|"If you're considering a detox diet, get the O.K. from your doctor."
Q: I have heard of several different detox diets for losing weight, do they really work?
-T. Putman, Mission Viejo, CA
A: Detox, short for detoxification or “cleanse” diets promise to eliminate toxins from the body and jumpstart weight loss, the diets are popular, but they're not scientifically proven. Many people are always looking for a quick way to lose weight and feel better but nutritionists, registered dieticians and other experts are expressing reservations about them, while acknowledging they do have their good points
First off what exactly is a detox or cleansing diet? Their advocates say our bodies are constantly overloaded with toxins from pollution, cigarette smoke, alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods. The thinking is that, as these toxins build in our bodies, they can be responsible for a number of health problems, such as weight gain, energy loss, and dull skin. You then rid your body of toxins by following a special diet that significantly restricts and reduces food intake.
Specific detox diets vary, but typically a period of fasting is followed by a strict diet of raw vegetables, fruit and fruit juices, and water. In addition, some detox diets advocate using certain herbs and other supplements along with colon cleansing (enemas) to help empty the intestines. Most detox diets last 7 to 10 days. There are many different types of detox diets, from juice fasts to raw food diets to plans that only include fruits or don't allow chewing.
Experts have some issues with detox diets and it is also important to consider possible side effects. Here are some pros and cons to detox dieting:
- They can cause people to lose weight too quickly;
- People will then put weight back on;
- Many of the diets lack essential nutrients;
- Many of them cause the loss of electrolytes, dehydration;
- Side effects could include fatigue, headaches, vomiting, and nausea;
- Some mean you starve your body;
- There's no scientific evidence to suggest our bodies need help to get rid of waste products if we are healthy, and there's little proof to support the claims that detox diets work;
- If someone follows a strict detox diet over the long-term, it could lead to nutrient deficiencies and health problems.
Despite all that, experts aren’t completely against detox diets. Some dieticians often put their own clients on detox for two or three days, not so much to rid their bodies of toxins but to give them a mental jump start to eating better and losing weight. One upside of cleansing diets is that they make you think differently about the food you put into your body, and so they have the potential to permanently improve your eating habits.
Some people report feeling more focused and energetic during and after detox diets. However, this may be due to a belief that they're doing something good for their bodies. There's little evidence that detox diets actually remove toxins from the body. Most ingested toxins are efficiently and effectively removed by the kidneys and liver and excreted in urine and stool.
If you're considering a detox diet, get the OK from your doctor first. Remember the best diet is a healthy diet based on fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean sources of protein. Experts advise that you choose one that still allows you to actually eat. The best diets eliminate alcohol, caffeine, meat, and most dairy; they focus on whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, whole grains, and lots of water. However, you don't want to permanently eliminate dairy from your diet. Most cleansing plans call for this in the beginning because dairy contains lots of calories and sugar, but you should plan on reintroducing small amounts of low-fat diary after finishing your cleanse.
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