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FOOD & NUTRITION BLOG
Just a couple weeks ago, one of my good friends told me she was going to detox because she had a bad diet week. She felt bloated and uncomfortable. Her detox diet regimen: No meat, no sweets, just water and fruits and veggies. While I cringe...
when people say they want to detox, I have to watch myself, because not all detox is as bad as I imagine it to be. Popular media over the years has certainly not helped the word gain a positive association. Perhaps we need to stop placing negative associations with the word ‘detox.’ Perhaps we need to redefine detox into a word that means a transitional stage towards making healthier life choices and eating habits.
Detoxing has been around for quite some time. But the efficacy and safety of detoxing, whether it be through a water cleanse or a strict juice diet, has still not been proven. There is very limited scientific evidence to back up any one type of detox method, although some integrative medicine dietitians and physicians are starting to become more open to the idea of detox as a means to get people to start thinking about what they are putting into their bodies.
But, what exactly is detox? According to Today’s Dietitian, “detoxification is a natural process by which the human body rids itself of xenobiotics and endotoxins.” In our bodies, detoxification is one of the primary processes for removing toxins by converting non-water soluble toxic compounds into water-soluble compounds that are eliminated through urine, sweat, bile, or feces. Detoxification occurs in the liver and are influenced by genetics, environment, and diet (3).
The debate about detoxification comes from the fact that the body is an extremely efficient machine that gets rids of toxins on its own without any additional help. So detoxification is already happening in our bodies, probably every minute of our day. If this is the case, what is the point of additional detoxification? And can diet supplement the detoxification process?
While the role of nutrition in detoxification is an emerging science, certain foods have been identified that may aid in speeding up and increasing the efficiency of the detoxification process. Phytochemicals in cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, onions as well as garlic may aid in the production of more detoxifying enzymes (2). Increased fiber with increased water consumption will help with the elimination of toxins through feces. Green tea may also aid in increasing the efficiency of the body’s detoxification processes (2). But, what about detoxing on just blended fruits and vegetables, otherwise known as juicing?
Although there is no shortage of clinical and scientific evidence to show the positive benefits of increased fruit and vegetable consumption, there is, however, a painfully limited amount of research on juicing. What we do know is that any type of detoxification is not really that effective for weight loss (2). Individuals who claim that certain detox regimens helped them shed a certain amount of pounds in a ridiculously short amount of time usually lose water weight and tend to gain all the weight back once they are off of the detox diet. Also, the lack of protein in the diet also does not aid in retaining muscle mass.
In addition, a sudden introduction of already broken down fruits and vegetables may produce side effects such as gas, bloating, or diarrhea (1). Also, certain individuals with blood clotting medications or those with serious health conditions, like diabetes or heart disease, should consult their dietitian and physician before starting any regimen because of the risk of food-drug interactions. A strict fruit and vegetable diet may, in the long term, produce nutrient deficiencies in vitamin D and E, essential fatty acids, B vitamins, and perhaps fiber, if the pulp is taken out of the juice (1). Juicing may also lead to weight gain if other factors in the diet and activity levels are unchanged (1).
The bottom line is if you decide you want to detox, you must be healthy and without chronic disease. Dietitians recommend that healthy individuals who want to detox can detox for a short amount of time (eg 3-5 days) and to not use detoxing diets long term (2,3). It is also not recommended to follow any kind of diet that is severely restrictive in any one food group, such as diets consisting only of maple syrup, grapefruits, and a salt regimen.
Interestingly enough, dietitians may already be supporting detoxification without knowing it. Their mantra on eating more whole foods, drinking more water, and eating less processed foods actually serves as a method for detoxifying the body.
I’ve just quickly gone over the bare bones of this very interesting debate on detoxification. You can read more about it in the sources I’ve linked below.
What do you think about it?
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