A Gentler Detox

Teresa Lau's picture

Spring is the season for cleaning—and not just for your house, but your body as well. Detox diets are especially popular this time of year as we all wish to feel revitalized to prepare for those long days of summer fun. A patient asked me recently what I thought about the concept of detox, so I thought I’d share my answer here.

The idea behind detox is that toxins from our food and environment can build up in our systems. This causes all sorts of health problems and so they need to be cleansed from the body regularly. Do a quick internet search and you’ll find that there are numerous detox diet plans: many require sticking to a narrow list of allowable foods; eliminating certain other foods; and/or addition of nutritional supplements for a specified number of days. Although some of the stricter diets (e.g. 7-day juice cleanse) may be difficult to maintain, many people say the benefits are worth it. Those who endure the diet may be rewarded with weight loss, clearer skin, more energy, better digestion, among other perceived benefits.

In Chinese medicine, cleanses are sometimes prescribed but usually without drastic changes to the diet. Instead, TCM approaches cleansing by promoting foods and herbs that are known to have toxin-eliminating properties. This allows practitioners to formulate diets and herbal formulas that cater to the individual and their environment, without imposing hard to follow diet schemes or artificial supplements.