Should you be on a detox?
It’s a few days after Christmas. You came, you saw, you ate, then ate some more. Now the guilt is setting in, you feel bloated, sluggish and the plumbing isn’t running smoothly. Or perhaps you told yourself, “I’ll eat what I want, it doesn’t matter. I’ll just go on a detox afterwards”. Maybe a friend raved about their juice detox or a magic cleanse. What you need is a detox too, right?
Detox diets have become super popular. Social media is full of celebrities sipping on juices, skinny teas and pills as the weight drops off. Everyone is on a detox.
Detox products claim to cleanse and energise but provide very little information on how they work or what they do1,2. What are they detoxing you from and how are they better than your good old trusty liver?
Very few clinical studies have tested the benefits of detox diets1,2. Anecdotal evidence and gimmicky commercials overlook the fact that our liver, kidneys and stomach are already doing a perfectly fine job on their own. They don’t cost anything or require special preparations and storage and you can use them for longer than a week. No amount of detoxing can improve the function of these precious organs2.
In general, fad dieting has a very low success rate of 20%1. Any weight loss is often short term1,2. Severe energy restriction, such as juicing detox diets, reduces metabolic rate, increases stress hormones and encourages hunger, not to mention are also nutrient poor1. Whilst a few days on a detox diet will not have long term negative health effects2, you may come out of it feeling worse.
The risks of detox diets1,2:
- Poor nutrition
- Protein and vitamin deficiency
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Lactic acidosis
- Low energy
- Low fibre
Detox diets often work by encouraging a laxative effect. It’s not fat dropping off your body, but water. Fat cells remain and when the usual diet is resumed, the body retains energy to recover from its losses.
Laxatives in detox products may also reduce absorption of vitamins and increase loss of minerals3. This is the opposite effect of detoxing.
Juicing detox diets remove all the fibre from the fruits and vegetables used, which impairs the function of your intestines, causes spikes in blood sugar and may even disrupt healthy gut bacteria2. Lacking in protein, your body will start to break down your muscles for energy2.
Why are we juicing our fruit and vegetables anyway? Eating them whole encourages feelings of fullness because of their fibre and psychologically, a plate full of vegetables is more satiating than one cup of liquid. Juicing fruits and vegetables may also lead to overconsumption as you cram more ingredients in to a blender than you would normally eat if it were whole.
Detox diets are very appealing for their quick fix solutions1,2,3 but they do not establish proper eating habits needed for a long and healthy life and encourage potentially dangerous diet behaviours.
The main action of detox diets is to reduce energy intake. Some of these detox diets also recommend exercise, avoiding processed foods and increase vegetable intake. But isn’t that what nutritionists and dietitians have been telling you all along?
By giving your already super effective and natural detox system (that is, your liver and kidneys) some extra love, you are already on the right path for a ‘detox’. If you’ve had a binge on junk food, or just way too much food in general, returning to a regular diet of mainly fruit and vegetables, lean proteins and wholegrains with at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, you feeling energized again in no time.
Have you tried detoxing?
Share your experience in the comment box below.
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- Klein, A., V. & Kiat, H. (2014). Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: A critical review of the evidence. J Hum Nutr Diet, 28, 675–686. doi: 10.1111/jhn.1228
- Tufts University. (January, 2016). Do you really need to “detox”? Health and Nutrition Letter. Retrieved from http://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/12_1/special-reports/Do-You-Really-Need-to-Detox_1873-1.html
- Croxford, S., Itsiopoulos, C., Forsyth, A., Belski, R., Thodis, A., Shepard, S., & Tierney, A. (2015). Food and nutrition throughout life. Melbourne, VIC: Allen & Unwin.