August 25, 2010
Detox your diet?

Detox diets are hot! Who’s not doing it!? Michelle Obama, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, Britney Spears, Beyonce, and so forth have all proclaimed their use of detox and cleanse diets. Before you drag yourself through misery, let’s look at the popular detox and cleanse diets and their so-called effectiveness.

First things first, do you have working lungs, kidneys and liver? Yes? Great! Your body does an amazing job detoxifying itself so you don’t have to punish yourself with liquid fasts or the ultimate ‘master cleanse’. Your working liver does an amazing job detoxifying drugs, chemicals, alcohol, and other environmental problems.

Detox diets can mean a range of ideas: all water diets, fasting, juice diets, sugar-free, alcohol-free, or processed food free. Most of my clients associate detox diets with either juice fast, the master cleanse, fasting or a combination of “super pills”. Sigh.

I am A-OK with a diet free of pesticides, preservatives, artificial flavors, sugar, artificial colors and alcohol. In fact, I encourage this type of diet; those additives belong in a chemical lab, not your body. This plan’s not too difficult: choose whole grains, fruits, vegetables, limit added salt and alcohol, and avoid sugar and processed foods. Choose organic when you can (especially those listed as the dirty dozen, like strawberries and lettuce).

As I mentioned before, I’m not a fan of detox diets because they don’t work, and why do something that doesn’t work? Detox diets are a subunit of the diet market, their marketers try to convince you that you need to cleanse your body of harmful chemicals or persuade you that detox diets lead to weight loss. It’s just not true.

Juice, water, or fasting diets don’t contain enough calories, every individual is different, but as a general rule you shouldn’t go below 1200 calories. Side effects from very-low calorie diets can include dehydration, fatigue, dizziness, and nausea. Any weight loss you see is water weight which will always come back when you resume a normal eating pattern.

Going back to the biochemistry of detoxifying, when your liver breaks down chemicals it needs co-factors (vitamins) to do so. If your diet is limited in vitamins, like in the master cleanse or water fast, these reactions won’t take place. Same goes with laxatives, enemas, and diuretics. These products can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances which can be serious.  In addition, why would you limit chemicals in your diet only to take them in pill form?

Hopefully this helps clear up some of the confusion about detox and cleanse diets. Have a question? Contact DK or set up an appointment to receive individualized recommendations from a Registered Dietitian!

Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, Plant-Based Chef and Yoga Instructor. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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