Everybody's doing it. Detoxing, that is. But before you blindly follow the lead of A-list celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow (Clean Program), and Beyonce (Master Cleanse), you need to know the facts of detoxification.
The theory behind detoxing is that we're constantly exposed to toxins from pesticides in our food, to pollutants in our home, air and water. We also consume excessive amounts of potentially harmful substances such as sugar, alcohol and caffeine. The accumulation of all of these contaminants puts excessive stress on the liver, compromising its ability to function. The result can be illness and disease. Detox diets work by not only helping the body get rid of these toxins, but also by increasing metabolism and weight loss.
It makes sense on the surface, but if you read the fine print, detox diets are basically drastic calorie deprivation – so of course you are going to lose weight! And as for eliminating toxins, your body has that covered. Detoxification is the responsibility of the liver, kidneys and digestive system, and they take their jobs very seriously. Did we mention that detox diets are not scientifically proven, and may even be dangerous?
Just as you're feeling virtuous about your self-denial, you may start to experience side effects such as low blood sugar, low energy, muscle aches, dizziness, nausea and extreme fatigue. In addition, fad "cleansing diets" can deplete the intestines of the healthy bacteria essential for digestion. And if you add in a colon cleanse, you may end up altering your body's electrolyte balance, increasing the risk of infection and a perforated bowel.
Feels so Good
True believers swear by the high they get from detoxing, but experts attribute this feeling of euphoria to the body's evolutionary reaction to starvation. And don't get too excited about the quick weight loss--it's mostly water and lean muscle tissue--and usually comes back soon after stopping the diet.
A Healthier Approach
Detoxing may provide benefits to some people. For most adults, a 2 to 3-day detox diet is probably not harmful, and could even jump-start a healthier way of eating. The key to long-term success is to realize that cleansing is not a magic pill, and the results will not last unless you adopt a healthier and more holistic lifestyle.
Most of you already know that the healthiest changes you can make are cutting out processed foods, artificial ingredients and refined sugar. But if you want a little help speeding up your body's own system after the holidays, here are some natural detoxing foods you can try:
- Broccoli sprouts
- Sesame seeds
- Whole fruits
- Green leafy vegetables
- Green tea
- Lots of water
Anyone interested in beginning a detox should first check with their doctor. Also, detoxing is not recommended for any high-risk populations including the elderly, anyone with a chronic disease, pregnant women and children.
Image: Nina Matthews Photography