The top five strategies for keeping your body’s detox system in shape

© Sorinus | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Sorinus | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

You might think that detoxifying your body can be a daunting task. If you search  “detox diets” on the internet, you’ll only get about four million hits but if you go for “detox supplements”, the results skyrocket up to over seven million.

Instead of wasting hard earned dollars on cleanses and supplements to rid your body of toxins,  focus on keeping your body’s built in detox system – the liver-  in working order.

Here are five tactics to help prevent nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and  keep your body’s detox system in top form.

•    Practice waist management
Carrying extra weight around your midsection is linked to insulin resistance. This is a condition where the body is insensitive to the action of insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels.  Insulin resistance, besides being a stepping stone away from diabetes, is thought to be a primary cause of this type of fatty liver.

Losing weight not only increases insulin sensitivity, it’s also a mainstay of the treatment to make the liver less fatty. But the Harvard Health Letter does add a caution about shedding weight. It notes that crash dieting is a bad idea, though, because rapid weight loss (losing 4 pounds a week or more) can wind up damaging the liver. So go for a weight loss of about a pound a week. With slow weight loss, the pounds are also much less likely to reappear.

For those with lots of weight to lose, take heart: research shows that even losing five per cent of your body weight can make a difference – that’s just ten pounds for a 200 pound person. And it’s not your liver alone that will benefit.

•     Take part in regular exercise
It’s no secret that regular workouts can help to trim waistlines but even without weight loss, they can help to reverse fatty livers. A University of Sydney, Australia study assessed the effect of four weeks of aerobic cycling in sedentary obese subjects and found that the exercise training improved fatty liver measures even though the subjects did not lose weight.

So put the two together- waist management and regular exercise like walking and it’s a one-two punch against fatty livers.

•     Be fat smart
Trans fats strike yet again. These fats are known for their ability to boost levels of artery clogging LDL-cholesterol while lowering the beneficial HDL-cholesterol readings. They’ve also been linked to insulin resistance, one of the causes of fatty livers. A number of animal studies have also shown the development of fatty livers in groups fed trans fats while the trans fat-free animals livers remained normal.

Too much saturated fat is also thought to be a culprit so be sure to read the nutrition information when buying packaged food. And by shifting towards a more plant-based diet – more vegetables and fruits along with whole grains, nuts and seeds and opting for oils like extra virgin olive and canola oils, eating less trans and saturated fat is a natural consequence.

•    Slash your sugar intake
Simple sugars such as sucrose, a.k.a. table sugar, and fructose in particular, have been implicated as offenders in promoting fatty livers. Scientists know that fructose stimulates the production of fat in the liver and also goes hand in hand with insulin resistance.

The risk of developing a fatty liver is yet another item to add to the wrap sheet of sugar-laden products like soft drinks and those sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (which is now called corn sugar to decrease its demonization).

•    Aim for healthy blood sugar readings
For those with diabetes, elevated blood sugar levels are associated with these changes in the liver. Many of the same actions that can decrease the likelihood of a fatty liver can help to keep blood sugar readings in check.


Have you purchased supplements or followed a detox diet? How did you feel? Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Research Roundup

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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8 Comments on “The top five strategies for keeping your body’s detox system in shape”

  1. February 5, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    What’s your opinion on those water, cayenne pepper, lemon juice type of detoxes?
    I can’t help but feel like they’re counterproductive and way too traumatic on the body. I remember a time when I used to only drink liquids for was called an eating disorder. ;o)

    I like the idea of doing things in a gentler, more natural way.

    • February 5, 2013 at 9:29 am #

      You’re absolutely right about their being counterproductive, Marci! Not eating any solid food can result in quick weight loss which can pose a burden to your liver – your essential organ for detoxification. And if you lose weight too quickly, any toxic substances stored in your fatty tissue will be quickly released. Putting cayenne pepper in a drink or in your food does create a slight increase in your metabolic rate- but just slight.

      People who use this detox system do find that it helps them put a halt to their current pattern of eating. After a detox like this, an apple can taste like divine. But you’re right, there are healthier ways to get into good habits.

  2. Paula
    February 5, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

    I love your 5 “natural” strategies for detox -finally some common sense…..thank you!

    • February 5, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, Paula! I base my posts on science-based evidence and as a result, they’re not always appreciated. Hype sells better! So I appreciate hearing that common sense hits home too!

  3. Avril Fernley
    February 6, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    Hi Rosie – What about the parsley detox? A friend, worried about my immune system, sent the instructions to me recently. Thank you.

    • February 6, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

      Thanks for your posting your question, Avril. It is difficult to answer about your immune system without knowing more about what is going on but I can say that there is not much in the way of published research that relates to a parsley cleanse.

      Some have claimed it can cleanse the kidneys but this may be due to the fact that parsley, in larger amounts, does act as a diuretic and therefore would increase urine output (along with any waste products from the body that are eliminated in your urine).

      If you are taking any medications, you might want to check with your pharmacist about possible interactions with large amounts of parsley. For example, they can interact with blood thinners such as warfarin (also known as coumadin).

      • Avril Fernley
        February 6, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

        Thank you,Rosie. I was leaning away from doing the parsley cleanse and your comments have made up my mind. I’ve got a lot of stuff going on medically and I don’t think I want to take a chance on making things worse. This forum is very helpful.

  4. February 6, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

    My pleasure, Avril! I’m glad I could help in your decision making. And thank you for letting me know that you find my website helpful- that’s what it’s all about!

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