Lemons are a rich source of Vitamin C. It is an essential nutrient required for the repair and healing of tissues and important for the immune system. It is also a very powerful antioxidant. In addition, lemon also contains plant compounds called hesperidin, which have shown to reduce the production of cholesterol in the body[10].

  • Lime-Lime is similar to lemon, since it is also a good source of vitamin C and antioxidants. This has various beneficial effects on the body like boosting the immunity, scavenging free radicals, increasing iron absorption and promoting healthy skin.

  • Watermelon-Watermelons are approximately 91% water and contain 6% sugar. Owing to its high water content, it has a very low glycemic load. It is also quite low in calories. This, along with its high lycopene content, mitigate the damaging effect of free radicals in the cells and thus, help in the prevention of chronic diseases[11].

  • Raspberries-Raspberries are a great source of fiber, vitamin C and manganese. The high fiber content makes raspberry a low glycemic index food, and vitamin C and manganese have strong antioxidant properties. Raspberry ketone is a chemical from red raspberries that may be beneficial for weight loss by burning the body fat and reducing appetite. While this is still under research, other beneficial nutrients like vitamin C and fiber do have an important role in maintaining a healthy body.

  • Grapefruit-Grapefruit is a large citrus fruit which tastes sour and somewhat bitter. It contains high amount of the compound putrescine, which is extremely foul smelling and may stimulate the nervous system to reduce the appetite. Grapefruit also contains a substance known as nootkatone, which is a natural AMPK activator. AMPK is a molecule that is responsible for controlling the energy metabolism and suppressing obesity[12].

Herbs


  • Ginger-Ginger contains various pungent phenolic compounds which are collectively known as gingerols. 6-gingerol is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties[13]. Delayed gastric emptying causes issues like nausea and functional dyspepsia. Ginger is beneficial in stimulating the gastric emptying, thereby preventing the digestive problems[14].

  • Mint-Mint has traditionally been used in the treatment of various gastric ailments such as indigestion[15]. Peppermint is a popular after-meal mouth freshener due to its ability to reduce indigestion and also colonic spasms[16].

  • Rosemary-Rosemary is more than just a flavouring agent. It has various medicinal properties. It acts as an antispasmodic, hepatoprotective and antioxidant properties. It is beneficial in the prevention and treatment of bronchial asthma, peptic ulcers, atherosclerosis, cancer, etc[17].

Others


  • Aloe vera-Aloe vera is used in the treatment of constipation due to its laxative properties. It may also be used for other gastrointestinal conditions such as ulcers[18]. Studies have also identified antioxidant and antibacterial properties of aloe vera[19].

  • Apple cider vinegar-Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which improves the metabolism and aids in weight loss. It can also help in digestion, by stimulating the secretion of gastric juices.

  • Dandelion-Dandelions are not just a garden weed, but are considered as herbs by botanists. They contain antioxidants such as beta carotene, which can prevent cellular damage. Various polysaccharides from the dandelions have shown to possess anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties[20].

Detox drink recipes

There are various companies which have readymade detox drinks available in stores. However, they are not only expensive, but also may contain sugars and various preservatives. Instead, its better to make the detox drinks at home which are extremely easy and definitely fresher and healthier. Here are few examples to get you started-

Infused water


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It is also known as detox water or fruit infused water and has a combination of various fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Add the ingredients to the jar, add ice cubes over it (extracts more flavour by putting pressure), add water and leave it to rest for about an hour (or more-depending on how strong you want it). Keep sipping on it throughout the day. This is a great way to increase and measure your water intake. You can chose the ingredients from the following combinations, or just experiment on your own-

  • 1/2 pint blueberries. 1 thin lemon slice, 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup cubed watermelon, 1 cubed kiwi, slices of 1 lime
  • 1 grapefruit sliced, 1/2 cup pomegranate, 10 mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup strawberries,5 large basil leaves, slices of 1 lemon

Detox smoothies


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Smoothies are thick beverages made from purees of fresh raw fruits and vegetables. Smoothies have the fiber of the fruits and vegetables intact, thus are highly nutritious and great for detox.

Another advantage is that home-made smoothies don’t contain added salt or any sweetener and are healthier than plain juices or other packaged beverages.

Important considerations


  • Dietary detoxification is different from medical detoxification-which refers to de-addiction of drugs and such other substances
  • Detox drinks help in weight loss because they are low in calories.
  • It is important to have a long-term sustainable diet for weight loss.
  • All nutrients are required in appropriate quantities to keep the body healthy.


References:
1. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3239317/
2. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10895516
3. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25631716
4. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17519319
5. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3610947/
6. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3151377/
7. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24728141
8. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835915/
9. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5871295/
10. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12482628
11. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17011475
12. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20501876
13. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25230520
14. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6341159/
15. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24685583-ethnobotanical-survey-of-medicinal-plants-used-by-people-in-oriental-morocco-to-manage-various-ailments/
16. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11329700
17. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10641130
18. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92765/
19. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3729540/
20. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24447978