I've just spent the last three weeks on a detox diet with my husband. It was quite extreme (especially for my coffee drinking, biscuit eating, husband!). We both gave up coffee, wheat, dairy, sugar AND alcohol FOR THREE WEEKS!!!
Days 3 and 4 were the most challenging! Every other day thereafter my husband would ask 'why are we doing this?'
As I didn't have all the answers, I thought that some research might be a good idea. There are mixed opinions regarding the benefits of detox, so in summary, here is what I found....
What is Detox?
Detox, short for detoxification, is the body's natural, ongoing process of neutralising or eliminating toxins from the body. Toxins are anything that can potentially harm body tissue, including waste products that result from normal cell activity, and human-made toxins that we are exposed to in our environment, food, and water.
The liver, intestines, kidneys, lungs, skin, blood and lymphatic systems work together to ensure that toxins are transformed chemically to less harmful compounds and excreted from the body.
What is a Detox Diet?
A detox diet refers to a program of diet, herbs, supplements and other methods of removing environmental and dietary toxins from the body. There are many different types of detox diets. Generally, a detox diet is a short-term diet that:
- Minimises the amount of chemicals ingested (for example, by eating fresh and organic food and drinking purified water).
- Emphasises foods that provide the vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants that the body needs for detoxification.
- Contains foods, such as high fibre foods and water, that draw out and eliminate toxins by increasing the frequency of bowel movements and urination.
Detox programs vary widely, ranging from a juice fast, to simply eliminating white bread or meat. Usually, a detox diet lasts for seven to 10 days, with the first days primarily reserved for the consumption of raw foods and vegetable and fruit juices, while the remaining days one adheres to a schedule of nutrient and fibre-rich foods, such as fresh vegetables, legumes and whole grains - cutting out the unhealthy and processed foods. Whatever the plan may be, its best to seek practitioner advice before you start any kind of detox diet.
Why do People go on a Detox Diet?
Research suggests that many of the chemicals we ingest daily through food, water, and air can become deposited in fat cells in our bodies. Toxins include pesticides, antibiotics and hormones in food, chemicals from food packaging, household cleaners, detergents, food additives, heavy metals, pollution, drugs, and cigarette smoke. A diet that lacks certain nutrients may also impair our natural ability to detoxify chemicals, which further leads to their build-up in the body.
The cumulative load, called the "body burden", is thought to lead to illness and has been linked to hormonal imbalance, impaired immune function, nutritional deficiency, and an inefficient metabolism. Signs are thought to include indigestion, poor concentration and sluggishness, headaches, bad breath, fatigue, poor skin, and muscle pain.
In summary, the aim of a detox is to:
- Reduce the amount of toxins and pollution into our body to lessen the burden against the detoxification organs
- Promote healthy eating, nutrition and supplementation to help our body effectively clear the toxins
Detox diets encourage you to eat more fruit and vegetables, drink more water as well as cutting back on processed foods. It is also very empowering to feel like you are taking control of your diet which can boost your mood and motivate you to continue with positive changes.
People often report improved energy, clearer skin, regular bowel movements, improved digestion, weight loss, decreased headaches, and increased concentration and clarity after a detox diet. For me personally, the main benefits have been increased energy and improved feeling of well being.
Who Shouldn't Try a Detox Diet?
Anyone considering a detox diet should consult a qualified health professional and/or their medical doctor first. Pregnant or nursing women or children shouldn't go on a detox diet. People with certain health conditions such as liver or kidney disease should only try it under the supervision of their doctor. It is not intended for alcohol or drug detoxification.
Fatigue, indigestion, cough, muscle pain, and poor sleep can be signs of serious illness. That's why it's important to see a practitioner for a thorough assessment to ensure that any symptoms are not caused by a medical condition that requires immediate treatment.
One of the most common side effects is headache within the first few days of starting the detox diet, often due to caffeine withdrawal. For this reason, practitioners often suggest gradually decreasing the amount of caffeine prior to starting a detox diet. In addition, some people opt to take time off work to begin a detox diet or start the diet on the weekend.
Other side effects include excessive diarrhoea, which can lead to dehydration and electrolyte loss. Constipation may occur if people consume excess fibre without also increasing their fluid intake. Other side effects can include nausea, tiredness, irritability, acne, weight loss, light-headedness and hunger. Any worsening of symptoms or new symptoms that occur during a detox diet should prompt a visit to a qualified health professional.
If a detox diet is continued for a longer time, it may result in nutrient deficiencies, particularly protein (some detox diets omit animal products) and calcium.
Choosing a Detox Diet Method
Detox diet plans may include a diet recommendations, colonic hydrotherapy, herbs and supplements, and exercise. My husband and I followed a simple yet effective detox plan by Mediherb, which was recommended by a naturopath.
If you are trying a detox diet for the first time, then you might want to take a gentle approach, and gradually eliminate things like caffeine and sugar from your diet, rather than going 'cold turkey'! Here is a list of Foods to Avoid on a Detox Diet.
Look for a diet that includes all the food groups and don't follow a detox diet for more than a few weeks. Try to use it as a kick start or stepping stone to making more long term lifestyle changes – that way you can feel great and have fabulous skin all year round. If you exercise regularly and follow a healthy balanced diet most of the time then the benefits of a detox diet will be limited.
The Benefits of Supplements:
Supplementing while you are detoxing can help support the elimination of toxins and reduce any detoxification side effects. I used the following doTERRA supplements during my three week detox:
- GX Assist (days 1-10), which is a proprietary blend of Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) essential oils and caprylic acid that support a healthy digestive environment. It's a GI cleansing formula that consists of essential oils studied for their effectiveness in detoxifying the GI tract: oregano, melaleuca, lemon, lemongrass, peppermint, and thyme. I started with one capsule a day for three days, then increased to three a day for a week, but one or two a day may be sufficient for some people.
- Terrazyme, a digestive enzyme complex which supports the body's enzyme production.
- Zendocrine detoxification complex which supports healthy cleansing and filtering functios of the liver, kidneys, colon, lungs and skin.
- PB Assist (days 10-15): after cleansing the gut, its very imported to add a probiotic in order to maintain a natural balance within the digestive track. Probiotics are vital in reducing the growth of harmful bacteria, aiding the immune system, digestion, and the absorption of nutrients.
There is a limited scientific evidence that shows the benefits of a detox diet, and the critics say that the body can detoxify on its own as our system has evolved to adequately eliminate new chemicals in our environment without extra assistance.
Many people opt for detox as a last resort because they're often tired or sick. If you find the program is making you feel more nauseous, fatigued or more prone to headaches, the program is probably too rigid and restrictive. Again, always consult your doctor beforehand and make sure that whichever detox diet you try, you drink plenty of water. Exercise is also a really good idea as this will also help eliminate toxins.
Detox is about jump-starting one's healthy lifestyle. One should not complete a detox program then jump right into their old habits again, as then all the benefits will be lost and the weight and a general feeling of being unwell will return. Instead, start a detox diet with the intention of adopting at least one or two new healthy lifestyle changes and stick to them! It will improve your overall health and wellbeing as well as make your next detox a much easier ride!
Here are some links for some other healthy living articles:
This information is not intended as medical advice. Everyone should make their own health care decisions, with advice from qualified professionals.
What Are the Benefits of Detox Diets? | eHow.com