When people talk about detoxifying (or “detoxing”) most of the time what they are wanting to do is clear the body of accumulated poisons and food waste by one of many available methods. These methods usually entail severely reducing food intake and cutting out chemicals and additives such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and salt. Many plans support eating whole organic fruits and vegetables, or supporting the cleansing process with herbs, supplements, exercise, hydrotherapy, and rest.
There are some good detox and cleansing plans out there, but you have to do your research. Some detox plans can include things like laxatives or extended fasting that may be harmful to the body and lead to issues, such as dehydration and nutritional deficiencies. What do you need to know before your start a potentially harmful detox plan?
Does Detoxing Even Work?
“Detox and cleanse diets are bad for a number of reasons: They waste your time and, depending on the duration and the level of restriction, they may do more harm to your health than good. One of the problems with ‘detoxes’ is that they are very vague—What toxins are being removed? From where? And how? These questions are rarely answered, because most detox plans lack any real scientific basis. In fact, I recently challenged a room of 90+ fitness professionals to show me any evidence in humans (not mice or in test tubes) that lemon detoxifies your liver, and no one could come up with anything.” – Shape Magazine
“‘I’ve also never seen an explanation for what ‘cleanse’ or ‘detox’ diets are cleansing or detoxifying your body of,” Dubost adds. ‘I think the vagueness there may be part of the appeal.’
Put another way, if you’re eating a healthy diet packed with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein—the kind of sustainable diet that will help keep your weight down and lower your risk for many diseases—your body has no use for any radical detoxification measures. And if your diet is poor, pounding juice for a week isn’t going to do you any good.
‘You’ll drop some water weight on these cleanses because you won’t be consuming very many calories,” Dubost says. ‘But that weight will come back when you start eating again.’ The kind of severe calorie restriction associated with cleanse diets can also lead to muscle breakdown and feelings of extreme fatigue, as well as headaches, irritability, cramping and diarrhea.'” – Time Magazine
The reality is… The detox plan or cleanse you are considering may not have any real, lasting benefit. On the flip side, you may find a detox program that saves your life and dramatically improves your health.
What should you do in the face of conflicting information: Do your research and don’t just believe the claims that are being made. As with any dramatic shift in eating or exercising habits, it is advisable to speak with your doctor or a nutritionist before beginning a detox or cleanse plan.
Here are some of the reasons why detoxing could be harmful to your health.
Toxins Released in Your System
A detox plan may tell you that toxins that are making you fat or sick will be released, making you feel much better and healthier. What if that process could make you even sicker?
Your liver filters toxins out of your blood, including pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, ammonia and chemicals… If you are eating a holistic, whole-food diet at the same time your liver is dumping toxins into your GI tract, then food fibers will tend to capture those toxins and trap them, ultimately transporting them out of your body through bowel movements. But if you aren’t eating any fiber — for example, you’re on a “juice fast” or a “juice cleanse” — then you have a potentially huge problem: You have no fibers to trap the toxins your liver is dumping into your small intestines! So those toxins get reabsorbed right back through your intestinal walls and into your blood. – Natural News
Fasting Too Long
Even healthy adults need to approach detoxing with care. Fasting for too long can result in loss of muscle and lowered metabolism. Fasting causes the body to go into “conservation mode.” This can be helpful in short bursts to kick a cold or initiate a shift to healthier eating habits, but over time this can reduce immunity and lower quality of life. It is vital to maintain adequate nutrient intake, including lean protein, vitamins and minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber.
People with Eating Disorders
Detox diets can be dangerous for people with eating disorders or addictive personalities. Sometimes detoxing provides a temporary “high” from the reduction of food intake or having an enema. This “high” can be addicting to people prone to such imbalances. The use of laxatives in some detox plans can be very appealing to bulimics who have over used laxatives for weight loss in the past.
Potentially Harmful Herbs – Do Your Research
Some of the herbs and supplements used in a detox can be dangerous for some people. Commercial preparations sometimes cause adverse side-effects, and even some herbal laxatives can lead to dehydration, mineral imbalances, and digestive disorders in certain people. Diet and detox teas are a very common detox method that can have negative results.
Dramatically changing eating habits or fasting from particular food groups can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. This can contribute to kidney imbalances, insulin issues, stress and weight gain. It is important to maintain even blood sugar levels by proper eating and drinking schedules. If you are a diabetic or have issues with blood sugar regulation, do not start a detox or cleansing plan without getting the ok from your doctor.
If someone has a stressful lifestyle, detoxing can actually worsen his or her health conditions by increasing adrenal burnout and putting the body in “famine mode.” This can affect stress hormones, lead to weight gain and heart disease. It is important to be able to rest and go easy at home and work during a detox. Sleep is key.
Detoxing needs to be understood as a part of a long-term healthy lifestyle plan, not a quick fix. The reality is that because most detox plans are very extreme, the results they produce are short lived. People go right back to old habits after the detox ends. Eating healthier food and drinking water are two ways you can support the natural detoxing functions of the body. For most healthy adults, a detoxification plan based on lifestyle and healthy eating can be formulated that will support health and well being.