With spring here, we may get the urge to not only spring-clean our houses, but also our bodies. However, much as I support people making a positive change for their health, I’m a bit of a sceptic when it comes to ‘detoxing.’ – BY CHRISTINE PETERS, REGISTERED DIETICIAN
Detox diets can give people a false sense of security, a feeling that they are being protective of their health, but all too often they just go back to their usual way of eating. When people get to the stage of wanting to ‘detox,’ they are usually willing to participate in extreme measures, or find a quick fix, in order to feel more energetic or thinner. This extreme behaviour is generally unsustainable and bad habits easily sneak back in, and often in an exaggerated way because you are starving and feel low. This can then actually cause more damage in the long run.
People don’t realise that the body already has multiple systems in place, including the liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract, that do a perfectly good job of eliminating toxins from the body within hours of consumption. By just adopting a healthy eating plan, one actually causes a natural detox, but in a much safer way. Now let’s explore some commonly asked detoxing questions.
1 Is it healthy to detox? It all depends what you call a detox. A healthy eating plan, cutting out stimulants like caffeine and sugar, and things like salt, artificial products and heavy fatty foods, but not eliminating entire food groups, would be a very positive change. Extreme changes in diet, like just eating one food group, can be very limited in essential nutrients, which could be damaging.
2 Does fasting clean the body of toxins? Your liver and kidneys detox your body constantly. Fasting doesn’t do that; on the contrary, ketones build up when carbohydrates aren’t available for energy.
3 Do enemas, ‘flushing’ and detoxing help with losing weight? There is no credible scientific evidence proving enemas, ‘flushing’ and detoxing the liver and lymphatic system result in weight-loss. There is also no scientific evidence that there is even a need to ‘flush’ the liver, much less any benefit from doing so.
4 Why do some people say they feel better when detoxing? Detox dieters may report a variety of benefits, but none can be traced to the idea of detoxification. Fewer headaches can be traced to other lifestyle changes such as reduction in alcohol and caffeine intake. Clearer skin can result from improved hydration, and less bloating could be a result of eating less food. Some detox dieters even report a sense of euphoria, but this is actually a physical reaction to starvation.
So is there anything positive about detoxing? Well, there is something to be gained from avoiding large quantities of alcohol or junk food, but always remember that moderation is best, and these detox regimens are anything but moderate. You can achieve the same beneficial effect by following a healthy eating plan, exercising and drinking plenty of water!
About the Author
Christene is a registered dietician based in the Johannesburg area.