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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

What to Expect During a Metabolic Detox

May 28, 2021 08:30AM ● By Robin Foroutan
A metabolic detox plan helps the body address and remove toxins. The human body is exposed to both endogenous and environmental toxins every day. Common types of toxins include heavy metals, pesticides, plastics, industrial chemicals and bacterial endotoxins.

In some cases, the body does not efficiently eliminate toxins, and they can accumulate in organs and tissues, disrupting normal cellular function and increasing the risk for disease. Utilizing metabolic detoxification programs to support the body’s detoxification systems and reduce toxic body burden is critical to overall health and longevity.

An important component of metabolic detoxification protocols is to support each of the body’s elimination pathways, since metabolic toxins must leave the body through stool, urine or sweat. (Though not covered in this article, it is also important to support the three phases of cellular detoxification—toxins, intermediary metabolites and excretory derivates—which together form the basis of a successful metabolic detoxification plan.)

Some people may experience mild symptoms during a metabolic detoxification program, commonly referred to as “detox reactions”, particularly during their first detox. These symptoms sometimes occur when detoxification processes become unbalanced and metabolic toxins are not eliminated optimally. It is a biological bottleneck problem where released toxins exceed the body’s capacity for transportation and elimination. Symptoms are generally minor and resolve within a day or two. Here are some common symptoms and tips to help ease them.

Headaches, Tiredness and Irritability

According to research published by PLOS One in 2015, withdrawal symptoms including headache, tiredness and irritability can develop from suddenly avoiding caffeine, sugar, wheat and dairy, all of which can be addictive. Other causes of these symptoms include dehydration and constipation (preventing toxin elimination), blood sugar fluctuation and inefficient toxin release from “biological hiding places”.

Solutions
  • Drink green tea. It’s hydrating, low in caffeine, promotes cytochrome p450 activity and supplies the body with L-theanine which supports the production of calming neurotransmitters, according to a study published in 2017 by BioMed Research International.
  • Increase hydration.
  • Promote an alkaline state through nutritional support with foods such as vegetables, fruits and herbs.
  • Stabilize blood sugar by including high-quality protein, fiber and fat at each meal.
  • Optimize sleep quality and quantity.
  • Promote sweating in a sauna, steam room or warm Epsom salt bath.
  • Support bowel regularity

Food Cravings

Many people experience food cravings while on any type of elimination diet, including the dietary components of a metabolic detoxification program. Cravings will ultimately subside in a few days. There are many possible reasons for food cravings during detoxification programs, such as withdrawal from addictive foods and beverages, breaking habits revolved around sugar and microbial imbalances in the digestive tract in response to dietary change.

According to a study published in 2018 by Food Research International, since sugar, gluten and dairy all trigger an opioid-like response in the brain, many of these foods can be addictive. Sweet flavors trigger the synthesis of serotonin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter, which can create an overreliance on sugar. 

The state of the microbiome may also affect food cravings. Specific strains of gut microbes can trigger cravings that favor that particular microbe, even if it is to the detriment of the host. According to research published by BioEssays in 2014, these microbes may also cause the host to feel poorly until the craving is met and a feeling of euphoria sets in. Metabolic detoxification programs and their dietary components can help shift the microbiome and address certain aspects of dysbiosis (disruption to the balance of gut microbiota). According to a study by Nutrition in Clinical Practice published in 2012, conquering sugar—or cravings for other unhealthy foods—is an added benefit to reap.

Solutions
  • Include more alkaline foods and beverages in the diet, which can help minimize food cravings and promote beneficial shifts in gut microbes.
  • Avoid sugar cravings with more protein at meals and choices like fruit and smoothies.
  • For fried food or starchy food cravings, try roasting sweet potatoes or parsnip wedges.
  • For cravings in general, there are usually suitable substitutes that fit within the prescribed plan. Working with a nutrition professional on managing and redirecting food cravings can be helpful in creating lasting dietary improvements.

Bowel Irregularity

Constipation is detox’s worst enemy since many toxins are eliminated through stool. While following a meal plan designed to promote detoxification typically includes nutritional support with a fiber-rich diet high in vegetables, some people still experience bowel irregularity and digestive symptoms from the change in diet.

Solutions
  • Drink plenty of water, herbal teas and juices.
  • Eat bitter vegetables and herbs that encourage healthy peristalsis (symmetrical contractions in the bowel), like radicchio, endive, arugula and ginger.
  • Try a magnesium supplement.
  • Eat non-starchy vegetables, high-fiber seeds, and healthy fats and oils that help lubricate the digestive tract.
  • Commit to daily physical activity in order to improve regularity.

These solutions can help consumers and health professionals feel confident in metabolic detoxification programs, even if mild “detox symptoms” occur. Understanding why symptoms occur and what to do about them can help people reap the benefits of periodic metabolic detoxification programs.

Robin Foroutan, MS, RDN, HHC—a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in integrative medicine and a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic—works with Standard Process in its efforts to educate consumers on natural health. Standard Process is a third-generation, family-owned company that partners with healthcare practitioners to effectively and holistically address issues related to health conditions via information and top-quality, whole-food-based supplements. To learn more about Standard Process, visit StandardProcess.com.