Detox diets have been all the rage for some time now… but are they healthy? Do they work? Is “detoxing” even a thing?
We have become quite obsessed with keeping our bodies free of “toxins.” It’s right up there with our obsession with keeping our kids away from bacteria and allergens.
But, when you live a lifestyle where you are constantly putting questionable things in your body (like alcoholic drinks, prescription meds, or over the counter pain killers every now and then…), it is normal to wonder about the effects that these things have on your body. That is why body detoxing and liver cleansing have become such hot topics!
But, before you jump on the detox diet bandwagon, I’m going to answer some of those burning questions about detoxing and give you a little background on how your body deals with toxins so you can develop your own plan for getting your health back on track.
Toxins, OH NO!
First of all, there are toxins all around us constantly.
Smog, if you live in a populated area is probably the biggest one, and to be honest, there isn’t much you can do about it (unless you want to constantly wear a face mask).
Smoke from cigarettes is another big one, but I don’t have to tell you how bad that one is.
What about toxins in your foods?
Pesticides that are leftover on your produce aren’t doing good things for your bod, but unless you strictly buy organic, it is something you are going to consume whether you want to or not. Even if you wash your produce super well, the residue can still make it’s way into your system. The cleanest eaters will end up with so-called toxins in their bodies. There’s no way around this.
It is inevitable that you will end up with some kind of toxin in your body that wants to wreak havoc…I’m just slightly left confused when this topic comes up because really, what we are talking about here are chemicals that end up in your body and cause oxidative damage.
Oxidation is why you age. You can’t stop the process, you can only slow it.
Of course, you should avoid consuming things that are known to be bad to your body (I’m looking at you red meat and alcohol), but can you really detox your body of pesticides and other harmful chemicals with special juices and weirdly specific diets?
Let’s look at some of these options on the market.
Now, I’m going to be real honest with you here and tell you that these options are a whole lot of horse shit.
Actually, I bet someone will literally start capsulizing horse shit now that I’ve said this and sell it as a detox treatment…
Which brings me to the next question:
Is detoxing real?
In the world of science, you need evidence (and a lot of it) to prove that something works.
This detox dieting trend that many of us have become obsessed with is one of those things that most research has come back to say that there is not enough evidence that these popular detox diets really do anything.
Before you even bother reading any studies, you should know that the body is pretty self-sufficient when it comes to excreting things it deems harmful.
If it didn’t function this way, we all would die REALLY young. I mean, are you really surprised that your body doesn’t need help from some random juices? Every weekend when you booze it up, your body without the help of magic juices, manages to metabolize the essentially poisonous substance that makes people prettier and more interesting.
Your body isn’t perfectly efficient, and you may still hurt the next day (drinking some water and eating some hangover breakfast food helps), but you aren’t dead because for the most part your body can remove the toxins left over from all that ethanol consumption.
Something real worth talking about to help your body? Antioxidants.
There is a way to measure the antioxidant activity in your body. It is not a perfect science yet, but we know that antioxidants come with some real clout backing them up. Eat more fruits and vegetables that are packed with the stuff and you are probably better off. That’s real science, not marketing magic.
There is also something to be said about taking stress off your liver by eating more foods that prevent inflammation, but this doesn’t have to be done by drinking the same tea 10 times per day for 2 weeks straight, or having “special juice” at every meal.
You can do this through eating real foods that benefit your liver.
Is detoxing your body safe?
Detoxing is pretty safe if you still get adequate calories and nutrients that your body needs, but often these cleanses call for only consuming a liquid diet of just juice, tea, or some kind of other water plus juice mix.
This isn’t adequate for your body to function for very long.
It would be more healthful to get into the “clean eating” trend. Lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins will do the same thing if you are trying to kickstart a healthier eating regimine. Eating less crap will make you feel better, but you don’t have to only drink juice for a week to get started on a healthy diet. Just start eating a healthier diet, and soon you will start to feel better.
If you have other medicals issues, such as diabetes, you may want to consider consulting with a doctor before making such a drastic change to your diet. In this case, a detox could be harmful to your health.
