We come across toxins in our environment everyday including cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes, pesticides, caffeine, alcohol and medicinal drugs. Some of these toxins are known as free radicals. We are exposed to free radicals every day even through natural bodily processes in our digestive system. A free radical is an unstable molecule which can cause harm to our bodies if found in significant amounts, because it can cause other molecules around it to become unstable, thus creating a chain reaction which can cause mutations in cells. This is what happens in cases of cancer. In order to protect ourselves against these free radicals our bodies use antioxidants.
The two most prevalent antioxidants our body uses are vitamin E and vitamin C. Vitamin E protects body lipids (cell membranes and lipoproteins) by stopping the free-radical chain reaction, and vitamin C protects watery components of the body (fluid in the blood). Other vitamins and minerals as well as phytochemicals serve as antioxidants to our bodies as well. Together, vitamin and mineral nutrients with antioxidant activity protect against certain diseases and decrease free radical damage by limiting free-radical formation, destroying free radicals or their precursors, stimulating antioxidant enzyme activity, repairing oxidative damage, and stimulating repair enzyme activity.
Detoxification is commonly known as the removal of toxic substances or qualities from the body. In medicine, conventional detox refers to weaning addicts off drugs or alcohol, or eliminating toxic substances that have been ingested. However, as dieticians know best, in alternative medicine the word “detox” has been hijacked to sell commercial products. There are many commercial products on the market such as detoxifying foot pads which claim to remove toxins from the blood stream, however there is no evidence to support these claims. Social media plays a large role in advertising non-scientifically based detox cleanse breakthroughs. Some of these cleanses can be potentially very harmful to individuals. There is no scientific evidence that a detox regimen increases the elimination of “toxins” from the body. Detox as an alternative medicine is based on ill-conceived ideas about human physiology.
In conclusion, the intake of antioxidants is a very important part of our bodily process. It’s important to advise patients and clients against singling out one particular food for a specific nutrient, or antioxidant. Recommendations should be to consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables daily. A generous serving of produce daily ensures they will be getting a large variety of the important compounds these foods have to offer.
Written by Idaho State University Dietetic Student,
Janice Hermann, PhD, RD/LD, T. (2012). Antioxidant [Powerpoint slides]. Retrieved from http://www.fcs.okstate.edu/documents/nutrition/Antioxidants.ppt
Kavanagh, M. B., & RDN, L. Examining Popular Detox Diets—Learn About Their Efficacy and Safety for Weight Loss, Their Components, and Potential Adverse Effects.
MacIntosh A, Ball K. The effects of a short program of detoxification in disease-free individuals. Altern Ther Health Med. 2000;6(4):70-76
Picture from www.producealliance.com
*Posted by Rachelle Ausman, RDN, LD, CHC (Idaho Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Social Media Chair)