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The Truth About Detoxing

Flushing. Detoxing. Cleansing. Purifying. No matter how you phrase it, detoxification diets (commonly known as a detox diet) have been romanticized in the mainstream culture. Touted as the fast and efficient way to shed a few pounds while rebalancing your body to its natural state, detox diets are becoming the quick fix to dieting. But how good can an extreme regimen that restricts you to only drink juice actually be?

Dispelling the Myths

Toxins: People believe that the most important element to detoxing is ridding your body of toxic chemicals. With all of the processed food that is consumed and the contaminants in our environment, one would believe that it builds up within our bodies. The truth  – when you flush out the bad, you also flush out the good.

Weight Loss: People that go on detox diets see instant weight loss results. That is because the amount of calories being consumed drops dramatically. Yet, they aren’t losing fat, they are losing water weight. The truth – once you go back to eating solid foods, you gain the weight back.

Restoring Your Immune System: With your body free of toxins and contaminants, you should be able to battle any infection that comes your way, right? Wrong. Depriving your body of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals prevents you from fighting off illness. The truth – your body has a harder time warding off infections when it doesn’t have the ammunition to do so.

More Energy: It is said that once the body is free of contaminants, it should function at a higher level. Meaning that your metabolism should kick into high gear to help you with losing weight. With that weight off of your body, your activity level should increase. What people don’t know is that detoxing puts your body into conservation mode (aka survival mode), forcing your body to manipulate its natural functions in order to survive. The truth – fasting makes your metabolism sluggish, forcing your body to hold onto calories longer instead of actually scorching them.

Your Body On a Detox

The effects of detoxing are almost instantaneous. You body quickly jumps into conservation mode. The rest is downhill (adapted from Women’s Health).

Within the first sip of juice, the sugars cause your pancreas to produce insulin, which moves sugar (glucose) into your cells. Your cells zap up the glucose and you immediately begin to feel dizzy because you blood sugar levels have plunged. And since you haven’t given your body the nutrients it needs, your glycogen reserves (energy from liver and muscles) are tapped into. Hence, muscle loss begins.

After about two days of putting your body through an insulin rollercoaster and consuming less than half of your daily recommended calorie intake, your glycogen reserves are tapped out. Your body resorts to two other energy reserves, your triglycerides and proteins. The energy in your triglycerides comes from fat (weight loss), but the protein is pulled from your muscles (muscle breakdown).  Despite your efforts to hit the gym, your body isn’t creating any muscle mass.

Around the three-day mark, your brain starts to feel the effects. You discover you have a hard time concentrating and are irritable. You suffer from headaches and other aches and pains in your body because your body is getting fuel from the breakdown of your triglycerides. With the lack of fresh protein in your body, your muscles begin to break down into your bloodstream. Your kidney kicks into stealth mode to detox your blood and all those carbs cause you to visit the bathroom with a severe case of diarrhea.

After the fourth day, your small intestine is warped. The villi (the part of your small intestine that absorbs nutrients from food) begins to deteriorate. Your diarrhea worsens and you become at risk for dehydration.

When you decide to end your detox diet, the damage is done. Although it is repairable over time, the effects have caused quite the upset in your body. Your natural detoxifying organs – liver, kidney, and colon – have been though such chaos that it takes longer for them to detoxify the solid foods you eat. Your weight loss is regained and your muscles are smaller than they were before. Essentially you just put your body through a yo-yo diet.

Detox the Natural Way

If you are truly concerned about the processed foods you consume or want to reset your body to a better state, there are natural foods that inherently cleanse your body without the calorie loss. Restore your body with foods that revitalize your immune and digestive systems.

The following foods are recommended as healthy for detoxing:

  • Green leafy vegetables (boost chlorophyll levels)
  • Lemons (contains vitamin C)
  • Watercress (natural diuretic)
  • Green Tea (increases production of detoxification enzymes in liver)
  • Sprouts (high in fiber, rich with essential nutrients)
  • Cabbage (cleanses liver)
  • Artichokes (stimulates healthy digestion)
  • Beets (help liver and gallbladder function)
  • Ginger and Garlic (eliminates free radicals)
  • Fruit (high in fiber)
  • Probiotics such as yogurt, miso, kefir, kimchi, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (contains healthy bacterias)

The bottom line: Doctors and dieticians suggest that the risks of detoxing out weight the possible benefits. Our bodies need certain energy sources to function, so why deprive yourself of good health when you can easily find ways to become healthier.

Further Reading:

Greatist – Do Juice Cleanses Really Work?

MSN – Experts Warn of Detox Diet Dangers

FitSugar – 10 Foods to Help You Detox

Mayo Clinic – Do Detox Diets Offer Any Health Benefits

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