Detox diets are all the rage, especially during swimsuit season. But are they safe? It’s appealing to imagine we can magically fix any damage caused by overindulgence in alcohol, snack foods, and sugary treats. All it takes is an extreme, punishing diet that lasts 2-4 weeks, right?
Although “detox” has become the new diet buzzword, the truth is that most approaches to detoxing are completely unfounded in any scientific evidence or principles. In fact, some lucrative detoxing products and systems are off the market and were penalized by the FDA because they are harmful and knowingly make false claims. Nevertheless, the detoxing fad continues, usually in tandem with weight loss regimes.
What Is a Detox Diet?
Most detox diets consist of fasting, and/or eating a restricted diet. Sometimes, the detoxing plan also includes supplements that claim to remove toxins from your digestive system, blood, and organs. One of the most popular detox systems lasts two to four weeks during which the dieter ingests nothing but water, lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper. A detox diet may also be paired with additional detoxing methods, such as colon cleansing or detoxification pads for your feet. Much like a detox diet, none of these methodologies have scientific backing.
Risks of Harmful Detox Diets
The risks that you take with a detox diet will depend on many factors, from your own lifestyle to the system that you choose. However, there are some common risks that the NIH warns against:
Severely restricting your calorie intake seldom leads to lasting weight loss, as instead it puts your body into starvation mode, and you rapidly re-acquire weight once you start eating more.
A highly restricted diet can easily lead to loss of key nutrients which are vital to your body’s day-to-day operation.
Colon cleansing products and procedures often have numerous health risks, some of which can lead to permanent problems.
Colon cleansing will also usually cause cramping, diarrhea, bloating, nausea, etc. These can carry with them risk of dehydration.
It’s important to understand your own health conditions and risks before embarking on a new diet. For example, individuals with kidney disease can suffer on a juice diet due to increased exposure to oxalate, a substance which can hurt the kidneys.
How the Body Detoxes Naturally
So with all these risks, how is “detoxing” still so popular? Well, there’s one thing that detox gurus claim that’s completely true: modern life and our Standard American Diet is full of potential pollutants and chemicals. These all tax our system and impede the body’s natural function. That being said, it’s important to note that our body is naturally equipped with defenses that filter, convert, and expel these toxins much better than a forced diet will.
Your body has natural detoxification systems in your skin, intestines, blood, kidneys, and even lungs. The detoxification workhorse in your body, however, is the liver. Along with its other functions, the liver takes toxic substances and breaks them down and converts them into harmless elements or waste.
When a detox diet claims to “clean the blood, maximize nutrient intake, and remove toxins from the body” it’s important to remember that each of those functions is already happening in your body, thanks to your liver.
Supporting Detoxification Function in Your Body
Many people lose weight and feel better after a detox diet, even if they feel much worse during it. Why? Well they lose weight because a restrictive diet forces your body to metabolize fat for fuel. However, this can be an unsafe way to diet, putting your body into panic mode and increasing stress hormones that can lead to greater weight gain when you start eating more (as you’ll inevitably need to do in order to avoid becoming malnourished.)
That explains the weight loss, but why would people actually feel better after a cleanse if they’ve just stressed out their bodies? Even though fasting is an extreme way to do it, eliminating unhealthy foods from your diet will make you feel better. Getting rid of alcohol, excess sugar, and processed fats reduces the stress on your liver. However, it’s important to remember that it’s also vital to fuel your liver, along with the rest of your body. Supporting your body with the micronutrients it needs to support healthy organ function and your liver’s natural detoxification process is far more effective than a detox fast.
Our previous blog post talks more about detoxing the liver and how to support healthy liver function. You can also support your liver with our LiverSupport formula, which utilizes carefully balanced Chinese herbs to regulate Qi and give your liver the flow it needs to detox your body naturally.
Curious about how to utilize LiverSupport™ and other products on our site? Feel free to contact us with any questions.