Almost everyone knows that fat is bad for you. For many years we have been trained and taught by the media, health professionals and even our friends and family that one of the most important things we can do stay healthy and disease free is avoid saturated and trans fats. As we get older, often the first warning sign of cardiovascular disease that is discovered by our family doctors is elevated cholesterol. For a moment, let us imagine that fat was not the horrible enemy that we all are led to believe. How would this affect the way we approach our health and our diet?
The fact is that cholesterol is NOT the ultimate enemy that we have been led to believe is so detrimental to our cardiovascular health. Let us consider the fact that the French population eats more fat then any western (including Canada and the United States) country but their incidence of heart-related death is less than half of that in America. This would seem to suggest that dietary fat is not the main cause of heart disease. The question becomes what is it about the standard American diet (S.A.D. diet) that promotes heart disease? Experts now are starting to see that it is not the fat or cholesterol intake that is the main cause of heart disease but rather a diet that is high in refined sugar and low in antioxidant rich foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Even though the French people consume more fat then Americans they also have a diet rich in fresh foods and low is refined sugars and carbohydrates. Cholesterol in itself is not harmful to our cardiovascular system. On the contrary, it is essential to our natural production of hormones and vitamin D. It becomes harmful only once it becomes deposited and oxidized in blood vessel walls. A diet high in antioxidants from fruits and veggies prevents this key transformation.
Knowing this fact, we can often do much more to prevent cardiovascular health by focusing on keeping our diet high in antioxidants and avoiding the damaging effects of high blood sugar by skipping those sweet snacks. In fact the real heart health enemy is not fat but rather sugar. Ironically, the foods often highest in sugar are those labeled “low fat” in our supermarkets. A high sugar intake has a well established connection to obesity and diabetes which in turn have a harmful effect on your cardiovascular system. A number of recent papers have solidified the deleterious effects of sugar in promoting diabetes, obesity and ultimately cardiovascular disease. In 2010, Jakobsen and colleagues showed that replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates further increased the risk of hear attacks (1). One of the biggest and most damaging threats to multiple body systems is high fructose corn syrup. Recent research is showing that it has a broad range of negative effects by promoting uric acid production, fatty liver, insulin resistance and ultimately diabetes (2).
Unfortunately, fats get an overall bad reputation. There is no doubt trans and saturated fats have an negative effect on multiple body systems including the brain and heart. However, many good fats wit h wide ranging health benefits are over looked. Olive oil, fish oil and nuts and seeds all contain extremely health omega 3 fats that are anti-inflammatory and cardio-protective. This month, do your heart a favour and avoid sugar and refined carbs, increase you fresh fruits and vegetable intake and give fat a break, it has been wrongly accused for quite some time.
(1) Jakobsen MU, Dethlefsen C, Joensen AM, et al. Intake of carbohydrates compared with intake of saturated fatty acids and risk of myocardial infarction: importance of the glycemic index. Am J Clin Nutr 2010; 91:
(2) Johnson et al. Fructose as a Cause of Type 2 Diabetes. Endocrine Reviews, February 2009, 30(1):96–116
By Dr Paul Hrkal
Hello friends and fellow health enthusiasts.
In part 1 of this article we talked about the basics of how and why we do a detox and some common myths surrounding detoxification. That part was the foundational understanding of what is a detox and why we do it. Part 2 is how we can put an effective, safe detox into action. First let me introduce you to a few key systems and pathways in our body that we will need to active if we are to effectively remove and excrete toxins.
The Liver is the organ that traditionally gets the most attention when it comes to a detox. There is little doubt it is one of the most important organs in inactivating and removing harmful substances. This organ is almost always under chronic stress in most people, which can lead to many different issues such as hormonal imbalances, headaches, and even cancer etc. So it is a good thing to support the function of the liver but what most people don’t know is there are 2 “phases” to liver detoxification. Most common detox kits will stimulate phase 1 which prepares a toxin to be removed. However they often do a poor job at stimulating phase 2, which is responsible for taking the molecule activated by phase 1 and safely excrete it. A potential problem is that if we over stimulate our phase 1 pathways and forget about phase 2 we can actually cause more harm then good if the liver becomes overwhelmed.
Doc’s Tip: Broccoli contains a phytonutrient called sulforaphane that stimulates phase 2 detoxification in the liver.
The intestines are also an important pathway of elimination. Unfortunately, most people don’t have frequent enough bowel movements and experience some form of constipation. If food becomes trapped in the gut for a longer period of time, it can start to putrefy and which can cause more toxins to be formed and released. A good rule of thumb is to have 1-2 bowel movements a day. Luckily, this is one of the easiest system to get moving. Most detox kits contain herbs that help the digestive tract to move. However the trick is to get enough fibre and bulk that the gut will keep moving once the herbs are stopped. Often food allergies and sensitivities can also cause constipation.
Doc’s Tip: The simplest reason many people are constipated is that they are dehydrated. The goal is to drink 6 big glasses of water a day (3 L).
The skin is an often-overlooked area that plays a key part in detoxification. We don’t realize it but our skin is a very large and active organ that can be either absorb or eliminate toxins. For centuries, saunas have been a very important part of many cultures as a means to stay healthy, promote circulation and eliminate toxins through sweat. Direct stimulation to the skin, such as exfoliation is another great way to promote skin health and functions.
Doc’s Tip: A great way to stimulate blood and lymph flow and to eliminate toxins through the skin is to try dry skin brushing. This can be done right at home before a shower or bath.
The kidneys are one of the most under appreciated organs when it comes to detoxification. They are essential to the elimination toxins we are exposed to everyday. They also are responsible for the metabolism of many drugs including painkillers and antibiotics.
Doc’s Tip: Beware of hidden dehydrators that cause us to lose more water. Substances such as coffee and alcohol act on the kidneys to promote water loss despite being liquids.
Finally we are going to discuss the key points to remember if you want to pull off a healthy, safe and effective detox plan.
1) Do your research: Before you go and buy a popular detox product off the shelf, read the fine print and ask someone you who knows more about the ingredients. Naturopathic doctors are experts in detoxification and can be a great resource in your detox process.
2) Strength in numbers: It is so much easier to complete a detox if you team up with the people closest to you. Remember, you will be eating differently and doing various new activities so if those people that live with you or close a friend can support you, or better yet join you, your chance of sticking with it goes way up.
3) Activate your whole body: Don’t just fall for the “supplements only” plan. They can be effective but they only work on one or two organ systems. Try to activate all your elimination pathways. The main ones are the liver, kidney, intestine, lungs, lymph and skin.
4) Take many different angles: This means that the most effective detox plans include changing your diet, adding some more nutrition, reducing your toxic exposure, supplements to kick start your system and physical techniques (i.e. hydrotherapy, exercise, dry skin brushing etc.). All of these things together make up an effective detox program.
5) Detox your mind: the most commonly overlooked thing during a detox is giving our mind a break. Most of us need to “detox” from stress, negative thoughts, and emotions more then toxic chemicals. During your detox, consciously spend some quiet time doing some mental relaxation and mediation or whatever relaxes you. It might even be a good idea to plan a spa day to get your mind of stressful things.
I hope you can now apply some of these principles if you are considering a detox in the future. I do strongly believe that a good detox program twice a year has tremendous health benefits. Think of it as a spring cleaning or yearly tune up for your body. If you are overwhelmed don’t hesitate to contact a qualified Naturopathic doctor to help you get started on the right track. Happy detoxing!
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