Bottom line: Stop consuming the things that are bad for you, your body will do the rest of the work to remove the leftovers.
Types of Detox Diets and Detox Drinks
The Master Cleanse
The most well-known cleanse around, the master cleanse has been touted for its help with weight loss. It is considered a lemonade fast that claims to allow for rest of the digestion system and allows the body to “heal naturally.”
There are some cases in which the digestive system should be rested, but usually this is done with doctor supervision and patients given a special feeding tube drip to keep the digestive system from completely ceasing. There are definitely some times when giving your gut a rest is a good idea, but usually this isn’t something you do on your own.
As for the weight loss, if you are fasting you will lose weight due to low calorie intake, but this isn’t sustainable weight loss. Once again, the best way to lose weight healthfully and in the long term is to exercise and eat a healthy diet (which is not just spicy lemonade water).
This is very short-term and would not be considered safe and healthy beyond about 3 days.
Juice is generally mistaken for being super healthy…but, that is somewhat of a misconception.
Juice has lots of vitamins and minerals, but is very high in sugar and lacks the fiber that makes fruit healthy. Also, it is hard to meet your calories and macronutrient needs when all you are consuming is juice. Juice cleansing is safe, but doctors don’t suggest doing it for more than 3 days in a row without a break back to solid foods in between.
In addition, juice cleanse sets are very expensive, so if you are going to use this as a weight loss aid, it costs a lot for something that doesn’t last long-term. At $60-85 a day for the juice, it is much more expensive than making regular meals everyday. The weight won’t stay off for long and you will probably just feel hungry all day, making it a waste of money.
Most people probably get off these juice cleanses super hungry and then binge on everything they have been craving.
Since that’s most likely the case, save your money and drink juice because you like juice, not to lose weight or cleanse your body.
If you’re not into the juice, you may be tempted to reach for the detox tea instead.
Very popular among celebrities, detox teas have been around for years. Many teas have been treated as holistic medicine, so the translation over to the detoxing industry makes sense.
Tea has many antioxidant properties and can be part of a healthy diet, not just as a cleanse. The catechins in tea (especially in green tea) for instance have been linked to preventing cancer. There are also some findings that suggest they help with maintaining a healthy weight.
But, like with the Master Cleanse, tea detoxes without food are not safe for those with certain conditions, or for more than a few days. You have to be especially careful with the caffeine content in tea. Without any food in your stomach it can irritate your GI tract and cause discomfort. Also all that caffeine can make you dehydrated.
Add tea to your diet for the antioxidants, but skip the detoxing and cleansing. It’s really not necessary…
Colon cleansing, also known as a colonic, is a very drastic way of cleaning out your system.
Many celebrities have used this method as a quick way to drop an extra pound or two before big events, which gave the method some notoriety.
It can be done safely, but there are some increased risks with a procedure like this. You can become dehydrated, alter your electrolyte levels, and injure the lining of your intestine. It is very expensive for a procedure that could cause you other health problems. Most doctors will tell you that it is unnecessary since your body can naturally regulate and expel your waste.
Definitely not worth the risks.
What are some healthy ways to clean up your body?
So, if all of this detoxing is a load of crap, what are some ways we can help our bodies to naturally cleanse themselves?
Making your diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats will help your body do it’s own constant detoxing. Avoid junk with high sugar, saturated and trans fats, and preservatives. This will help your body to function at its best. If you are trying to kick start your healthy eating, it also pairs well with getting your butt off the couch!
Get your body moving and sweating! Sweat out those chemicals and start feeling better (the endorphins from exercise will also help you to feel better).
Make sure you drink enough water, most of us don’t get enough and are dehydrated. And no one feels better being dehydrated.
Get more sleep! Your body will function better if you are well rested. Lack of sleep can cause unwanted changes in appetite, hormone fluctuations, and slow your metabolism way down.
Taking charge of your health doesn’t require you to take on some weird new diet. Getting more exercise and being mindful of what you are eating is enough to set up your body for success. Treat your body nice and it will return the favor.