Many of us, especially after a period of overindulging such as the festive holidays, feel the need to recharge our batteries and hit the reset button on our bodies. While it is great to recharge and a good idea to get back to healthier eating and living, this does not mean you have to take the drastic approach of detoxing or starving your body to do this. It is actually one of the worst things you could do to your body and you won’t be doing yourself any favours. Here is why its time to drop the detox diets:
What does it mean to “detox”
Detoxing or cleansing might mean slightly different things to different people, but ultimately the goal is the same – to get rid of toxins. Some will also do it for weight loss, improve energy levels, improve digestion, get rid of cellulite or clear up bad skin. While all of these are good goals, and while eating more fruit and veg or avoiding alcohol will help, cutting out other foods won’t be doing you any favours.
Some detox diets include skipping meals including fasting, others only eat fruit and veg, often in the form of juicing, and some may eliminate certain food groups, or eliminate alcohol and caffeine. The latter is the only one that can actually make a difference. But apart from avoiding alcohol and caffeine, all of these detox diets do the same thing. That is, they starve your body of important nutrients. Honestly, detoxing diets are all a load of bull and its really not a healthy route to go down.
How does detoxing affect your body?
There may be different types of detox diets people follow, but they all one main thing in common, which is that they are very low in essential nutrients. More specifically, they are very low in calories (energy). This sudden drop in energy is most likely to leave you feeling tired, moody, weak and dizzy. This is not the detox doing its job and a result of toxins leaving your body. It is a result of your body suffering because you are starving it unnecessarily from carbohydrates and other nutrients. These other important nutrients include protein, essential fats, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fibre in most cases. There is also no substantial evidence to prove that detoxing are effective and healthy for you, so it’s time to ditch the detox diets (1).
As for weight loss, if you starve your body, of course, you will lose some weight. At least on the scale that is. But this weight will mostly be water. Carbohydrate once broken down into glucose that is not used as energy, gets stored as glycogen (2). They also hold water in your muscles. When you starve your body, i.e through doing a detox, these glycogen stores get used up to supply the body with energy, as it is not getting enough from your intake. When glycogen stores are used up, so does the water – which is the weight you are losing. That alone with loss of muscle mass.
Along with this temporary weight loss, you may also notice signs of low energy and low physical activity levels, mood changes, an upset stomach, and loss of muscle mass to name a few. These signs are not an indication of toxins leaving your body, but rather you starving your body from the vital nutrition it needs to function at its best.
So how do you detox?
The good news is, that your body is a detoxing machine, so don’t try to take away part of its job, and save yourself from going through the torture of starving yourself. Your body, that consists of many organs is able to get rid of most toxins from food and drink that enter your body (within reason). The main organs responsible for this are the kidneys, liver and your gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach.
Your kidneys are a natural filtration system. They filter out certain toxins, waste, excess water-soluble vitamins and minerals, excess protein and water. They even have their own cleansing system when you are well hydrated. The liver is mostly responsible for eliminating toxins such as alcohol and drugs, including medication. Along with bile, it is able to remove these from the body. Your stomach also acts as a great mechanism to help eliminate toxins as it contains some pretty heavy duty acid that can help kill bacteria. And your digestive tract is not only responsible for absorbing important nutrients needed, but also acts as a waste disposer for waste through bowel motions. You also lose toxins through sweat.
But sometimes, when the body is overloaded with toxins, these organs need a little help. When you overdo it on any unhealthy food or drink, drugs or medication and even environmental factors, your body will suffer through some common health problems such as headaches, constipation or diarrhoea, low immunity, fatigue and dull skin. So of course “cleansing” can help. But it needs to be the right type of help and not the typical cleanse or detox you are think of.
How to detox the right way
Instead of starving or depriving yourself, why not make things easier for you and your body. You should want your liver, kidneys and other organs to be healthy too and detoxing is not going to help them be at their best. Detoxing the right way is actually quite simple, and you will feel so much better for doing it the right way. My version of detoxing is plain and simple – eat healthy, eat well, avoid consuming unhealthy food and drink.
Avoid or limit alcohol
As mentioned above, avoid drinking alcohol if you want to detox. There is no nutritional value in alcohol and it is what is known as empty calories. It provides calories from sugar, but with no benefits. If you must drink, why not try some alcohol-free options to give your liver and skin a break. There are plenty of alcohol-free options available to try.
Avoid drugs and smoking – period
With the exception of medication that you may need to take, drugs and smoking are extremely harmful to your health and have a big impact on your liver and other organs. Avoid, avoid, avoid!
Focus on more fruit and veg
Fruit and veg are not only loaded with vitamins and minerals, but also antioxidants and phytonutrients. All of these are important for you. They help to build a strong, health immune system, keep your skin, bones and organs healthy and help to eliminate free radicals (well, at least the antioxidants do). Aim for a minimum of 5 a day, but ideally much more. Try including a variety of different types and colours and having some plant-based meals too. Legumes count towards your 5-a-day too.
Choose lean proteins and healthy fats
To help your body “detox”, avoid putting crap in. It’s that simple. Pick lean proteins such as legumes (beans and pulses), tofu or soy, fish (including some oily fish such as salmon), lean red meat and chicken breast without the skin. Avoid processed meats like bacon, sausage and co. As for fats, stick to unsaturated fats such as avocado, healthy oils (olive oil, rapeseed oil), nuts and seeds but only in small amounts. Avoid those processed foods full of unhealthy fats such as biscuits and chocolates, pies and pastries, and fatty takeaway foods.
Eat more fibre rich carbs
Carbs rich in fibre such as wholegrain foods are best. Opt for the likes of grains (wild or brown rice, quinoa, bulgar wheat, oats, wholegrain bread and wholewheat pasta) and limit the processed and refined carbs.
Hydrate the right way
Yes, drinking is very important, but the type of fluid is important to. Water is best, so focus on this being your main drink of the day. Herbal teas are another good option. You can have caffeine, but limit the amount you have per day. Avoid sugary and fizzy drinks, and alcohol when you can, as this is the best way to detox.
To help you eliminate unwanted toxins, get clearer skin and lose weight, if thats your goal, being physically active along with eating and drinking well is certainly going to help. Through building up a sweat, you can help to sweat out those harmful, unwanted toxins, and through being active, you wont only be helping your organs out, but your mind and attitude too. If you are also wanting to recharge your batteries, aim to include some meditation, yoga, stretching or even a time-out for yourself as well as some cardio and strengthening exercises.
Focus on your sleep
Sleep is also vital for your health, but for detoxing too. A good night of shuteye is not only important for your body’s health and to help you to recharge, but also for its detoxifying system. Sleeping allows the brain to sweep out any waste byproducts that have built up throughout the day. One type of waste that can build up is a protein called beta-amyloid, which is linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
The Final Word
If you feel the need to detox and improve your health, be sensible and aim to do this in a way that won’t harm your health. Drop the typical detox diets that only cause more harm than good, and focus on eating and drinking healthily, being active, getting a good nights sleep and limiting harmful toxins such as alcohol.