Detox Diets: Are They Really Necessary?

By:    Published: August 8, 2012

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Detox diets seem to be all the rage recently, especially with so many celebrities touting their benefits. Many people like the sound of what a detox diet promises, but are concerned about whether it actually works or whether it’s safe. This article explores the basics of detox diets as well as their potential health benefits and health risks.

What Is A Detox Diet?

The idea behind detox (short for “detoxification”) diets is that they flush the toxins out of your body and improve your overall health. This is usually accomplished by fasting for a short period of time and then adhering to a strict and very limited diet. A detox diet may include some or all of the following:

  • Water
  • Fruit juice
  • Tea
  • Raw Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Herbs
  • Spices
  • Laxatives

Some detox diets also encourage individuals to perform enemas in order to cleanse the colon. A detox diet could last anywhere from a few days to a month depending on the program. In some cases, a detox diet involves a completely liquid diet that may include vegetable purees.

Potential Benefits Of Detox Diets

Various detox diets have different claims, but most people following a detox diet hope to receive the following health benefits as a result of flushing toxins from their bodies:

  • More energy
  • Improved focus
  • Fewer headaches
  • Relief from nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Better overall health

Many people who’ve tried a detox diet say that it makes them feel fresher, more relaxed and healthier overall.

Detox Diet Risks

(The dangers to your health, possible complications, side effects, etc.)

Unfortunately, there exists no scientific evidence to prove that detox diets actually work. The reason is that the body is already wired to get rid of toxins naturally and efficiently. Toxins are removed by the liver and kidneys in the form of sweat, urine and feces. Therefore completing a detox diet is pointless and, in fact, can actually put your health at risk.

Most health experts agree that detox diets are a dangerous health trend. Some people’s bodies don’t sustain this sudden change in diet well and suffer from liquid bowel movements, malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, blood sugar problems, arrhythmia or even cardiac arrest. Some even get hooked on detoxing – the fasting period can lead to the body releasing endorphins as a painkiller, so when a person ends the diet they experience a crash and then try to regain that good feeling by fasting again. It’s not long before a person can become hooked on this feeling of control and experience body image issues as a result.

In addition, there’s proof that detox diets can actually cause you to gain weight rather than lose it in the long run. The problem is that people typically lose water weight when they do a detox diet, giving them the false sense that the diet is working. That water weight quickly returns as soon as the individual starts eating again. By that time, the lack of nutrients a person on a detox diet consumes actually causes their body to slow down its metabolism in order to conserve energy. Basically, a detox diet can end up training your body to use up your muscle for energy and make it harder to burn calories.

Another issue with detox diets is that they may weaken the immune system. Detox programs which involve colon-cleansing products can end up killing good bacteria, leaving the gut vulnerable to germs.

Detox diets may lead to the following side effects:

  • Frequent and liquid bowel movements
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Aches and pains
  • Loss of focus

Precautions

Individuals who are pregnant, nursing, have diabetes, digestive conditions, heart problems or kidney problems should not try a detox diet. In addition, children, teens and older adults should stay away from these detox regimens.

Detox diets generally aren’t recommended by health professionals, but you may be able to take some elements of the detox regimen to help improve your health. For example, introducing lots of water, fruits and vegetables into your diet can be a great way to cut back on unhealthy foods.

Keep in mind that long-term diet changes tend to lead to much more successful improvements in health compared to short-term diets like the detox regimen. Talk to your doctor about how you can improve your diet in a manageable way on a daily basis.

It’s best to avoid detox diets as they can be harmful to your health and involve a lot of unpleasant side effects. The best way to improve your overall health is to eat a healthy, balanced diet on a daily basis. In addition, consider implementing an exercise routine that involves regular physical activity throughout the week. Making long-term changes to your lifestyle and habits is proven to be much more effective than crash dieting for a few days.

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