There will always be claims of the latest and greatest ways to reboot your body. Here, we look at the benefits and principles of detoxing, to help you identify fact versus fiction.
What is a detox?
As the name suggests, detoxification is the process of eliminating toxins from the body. While we have organs (kidneys, liver, intestines) and systems (lymphatic) that perform this function daily, a concentrated detox can flush additional toxins that build up in your system over time. This is via our diet, the air we breathe and the products we use.
What are the benefits & risks?
By removing unnecessary waste, it is believed that detoxing helps our bodies to function at a more optimal level. Detoxes are also marketed as a ‘fast’ and ‘easy’ way to drop unwanted kilos.
This 2017 study examined the benefits of a three-day fruit and vegetable fast in a group of 20 otherwise healthy people. It found that participants lost a significant amount of weight, and continued to over several weeks, which potentially occurred due to changes in their gut microbiome.
However, there is a downside to depriving the body of the calories it needs to function. Participants in calorie-limiting detoxes often experience side effects including fatigue, headaches, stomach pain, bowel changes, mood changes and difficulty concentrating.
Types of detoxes
From juice cleanses to fasting, taking herbs and supplements, and only eating a particular type of food, there are countless detox methods on the market. However, many are not scientifically proven, and are based more on fad than fact, so it’s important to know what to look for when choosing the right one for you.
Look for detoxes that involve:
- Eating fresh, whole food in a variety of colours
- Eliminate caffeine, alcohol, smoking, refined sugar, fried and processed foods
- Reduce or eliminate use of harmful chemicals around the home and in skincare products
Avoid or discontinue any detox that:
- Puts your body under excessive stress (especially those that run for long periods of more than a few days)
- Make you feel unwell or experience any concerning side effects, physical or mental
- Leave you feeling so hungry you can’t fulfill your normal duties
It’s also important to note that people with certain conditions, health issues or those on certain types of medication should avoid detoxing entirely, including pregnant women and people with diabetes or heart disease. Always speak to your doctor before starting any form of detox.
Beyond the detox
There are ways to detox safely, however, what’s more important is that you focus creating and maintaining sustainable diet and lifestyle choices. A quick and dirty seven days of diet shakes might help you shed a few kilos, but it won’t set your body up for ongoing healthy performance. And those toxins you want to eliminate? There’s little point flushing them out temporarily if your practices don’t change.
If you are committed to long-term health and wellbeing, the following diet and lifestyle changes will hold you in good stead:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Limit intake of unhealthy food and drink
- Quit smoking
- Choose chemical free alternatives in skin care and cleaning products
- Get regular exercise and plenty of rest
- Look after your mental health
- Talk to your health professional about nutritional supplements that might enhance your wellbeing