Often when someone decides to start eating healthier or trying to lose weight they may start with a “detox” that supposedly “jumpstarts” weight loss and eliminates toxins from your body. These detoxes or “cleanses” can include very extreme liquid only diets, elimination of specific food groups, or drinking special concoctions and taking supplements. Some programs are administered by nutritionists and some are simply sold over the counter as a detox-in-a-box. Before we talk about why detoxes don’t work and may actually be harmful, let’s talk a little bit about the body’s built in detoxification system, the liver and kidneys.
We are exposed to toxins everyday. Technically anything that our bodies can’t use and need to break down, process, neutralize and excrete as either urine, sweat or feces is a toxin. This includes but is not limited to alcohol, caffeine, medications, pesticides, smog, impure water, sugar, and chemicals like artificial sweeteners in the foods we eat. The good news is that our liver and kidneys do a very good job at controlling the levels of toxins in our bodies. The problem comes when we overload our bodies with toxins, over and above a normal daily amount. Excess amounts of alcohol and sugary and/or processed foods, smoking, being outside in poor air quality, and taking certain medications can be too much for our natural detoxification system and our bodies will end up storing the excess toxins that it can’t process and excrete in our fat stores. So when we get tired of treating our body so poorly that it can’t keep up we want a quick solution. Just a week or two to “cleanse” years of built up toxins in our fat stores and get our liver working properly again? Sounds too good to be true. Because it is.
There is no scientific evidence to back up claims made by detox diets or cleanses. Yes, some people may feel better after doing a cleanse, but that is due to the elimination of all of the things that caused the problem in the first place. The sugar, caffeine, smoking, processed foods, and so on. They would feel just as good if they just eliminated these things without also doing a potentially dangerous detox or wasting money on expensive supplements and drinks. The liver doesn’t need our help, it just needs us to stop hindering it by filling our bodies with toxins in the form of excess sugar, processed foods and the like. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.
Not only do detoxes not work, but they may actually hurt you. According to Susan Moores, R.D., of The American Dietetic Association, the ill effects of detoxing include fluid loss, muscle loss, headaches, fatigue, irritability, aches and pains and frequent bathroom trips that actually may flush the good bacteria out of our digestive system. In addition to this most people regain any weight lost on a detox and often will gain back more than what they lost. This is due to the fact that muscle was lost on the detox and muscle is difficult to regain, but fat is not!
Now that we have established that you don’t need to detox and that it actually may be harmful to do so, what should you do if you are just getting started on a lifestyle change? As with any permanent change you have to take it gradually and know that years of abuse to your liver and kidneys will not be undone in a few short weeks. Start following the clean eating lifestyle that I lay out in these articles – My Food Philosophy and Start With The Basics. Add some exercise a few times a week, then be patient and let your body do it’s thing. Push yourself harder as your get fitter and continue to learn more about the food you eat and the quality of the fuel you are feeding the machine that is your body. Save your health and your money and avoid detox diets or anything that promises a quick fix. Being healthy and fit is not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight but I promise you it’s worth it.
This article was researched and written by Follow @DaraCoxPT
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