Detoxing or detoxification is derived from the alternative medicinal approach of eliminating substances from the body that are thought to be harmful or detrimental to your health. There are countless products available on the market that claim to rid the body of toxins, kick-start diets, aid weight loss, and even spiritually purify the individual - but do they work?
WHAT DOES DETOXING INVOLVE?
The term detox refers to a broad range of diet-related regimes that are based around the idea that we consume toxic substances that build up over time, which the body is unable to completely eliminate. Generally, the participant is instructed to cut out specific foods, food groups or food entirely for a specified period of time. This can be combined with the consumption of herbal supplements that are said to produce a ‘cleansing’ effect within the body. The results claimed to include:
1. weight loss
2. increased energy
3. improved immunity
4. decreased cancer risk
5. decreased risk of lifestyle diseases
6. improved blood cholesterol levels
7. improved mental performance
8. better sleep patterns
9. as well as many other less tangible effects.
However, there are very few scientifically conducted studies that support these claims. You will often find that when researching detox diets and products that the main form of verification is based on supporter’s feedback!
THE GOOD AND THE BAD
Several detox programs are based on concepts with some merit. However, the regimes you should avoid are those that encourage cutting out whole food groups, or solid foods in general, and just rely on their products.
If you have ever skipped a meal here or there you may have experienced the mild effects of undernutrition such as headache, poor mood, lack of energy and inability to concentrate. These programs claim results such as rejuvenation, optimal metabolism, and rapid weight loss, however, this is rarely a result of the product itself and more so the generally healthy recommendations they encourage post-detox.
Many regimes encourage participants to decrease alcohol consumption, caffeine intake, decrease saturated fat, exercise daily and stop smoking, which are all healthy lifestyle choices that have proven health benefits. The more extreme programs, where food is not allowed, can actually be quite harmful, and if they must be attempted, they should only be followed under prior consultation with a doctor. These will send the body into starvation mode, where fat stores are retained as a survival mechanism as the body does not know when it will receive sufficient nutrients again. There are in fact a number of detox product ingredients that have been listed as harmful to those with certain health conditions.
IS IT WORTH MY MONEY?
In short, no. You can undertake a ‘detox’ where you attempt to consume only healthy, unprocessed, fresh fruits and vegetable products for a dedicated period of time, pay no money and experience similar benefits to those products that prescribe supplements and plans to you for a large sum.
Participating in detox may, in fact, catapult you into a new, healthier lifestyle which is a great thing, however, there are no scientifically proven physical, toxicity-lowering benefits associated with these plans.
The best advice you can gain from most regimes is decreasing processed food intake, maximizing fruit and vegetable intake and limiting smoking, caffeine and alcohol. You don’t need to pay big bucks or starve yourself to kick-start your health improvements, just follow common sense!