‘Detoxing’ after an over-indulgence is commonly suggested in the world of health and beauty, and is often endorsed by celebrities. Clearing the body of toxins is thought to be necessary from time to time in order to stay healthy. This may be the suggested prior to a holiday to help lose weight rapidly, or to replenish after times of indulgence (e.g Christmas or Easter).
What does detoxing claim to do?
What can detoxing involve?
What the experts say:
Detoxing is in fact nonsense. Our body has numerous and well designed systems to remove waste products and toxins via our skin, gut, liver, kidneys and lungs. Our body is designed to constantly filter out waste products such as bacteria, additives, caffeine, alcohol, medication, dead cells, pollution, chemicals and products of digestion. Although not recommended, if we overindulge in a night of Alcohol for example, our bodies will work extra hard to break down the alcohol into removable products.
Detox drinks and tonics:
No particular pills, detox drinks, herbal teas or tonics can increase the productivity of our natural systems. Being well hydrated (8 glasses of water per day) is sensible. Detox diets often claim to eliminate headaches and boosts your energy and concentration levels. It is likely that drinking plenty of fluid as recommended by detox diets, and being well hydrated is actually what provides these benefits.
Consuming only fruit and vegetables:
Diets promoting only fruits and vegetables will of course promote an increased intake of fruits and vegetables. Eating only fruits and vegetables or taking these in the juice form, are not sustainable. Rather, having at least five fruits and vegetables per day alongside a healthy balance of other food groups is recommended. The claim that detoxing improves your skin, hair and nails is likely to be a result of just increasing your intake of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables rather than the result of detoxing itself.
Removing large foods groups or multiple foods:
The same principle applies with removing dairy, wheat, eggs, meat or fish from the diet. Removing whole food groups from the diet is often unnecessary and potentially harmful if you are not replacing them with alternatives (which are often very expensive). If you suspect an allergies or intolerances, it is important to seek advice from your Doctor or Dietitian before making any unnecessary exclusions.
Fasting or severely limiting your food intake can result in rapid weight loss via loss of fluid and glycogen (carbohydrate) stores, rather than actual body weight or fat. You are likely to feel tired, lack energy and reduce your ability to carry our physical activity – an important component of weight loss management and healthy living. Detox diets often claim to reduce bloating. This is likely due to lack of food in your digestive system and you are in fact just empty. Weight is often regained rapidly when usual eating habits reside.
Are there any pros?
Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, drinking more water, reducing your intake of processed foods, caffeine and alcohol are all healthy habits to adopt. Detox diets will engage you to think more about what you are eating and the effects foods have on your body.
People often report having more energy, fewer headaches and generally feeling better on a detox diet. However, not drinking alcohol or smoking, getting enough sleep, fresh air and participating in exercise will also help you feel better and more energised. These habits are also more sustainable. Few aspects of detoxing provide benefit to your health and there is simply no evidence to suggest they work. If you are eating a well balanced diet (fruits and vegetables, dairy products, starches and sources of protein) as recommended by the Food Standards Agency, you are likely being provided with sufficient nutrients to maintain health. There is simply no benefit of being roped into Detox Diets, particularly as the new year is approaching.