Lose 5 lbs. in 1 day! Too good to be true?!
I have heard a lot of talk about cleanses and detox diets lately. I thought this would be a good opportunity to provide our athletes some additional information to help determine whether to participate in a detox/cleanse or not.
What does “detox” mean?
Many people are drawn to the idea of a detox diet or cleanse because it presents a kind of “fresh start” for those who desire weight loss or improved health. The process to detox can vary according to whom you are speaking with. As a Dietitian, I promote the use of food that will naturally detox the body. Others may promote the use of powders, pills and/or drinks. Is MY way the right way? Maybe. Is it wrong to use powders, pills and drinks? Maybe. You decide. But before you do, consider the following information.
The term ‘detox’ can refer to pop culture detox diets like the 10 day starvation diet (AKA The Master Cleanse), to Medical Nutrition Therapy detox diet, like the Elimination Diet (for Irritable Bowel Syndrome). We should keep an open-mind when we hear the term detox. Detox could mean ANYTHING! Do your homework first.
How do detox diets work?
A detox diet should focus on switching bad habits for new and improved good habits. The toxins (or xenobiotics) that people often refer to enter our bodies through smoking, pesticides, chemical compounds in non-food products (deodorants, shampoos, air fresheners, etc.), artificial substances and heavy metals ingested through food. These toxins get “stuck” in the cells of our GI tract and/or lungs. By simply changing our diet and lifestyle, the cells in our GI tract and lungs are given the opportunity to regenerate and become strong, healthy cells. During this time of re-generation, people may experience symptoms such as runny nose and increase bowel movements. All good things! The benefits of a detox can range from improved health, energy and digestion to decreased inflammation and weight loss.
According to Marjorie Nolan Cohn, Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “the human body can eliminate any toxins it comes into contact with just fine.” Ms. Cohn suggests consumers be aware of potential risks of “fad” detox diets. I agree with Ms. Cohn. Our organs and immune system can handle detoxification on their own WHEN we provide it with the necessary nutrients to do so. Our bodies are constantly in a state of detox. According to Robin Foroutan, MS, RDN, HHC, an integrative medicine nutritionist, “without this natural process, we would die.” Dramatically stated, but true!
Can We detox using food?
If we maintain a healthy diet, rich in fiber (whole grains, organic fruits and veggies) and, adequate (preferably, non calorie) fluids, we can easily achieve a natural detox diet plan using foods. Sound good to you? Sounds good to me!
Additionally, there are certain foods that can increase or speed up the “detox” process such as cruciferous vegetables, onions, and garlic, which contain phytochemicals that induce detoxification. A high intake of fiber found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, supports regular elimination, which is important in excreting toxins through bile and stool. Wa-hoo! Even some spices such as turmeric have shown potential in protecting the gallbladder and promoting bile flow. Research has shown the potential for pomegranate acid in assisting detoxification pathways. Other foods that have shown promise in research studies include high quality protein, artichokes, watercress, cilantro, green tea and apples.
To decrease the buildup of toxins, avoid refined sugars, trans fats, and saturated fats. Bottom line, eating detoxifying foods, beverages and spices almost always is beneficial.
Are detox diets safe?
More evidenced based, peer-reviewed clinical trials evaluating specific detox programs are still needed especially for certain populations, including pregnant and breast-feeding women, diabetics, growing children, teens and older adults and those with low blood sugar, and eating disorders. These individuals shouldn’t follow a detox program due to the potential dangers associated with disruptions to dietary intake and/or calorie restriction. Detox diets are meant for individuals who are generally healthy.
Just remember, pop-culture detox diets are a short-term solution. Nutrition is essential for proper detoxification and long term, optimal health and wellness.
Trust your bodies natural detox capabilities. Remove foods/chemicals that could potentially contribute toxins and Replace with foods that support the body’s healing potential. If the detox diet that you’re hearing about sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Listen to your gut (no pun intended).
Jessica Dean, RD, CD-N
Schaeffer Juliann, Diet and Detoxification. Today’s Dietitian. 2014; 16 (3) 34
Schaeffer, Juliann Spring Cleaning: Assessing the Benefits and Risks of Detox Diets. Today’s Dietitian. 2008; 10(5) 34