Detox diets (or cleansing diets) are a very popular in recent years. The idea of cleaning your body in just a couple of days is very tempting. The fact that most of them promise you to shed couple pounds makes it sound even better. But is it really healthy? We looked into the recent studies on the subject to find the answer.
What is a detox diet?
In the general the idea is that by consuming a specific type of food by a number of days (usually between 3 and 7) you will remove toxins from your body. Some diets target specific organs while others promise to cleanse your whole body.
Those diets are based on the premise that our bodies accumulate toxins and metabolic waste as the result of being exposed to pollution, pesticides and food additives.
What are those toxins we need to get rid off?
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “toxins are substances created by plants and animals that are poisonous to humans. Toxins also include some medicines that are helpful in small doses, but poisonous in large amounts.”
This means that any substance can be toxic depending on the dosage.
The popular meaning of “toxins” includes toxicants, which are man-made poisons found in the environment, usually due to pollution.
Is water toxic?
Context is very important when talking about toxins.
Lot’s of those diets cite animal studies. But our digestive system is in many ways different to that of an animal. For example, cocoa is not harmful to us but is a poison to dogs.
The dosage of any substance is critical. There are known cases of excessive water consumption that caused death.
Alcohol will cause serious damage when consumed in excess but occasional consumption can be beneficial to your health (some protection against coronary heart disease).
There are some substances that are bad for your body by definition. Heavy metals and pesticides are among those that get the most attention. And no matter how careful you are some of those substances will enter your body.
Tobacco is another great example. It will only cause harm to your body. And unfortunately even if you are not a smoker you can still be exposed to it.
So let’s assume that there are some toxins in your body. It sounds like a good idea to do something about it, right?
Detox weekend to the rescue!
Unfortunately, manufacturers of detox products and authors of the cleansing diets struggle to provide any evidence that they product actually work. What’s more, most of them have problems to prove that the product is actually safe. The so-called proof they usually provide are testimonies of their customers.
Very limited research on detox diets is not very convincing and we lack definite proof that it actually works.
So why am I feeling better after my detox?
This is the common question asked by those who tried some form of detox and felt better after it. Many people report losing some weight what’s making them feel even better.
The answer to this question is quite simple. It’s not the detox diet that removed something from your body, it’s you who stopped poisoning your body when on a diet and your body is saying ‘thank you’.
If detox diets don’t work what can I do?
Let your body do its work
Your body is equipped in some amazing ways to detoxify itself. Your liver, kidneys and your gut are working around the clock to keep you in good shape.
But even that amazing machine, that you know as your own body, does have some limits. The best way to help it is to stop poisoning it.
Going on a very restrictive diet for couple days will not make your body any stronger. And a strong body is what you need in order to get rid of those toxins. A balanced diet and proper hydration are key to giving your body a fair chance of doing its work.
Make sure to give your body one more, very important tool in the fight with toxins. Get a good night’s sleep.
Why are detox diets and products so popular?
In my opinion, there are two main reasons.
One. Weight loss. Unfortunately if you managed to loose couple pounds on your detox diet it doesn’t mean that you lost any fat.
What happens is that because of very restrictive calory intake you body will burn all the glycogen it stored as backup energy. Your body (mostly liver) is using three grams of water for every gram of glycogen. When you burn glycogen you lose water. As the result in the first 24-48 hours, you might see the weight drop and that will be mostly the water you just dropped. But as soon as you end your diet and provide your body with more food it will rebuild that glycogen and water needed for it.
Second reason is that we tend to look for easy solutions and want to believe that they out there somewhere. You might be ready to give up alcohol and junk food for a couple of days but the truth is that if you want to be healthy you need to look at your diet as a whole. You need to take control over what enters your body every day of your life.