After a season of celebrations, we often wake up on January 1st feeling bloated, sick and determined to start anew.  Losing weight is one of the top 5 goals on a typical Resolutions list, but beyond the fact that the majority of people are unsuccessful in their efforts, few realize that weight loss regimens, when done without care, can actually be toxic to the body.  Chemicals such as organochlorines are stored in adipose tissue, and during periods of weight loss, these compounds are released from the fat cells into the body, where they can actually make us sick. In a 2010 study of over a thousand people published in the International Journal of Obesity, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) were found in higher quantities in those that had experienced a significant weight loss and were lower in participants who had not lost weight.  Multiple studies reinforce this, showing increased levels of pollutants in subjects who have recently lost weight.   There is also evidence that these toxins in fact contribute to some of the diseases that weight loss is supposed to protect against.   In addition, environmental toxins cause chronic inflammation in the body and this inflammation can impair weight loss efforts in other ways.  To be safe and successful in managing weight, detoxification is an essential feature of any protocol.

On a daily basis, our body deals with toxins in a variety of ways.  The digestive system first acts as a barrier to undesirable compounds and many are excreted before they can pass into the bloodstream.  Kidneys filter waste as well, but the liver is the champion of detoxification, working tirelessly to turn dangerous chemicals into more benign products that are easily disposed of. However, all these organs can be overloaded when too many toxins are dumped at once.  Walter Crinion is the author of Clean, Green & Lean.  In his book, he cautions that rapid weight loss is the most dangerous type, and a slower approach is desirable.   Dropping pounds quickly will open the chemical floodgates, allowing toxins to stream into the body at a rate which can overwhelm the natural detoxification mechanisms our bodies use to protect us. A healthier approach includes the following concepts:

  • Reduce the burden.  What goes in is as important at what goes out.  Sugars, food additives, pesticides and hormones, as well as common allergens such as gluten, dairy, and egg are generally avoided during successful detoxification regimens. Choose organic foods and don’t forget personal care, home and lawn care products. Use the most natural forms possible, as toxins can be absorbed through skin and inhalation.
  • Drink up. Adequate fluid is essential for good kidney function, so drink at least 6-8 glasses of liquid daily. Optimal choices include filtered water, green tea, and small amounts of brightly colored, high antioxidant juices.
  • Care for your liver. Certain herbs such as milk thistle and dandelion support and protect the liver. They are particularly important during periods when toxicity is highest, but make sure to work with a professional to determine dosage.
  • Fill up on Fiber.  Fiber is like a broom, sweeping the bad guys out of the gut before they can be absorbed.  Vegetables, legumes and whole grains are excellent sources of fiber, and should be included in any protocol.
  • Grow good flora. Probiotics are important little bugs that play a critical role in normal detoxification processes.  Since antibiotics will kill these desirable germs, most of us are lacking in adequate stores of these microbes.  Eating fermented foods, or taking a good quality probiotic supplement can help restore the right balance.
  • Relax in a sauna. Skin is an important detoxification organ, allowing sweat to remove poisons from the body.  Twenty to 30 minutes in a sauna will enhance detox efforts (although any post sauna weight loss is simply fluid, that will return as soon as you drink).  Make sure the water used in the sauna is filtered, and does not add even more chemicals to the mix.

A safe and healthy detoxification program will promote slow weight loss, remove inflammatory foods, food additives, and chemicals and provide nutrients to support normal detoxification processes.  They should not be fast (7 to 10 day cleanses will dump toxins quickly), and should include adequate levels of nutrients such as protein, which provides the key building blocks the liver requires to function.   The choices can be confusing; some may be solely food based, others may include a hypoallergenic protein powder or other nutritional support, and each one may allow or prohibit certain foods.  It is best to work with a qualified practitioner who will sort through the options, provide needed emotional and meal planning support and monitoring during the process.  A sensible protocol should leave you feeling not only lighter, but better rested, more energetic, and clearer thinking as you shed chemicals and calories at the same time.

Vicki Kobliner MS RD, CD-N is a Registered Dietitian and owner of Holcare Nutrition (www.holcarenutrition.com).   Vicki works with infants, children and adults with digestive disorders, food allergies, ADHD, autism and other chronic illness, and provides fertility and prenatal nutrition counseling.  Vicki has extensive experience in using dietary modification, appropriate supplementation and functional lab testing to achieve optimal wellness. She can be reached at 203.834.9949 or vicki@holcarenutrition.com.  See ad on page .