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Mythbusting: Do You Need to Detox?

Are you feeling a little sluggish after your summer vacation?  After last week’s clean eating post, one reader asked me to cover the subject of detox diets.  The concept sounds appealing on the surface—no one wants to burden their body with toxins.  The idea of cleaning out, especially after a few days of indulging sounds smart, but is a detox diet what it takes to accomplish that?

 

Our bodies encounter “toxic” things every day.  Even water and oxygen can be toxic in large amounts.  Fortunately, our bodies have amazing systems that eliminate those toxins without the need for a supplement or juice. 

 

The Bottom Line: Do you have kidneys, a liver, and skin?  Congratulations!  You’re detoxing.  Seriously.  Right now, sitting in your car or at your desk, you’re detoxing. Our bodies rock.

 

Myth:  Detox diets help you lose weight.

 

Fact:  It might help you shed some pounds, but that weight loss is temporary.  When you drop your calorie intake drastically by only drinking juices for several days, you’ll lose weight.  Unfortunately, most of that weight loss will come from your lean body mass which hurts your ability to burn calories in the long term.  Detox products and diets often deprive you of energy as well, which certainly makes going to the gym more of a challenge!

 

Myth: When I do a cleanse, I feel so much lighter.

 

Fact:  Feeling “lighter” is typical on a detox diet, but not for the reasons you might think.   It could be a placebo effect (you think you’ll feel better, so you do), but could also be from the laxative effect from juices or low blood sugar.  When you return to food, that lightness will go away.

 

Myth:  Detoxes are harmless. 

 

Fact:  There is very little research on the safety of commercially sold detox programs.  Just like dietary supplements, no one has to approve that detox products are safe.  You can experience fun side effects like nausea, vomiting, or difficulty concentrating.  Some products even promote nausea as a good thing—being sick indicates your body is detoxing!  Especially if you have a pre-existing condition, like diabetes or heart disease, detox diets and products can be dangerous.  Those with kidney conditions should never risk the electrolyte imbalances that can occur with many of these products.

 

So what should you do to “detox” after a few days of overdoing it?  Get back to your healthy habits.  Include lots of healthy foods that are high in fiber, such as fruits and veggies, and whole grains.  Cut down on alcohol for a few days and drink more water.  Get out and enjoy fresh air and the sunshine on a walk or bike ride. 

 

 

 

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