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A detox? Should I do one? Do they work?

Detoxing is likely one of the most popular diet trends currently in Zambia. Whether through fasting, juicing, teas, or other products, we have been told our bodies need to detox to be healthier and lose weight fast. Plus, everyone famous is doing it and posting about it. However, if you were to ask them how what they are doing will draw out toxins and which toxins they are removing, would they have an answer?

Let’s break it down.

The term detox means to remove toxins. To define a toxin, they are anything foreign with the potential for harm to the human body. Lucky for us, the human body is designed to remove toxins in many different ways. For example, your lungs clear out toxins in the air you breathe, your bowels remove excess stool from digestion, and your liver and kidneys filter your blood and remove toxins through urine. If all of your organs are functioning as they should, why do you need to go on a detox?

The reality is that our exposure to toxins has to be pretty high to damage these detoxification organs. An example would be excessive intake of alcohol or strong medications regularly.

However, detox marketers need to sell their products, and to catch your attention, you will be asked; are you experiencing fatigue, headaches, constipation, patchy skin, or having trouble sleeping? For most of us, the answer is yes, due to the high, paced, low self-care lifestyles we currently live. So, you are convinced these symptoms are caused by “toxins” in your body, and now you think, “I have got to get rid of them.”

Ads, brands, and marketers will sell you a quick fix solution that promises a reset of your organs, stimulation of your liver, promotion of blood circulation, reduction in skin irritation, allergies, and more. The reality is if your detox organs weren’t working, you would experience fever, chills, low body temp, fast heartbeat, jaundice, swollen feet or ankles and, or shortness of breath.

Detox for weight loss

Detoxing or “cleansing” is a familiar concept for many to follow after a birthday weekend or family wedding. It will make your stomach feel empty because you’re consuming fewer calories. This rapid loss of water weight is due to the loss of fluid and carb stores, not fat, and is regained once you go off the cleanse. If a detox diet involves severe calorie restriction, it will most certainly cause weight loss, but it’s unlikely to help you keep weight off in the long term. It can slow down your metabolism if prolonged.

The unpleasant side effects

First things first, a detox will not teach you any new positive dietary habits that will last you, and for many, the weight regain after can result in yet another failed weight loss attempt. Detoxing impacts your mindset and relationship with food, not forgetting that it will often cost you much more than a week’s supply of groceries just for three juices.

Here are some of the known impacts of detoxing

  • Products marketed as liver and kidney cleansing agents can often strain the organs they intend to help. In the worst cases, the ingredient labels of detox products may be inaccurate, which can increase your risk of overdosing, potentially resulting in profound effects.
  • Excessive amounts of juicing will cause diarrhoea due to the high volumes of certain nutrients being taken in concentrated form without a balance of other nutrients. Intern, dehydration can occur, and with repeated detoxes, potential damage to the bowel.
  • It disrupts the natural balance of bacteria in our bowels, which is crucial for so many elements of our health including or immunity.
  • It can disrupt the balance of electrolytes in our bodies. One vital electrolyte involved in the regulation of the heart is Potassium. Did you hear the recent news of Shane Warne, the famous cricketer who was on a two-week juice diet before the heart attack that took his life?
  • Long-term fasting can result in energy, vitamin, and mineral deficiencies
  • Some detox diets may risk overdosing on supplements, laxatives, diuretics, and water.
  • Some juices contain foods high in oxalate, a naturally occurring substance. Two examples of high-oxalate foods are spinach and beetroots. Drinking large quantities of high-oxalate juice can increase the risk of kidney problems.
  • Your stress levels will increase. One study in women showed that a 48-hour fast and three weeks of reduced calories resulted in a significant increase in cortisol levels.

What do the researchers and experts say?

Reliable medical sources show that detoxes have no scientific backing and are unnecessary. The few studies on humans are also significantly flawed in research design.

Experts in nutrition and medicine remind us that there is a lack of regulation and monitoring in the detox industry. Many detox foods and supplements do not have any scientific basis.

When asked, marketers are never entirely clear how the detox removes toxins, what specific compounds they’re supposed to eliminate, and if they even work. Gastroenterologists have highlighted that the stomach doesn’t need “resting.” Why would we be designed to suppress our hunger to eat regularly. Foods that require less digesting is only necessary for those with damaged stomachs. In the end, many experts were confused on what the many claims even meant as they made no scientific sense.

A robust research study published recently on stool transplantation, reminds us that our stool is beneficial to the colon lining, and the need to clean it all out doesn’t make any sense unless you are constipated.

The bottom line

There is no evidence for any of the claims that one needs a detox to remove toxins. Our body is perfectly capable of dealing with removal without any additional help. The best support we can give these vital detoxification organs is to follow an active lifestyle with a well-balanced diet. Any benefits felt are most likely from removing unhealthy amounts of alcohol, processed foods, and the introduction of more fruits and vegetables.

So, ditch the quick fix and invest your time and energy into long-lasting changes.

If you would like your diet to support the healthy function of your detox organs, you may like to try a healthy alternative to detoxing, where you can still eat the food you love. Click on one of the images below to check our meal plans, which are a great guide to get your started.


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