What exactly is a ‘detox’ and how can you do it well this New Year

January is a time when many people start to think about embarking on some sort of New Year detox or juice cleanse. Feelings of guilt or regret can kick in after the indulgences of the festive season, leaving many people feeling like they must do something to make up for it! At Junius we don’t buy into this mindset or approach to health.

Your body requires support to detoxify (detox) 24/7 365 days of the year and it shouldn’t and needn’t be something we only think about in the New Year. Whilst we all know December is a month of indulgences, both with food and alcohol, the fact is that as long as we support our bodies detoxification abilities and general health all year round it needn’t impact health in the way many people and the media think.

A common misconception is that to 'detox' means to go hungry, go on a juice cleanse or follow one of the many deprivational low calorie diet. This couldn't be more wrong and it does not help your body to detox! Whilst drinking only juices for a week can help relieve pressure on your digestive organs it doesn’t support liver detoxification.

What exactly is a liver detox?

Detoxification is the process of breaking down toxins and eliminating them from the body and this primarily happens in the liver. Toxic compounds must first be broken down or ‘metabolised’ and rendered safe before they can be permanently eliminated from the body. Toxins are created internally and can also be ingested, and includes things like used hormones, alcohol, heavy metals, medications, artificial sweeteners, and environmental toxins such as pesticides, chemicals in tap water and pollution.

Other organs play a key role in detoxification such as your skin, intestines, kidneys and lungs - these organs are responsible for removing toxins from the body completely once they have been processed in the liver. So, in order to genuinely support a liver detox we need to support all of these organs and their processes all year round and every day.

In the liver, there are two phases of detoxification, and there are multiple sub pathways within the second phase. Each of these phases and phases requires specific nutrients including amino acids (from protein), magnesium, zinc, B vitamins especially folate, B12 and B6, manganese, iron, choline, good fats and quality fibre. A juice cleanse, liver cleanse or any other deprivational diet plan does not account for these nutrients and therefore is not a liver detox.

Eat well every day for optimal detoxification!

So, hopefully you can now see that fasting or a 3-, 7- or 10-day juice cleanse is not going to support liver detox. Your body needs many different nutrients including protein, fat and carbohydrates in order to perform the multiple and varied detoxification processes all day every day. Society has long believed that deprivation is the answer when it comes to losing weight and detoxing. It’s just not the case and any liver detox plan that tells you to restrict food and go hungry needs to be avoided!

The liver detox process is extremely energy and nutrient intensive which means you need to provide your body (liver) with the necessary nutrients it needs to do the job of cleaning up, all day everyday. A genuine liver cleanse programme or plan will include meals rich in, and balanced for, protein, fats, complex carbohydrates and vegetables. It will request that you remove foods and substances that negatively impact the liver detox process such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar, processed foods, trans fats and refined carbohydrates. So be aware of this if you go searching for a liver detox plan in the New Year and avoid juice cleanses!

We, at Junius have created a variety of health drinks  and supplements as a great addition to any liver detox plans and to support a well-balanced nutrient dense diet all year round.

A liver detox requires protein!

Your liver requires adequate amounts of amino acids in order to make enzymes and other compounds essential for the detoxification pathways. Protein foods, such as fish, meat eggs, tofu, beans and lentils, break down into 20 different amino acids, some of which are ‘essential; meaning they cannot be made in the body, and all of these amino acids are needed for optimal detoxification processes. Therefore, a juice cleanse or any other liver cleanse that doesn’t include protein is not conducive to the liver detox process. If the body doesn’t get adequate protein it can start to ‘catabolise’ or break down its own lean muscle tissue in order to access the amino acids it needs for detoxification.

Your muscle tissue is essential for good health, strong bones and healthy body composition and the last thing we want to be doing is breaking it down in the absence of enough protein coming in from the diet.

Don’t forget fibre

Fibre supports the permanent removal of toxins out of the body from the gut via a bowel movement. The body should ideally pass a full bowel movement at least once per day otherwise the toxins your liver has processed and sent to the gut for excretion risk being reabsorbed back into the body and into circulation if they are waiting in the gut too long.

