Detox diets

Detox Diets: Do they work?

Keeping your body healthy and free from toxins is a top priority. 

If you have recently embarked on a health journey of some sort, that is great news – well done. It speaks to your dedication to living a long, healthy life in a body that is in tip-top shape. 

Most people start their healthy-eating journeys by doing a detox of some sort. But what does that mean and is it beneficial and healthy?

Well, experts are split on whether detoxes are necessary. Some even say that certain detoxes, particularly ones that heavily restrict calories, are dangerous for extended periods of time.

It is important to note that human research on detox diets is lacking, and the handful of studies that exist are significantly inconclusive. 

What is a detox?

To detox literally means to abstain from or rid the body of toxic or unhealthy substances. This means that people who embark on a detox restrict themselves from things like fatty foods, alcohol and other seemingly ‘bad things’. Detoxes usually start as a time to fast to allow the body to expel any toxins already present. Detoxes precede new eating plans, as to start the body off on a ‘clean slate’. 

Specific detox diets vary — but typically a period of fasting is followed by a strict diet of raw vegetables, fruit and fruit juices, and water, Mayo Clinic explains. Many detoxes include liquids instead of food once the fasting period ends. 

The purpose of these foods and liquids is to empty the colon. 

But be wary, Colon cleansing causes side effects like cramping, bloating, nausea and vomiting. Dehydration can also be a concern, especially if paired with diuretics and laxatives. Sometimes a thorough detox diet also includes herbs, teas, supplements and colon cleanses or enemas. 

But detox diets aren’t only used to lose weight. Sometimes, physicians will recommend detox diets when patients have had potential exposure to toxic chemicals or contaminated food. These include pollutants, synthetic chemicals, heavy metals and other harmful compounds, explains Healthline.

Dieticians may also prescribe restrictive, detox diets to people who have food allergies or sensitivities to find the culprit of any digestive distress, and to keep the irritant out of the diet to improve the patient’s quality of life. 

Liquid detoxes

Liquid detoxes are popularly known as juice cleanses. In the last few years, juice cleanses have become popular with influencers, health gurus and fitness enthusiasts. 

Most people rave about the benefits of ‘drinking nutrients’ to easily absorb into the body. People have reported more energy and less sluggishness after 6pm, when they usually feel a dip in productivity. 

Research suggests that the effects are more likely to stem from the lack of unhealthy food from the restrictive juice diet, rather than the juice adding any significant benefits to the body and mind. 

Also, juices are high in natural sugars that give you loads of energy to expend. 

However, it is noteworthy that fruit and vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals. Drinking more juice, amidst a healthy, balanced diet, could see you reaping the benefits of your new lifestyle. Loads of fresh fruit and veggies are great for getting your body into its healthiest possible state. 

Juices are also high in anti-inflammatory compounds, which help to boost the immune system.

Juices could help improve digestion, explains Medical News Today. This happens because the fermented fruit introduces healthy enzymes into the gut – making it work more efficiently.

What are the cons of juicing?

There are a few documented, potential risks associated with juice cleansing. 

Drinking loads of juice can in fact be detrimental to your kidneys. Some types of juice contain oxalate, an acid that can contribute to kidney stones. Water cleanses would be better for people with pre-existing kidney conditions. 

Cleansing diets, even one’s that allow large amounts of natural juices, are usually low in calories, which could lead to temporary, unhealthy weight loss, light-headedness and dehydration. It can also lead to low blood sugar because the body does not have enough energy.

The American Journal of Medicine refers to juicing as a ‘ health trend, widely marketed as providing health benefits, including weight loss, flushing toxins from the body and increasing energy’. But it states that it is mostly ‘an understudied phenomenon in the legitimate medical world’.

Water Detoxes

Only consuming water and nothing else is sustainable for a few days, but isn’t healthy or recommended. Many fitness fanatics have raved about the cleansing properties of a full-on water cleanse, instead of juice and other liquids. But, the caloric deficit, which is usually paired with intense exercise, is dangerous. 

Did you know that you can actually drink ‘too much water?’. Too much water can be overwhelming for your kidneys. The kidneys function to filter water through the body. Too much water can cause stress. This can also lead to too much water collecting in your bloodstream. 

Is your urine clear? Perhaps it’s time to lay off the H20 for a bit. Colourless urine means you are overhydrated.

People have suffered from conditions like overhydration and water intoxication. The Institute of Medicine recommends between 9 and 13 cups of water a day, no more. 

For guidance regarding the management of health, nutrition and chronic illnesses, check out The Medical Society. 

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