Most of us love the idea of living a healthier lifestyle, feeling refreshed and having more energy. In recent years, detox diets, or body cleanses, have become increasingly popular as a way of helping people to lose weight and feel better. But what is detoxification? And does it work? Here we separate the facts from the myths.
What is a detox?
A detox is defined by Google as “a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances; detoxification.”
There is a difference, however, between detoxing and detoxification. Detoxification is a natural process performed by our bodies on a daily basis, where our organs work together to remove harmful substances from our systems or transform them into non-toxins. Detoxing is a conscious lifestyle choice to perform a toxin cleanse, temporarily giving up things we know are bad for us. It often involves following a strict plan in order to feel healthier and lose weight.
Some toxins are obvious, such as junk food, caffeine and alcohol, all of which we can control our intake of. However, we are also ingesting a wide range of environmental pollutants on a daily basis, from increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the air to chemicals in our food and water supplies. So how does a detox diet supposedly help to flush these out of our systems?
Different ways of detoxing
A simple online search reveals the huge number of different body cleanse plans being promoted by nutritionists, holistic practitioners and various celebrities. Each of these advises different methods, but most detox plans involve one or more of the following elements:
- Liquid diet of water, fresh juices and soups
- Restricted diet of nothing but fruit and vegetables
- Colon cleanses or enemas
The aim of a toxin cleanse is to improve the functions of the organs, particularly the liver, to help the body get rid of toxins. It has the additional goals of resting the organs by fasting and improving the digestive processes to eliminate waste more effectively.
Most people choose to detox in order to feel better and have more energy, but many also perform a body cleanse in the hope of losing weight. So how effective are these plans in helping people to achieve these aims? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of detoxing?
There is little scientific evidence to back up the claims that detox diets help you detoxify more effectively. They don’t usually specify which toxins they supposedly remove so it’s impossible to gain any kind of meaningful evidence about their success.
The truth is that your body naturally gets rid of toxins – they don’t build up in your liver or any of your other organs, no matter what the detox diet promoters claim. Your body is flushing toxins out of your bloodstream right now, and in a healthy body, there is no need to make any attempt to improve the detoxification process.
However, toxin cleanse plans can make people more aware of which foods are good for you and which foods you should cut out. From the point of view of nutritional education, they can be useful.
There is also insufficient research to suggest detoxing is an effective way of losing weight. A lot of people who choose to do a detox will see some instant weight loss, but this is often a loss of water and carbohydrate stores instead of a loss of fat. Because of this, a toxin cleanse is only ever likely to be a short-term solution when it comes to losing weight. If you don’t make changes to your lifestyle once you’ve finished the diet, the excess weight can quickly return.
This is where the importance of regular exercise should be pointed out. Most detox diets do not involve exercise, which should always be a regular part of a healthy lifestyle. However, as detoxing reduces calorie intake drastically, you might not have sufficient energy to exercise while you’re detoxing. Once you’ve finished your detox, it’s important to exercise several times a week, both to maintain a healthy weight and to keep your body functioning as it should.
Many people do feel better during and after a toxin cleanse, saying that it gives them more energy and makes them feel more focused. However, others report feeling unwell as they are not getting sufficient calorie intake.
There is also increasing evidence that fasting-based diets can have serious negative implications for your health. New research carried out by the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil has revealed that intermittent fasting, such as many detox plans involve, can damage the pancreas and affect insulin function, potentially causing diabetes. Children, elderly people, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and anyone suffering from a medical condition should avoid detox diets. At the very least, you should seek advice from your doctor before starting one.
The cost of a toxin cleanse can vary enormously. Some detox diets require nothing more than regular fruit and vegetables, so they won’t cost any more than your average grocery shopping. However, many plans also require you to take supplements or special shakes, and many are sold with books explaining how to do the body cleanse. These can be expensive. Some celebrity-endorsed plans retail for over US $200 – that’s over $260 in Australia.
What’s the best way to detox?
Generally, try to avoid or reduce your intake of known toxins including caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, fat and refined sugar. Taking a general clean-eating approach is the only really healthy way to change your diet. A primarily plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruit, seeds, whole grains, legumes, nuts and superfoods yields many health benefits and supports ongoing detoxification. It provides the body with all the essential vitamins, minerals, protein, unsaturated fats and amino acids it needs to keep your organs and immune system functioning as they should.
Ensuring sufficient fluid intake is also an essential part of working to flush out toxins from your system. As well as water, herbal teas are a great addition to this process - blended with unique infusions of medicinal herbs, these can detoxify your body - in a natural way. Our No.1 Green Goddess beauty tea is an excellent example. St Mary’s Thistle blended with Dandelion Root work to protect and improve the liver by rehydrating, removing toxins and and re-establishing the body’s electrolyte balance. Combined with Schizandra to enhance youthfulness results in a powerful cleansing detox tea that will also energise and rejuvenate.
Here at Edible Beauty Australia, we are dedicated to enhancing your natural glow. Cutting down on the harmful chemicals you use can also be beneficial. For example, skincare products containing only natural, organic ingredients can help to detoxify your skin, instead of exposing it to harsh man-made substances.
If you would like more information about ways to look after your body and natural, organic products, please contact us. We’ll be happy to help you improve your health and happiness.