For a genuine liver detox, you should eat a well-balanced nutrient-rich diet, all year round,  that’s supportive of the body’s various detoxification processes. Ensure you fill your plate with some quality protein such as eggs, meat, fish, tofu beans, and lentils, some good fats such as nuts and seeds, olive oil, avocado and coconut, a small amount of starchy carbohydrates like sweet potato or other root vegetables or whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, oats and buckwheat, and plenty of dark green leafy vegetables and other colourful plants.

Enhance your well balanced nutrient rich diet with Junius’s drinks to add further liver detox support from the many different phytonutrients they contain.

The Junius SPA Super Cell Cleanser range has been carefully formulated by co-founder Maria who is a qualified nutrition and functional medicine practitioner.

Our SPA cold pressed juice and shot contains powerful phytonutrients shown to support the liver and kidneys with their detoxification processes, such as those found in broccoli, kale, artichoke, parsley and spinach.

One of the active ingredients in artichoke is the bitter potent antioxidant compound cynaropicrin, which has been shown in studies to support healthy bile flow from the gallbladder, which is a key process in detoxification. The active ingredient in parsley, apiol, has been shown to support liver and kidney cleansing. Kale and broccoli belong to the cruciferous family of vegetables which provide 3 key compounds for liver detoxification; Indole-3-carbinol (I3C), Diindolylmethane (DIM) and sulphoraphane. These compounds help to encourage the safe breakdown and removal of used oestrogen in the liver, an integral factor in hormone health and healthy hormone balance. 

Whilst a typical juice cleanse may include these ingredients, it’s the absence of protein, fats and carbohydrates (foods!) that hinder the liver detox process and may even be detrimental to health.

Detox supportive lifestyle habits

It’s not just food that supports the body to detox, lifestyle habits also play a role and this is also overlooked in a typical juice cleanse or liver cleanse plan. 

Staying well hydrated is important for detox for a couple of reasons. Remember, toxins leave the body via the gut, lungs, skin and kidneys once the liver has done its work of processing the toxins and rendering them safe to leave the body. Passing urine regularly throughout the day is a way to permanently remove toxins from the body and being well hydrated is needed for this to happen. The other way hydration is important is because it helps to keep waste moving through your colon, preventing constipation and encouraging regular bowel movements. Aim to drink a pint of water first thing each morning, with the optional squeeze of half a lemon to wake up your digestion, and then continue to sip filtered water and non-caffeinated herbal teas throughout the day. If you find drinking water on its own too boring then try adding things like fresh mint leaves, fresh lime and lemon juice, or blackberries or raspberries into your jug or water bottle for a more refreshing drink. Herbal tea blends that include herbs like peppermint, fennel and nettle are cleansing and refreshing and there are so many great brands out there to experiment with. Junius juices and shots are a great way to stay hydrated too. 

Sweating encourages the removal of toxins out through the skin and there are various ways to bring on a good sweat such as exercise, the use of saunas and having regular warm baths in Epsom salts. No liver detox support plan is complete without sweating! Any type of exercise that has you breaking a sweat and that you enjoy is great and if you have the option of spending time in a sauna in your week then go for it. These days you can buy home saunas in the form of infra-red sauna blankets from brands like Higher Dose and most leisure centres and gyms offer sauna facilities too. 

What about alcohol and coffee?

Alcohol and caffeine are broken down and detoxified by your liver and so it’s ideal to limit your consumption of alcohol and caffeine generally, in order to take as much burden off your liver as you can, but there is no harm in including alcohol and caffeine in moderation while continuing with the supportive diet and lifestyle habits we have outlined here. As mentioned already, liver detox is happening 24/7 365 days a year and so we must allow for some leeway. If you are wanting to take a complete burden off your liver for a period of time a couple of times a year as part of a more specific liver detox for example, then avoid alcohol and caffeine completely here.

Supporting your body and liver to detox effectively should be something we’re doing all the time, not just for 7 days each January in the form of a juice cleanse or other liver cleanse plan that doesn’t also include food! We hope the guidance we’re provided in this blog inspires and empowers you to incorporate liver detox-friendly foods and habits into your daily life, all year round. Wishing you a healthy and happy New Year from the Junius Team.