Thursday, February 25, 2016
For quite some years now, the words ‘detox diet’ (detox is short for detoxification) have been on the lips of those who are convinced that the modern environment is full of toxic substances that make their sinister way into our bodies.
The idea behind the detox diet is that these toxins need to be periodically cleared out of our bodies, in order for us to stay healthy. But is this a fact or is it a marketing myth?
A detox diet is, in the main, a short-term undertaking, lasting for anything from a few days to a few weeks. The diet itself usually involves a healthy eating plan, which cuts out food containing artificial additives or is heavily processed, foods high in fats, sugars and carbohydrates, significant amounts of red meat and alcoholic drinks.
It often also involves taking additional supplements like herbs and vitamins. Some practitioners even advocate colonic irrigation to ‘cleanse the colon’. A detox diet should place emphasis on food which is ‘pure’ or organically produced and which contains certain antioxidants thought to be essential for detoxification.
It surely has to be observed though that medical professionals do not recommend detox diets in general, although a healthy eating plan is always beneficial. The problem can often be that some herbal supplements involved can interfere with conventional medication like Warfarin, blood pressure medicine or the contraceptive pill. It is certainly true that pregnant women and people who have ongoing health issues should not undertake any form of drastic diet, detox or otherwise. Medical advice should always be sought first.
Many practitioners will advise their clients to prepare themselves properly before starting a detox diet. This may involve taking a week or so to gradually cut out things like processed food, red meat, caffeine and alcohol. They may be also advised to cut down on their sugar consumption. The idea behind this is to minimise the side-effects which would occur following a sudden ending of the use of the afore-mentioned.
Some practitioners will advise clients to take a few days off work at the very beginning of the detox period. They may also advise a clearout of the client’s cupboards to get rid of any food which may tempt them to break the diet, and to go out and buy organic foodstuffs instead.
Side-effects are said to include constipation, headaches and sluggishness, although it could be said that these effects could occur with any change of dietary routine. The advice given to combat these particular effects is to take on extra hydration, especially more water (or whichever of the latest ‘must-have’ health drinks the practitioner happens to be selling). As always, if side-effect symptoms persist or worsen, the client should be advised to consult a qualified health professional, like a pharmacist or GP.
There have been several research studies that claim to show that we are at increasing risk of contamination and illness through the regular ingestion of toxins including pesticides, diesel particles, antibiotics and chemicals in food packaging, to name just a few examples.
Other toxins like cigarette smoke and illegal substances are dangerous toxins which are, of course, entirely self-inflicted. The cumulative effect of all these toxins, which, let’s face it, are all around us, is thought to result in a range of illnesses including the impairment of the immune system, nutritional deficiencies, respiratory diseases and extreme allergic reactions. Symptoms can include poor digestion, fatigue, muscle pain and headaches although these are perhaps too generalised to be attributed to any single factor.
The fact remains that the human body is equipped with a perfectly efficient, natural system for eliminating toxins – as long as we don’t consume too many. The digestive system, including the liver and kidneys, is designed to flush out waste products of all kinds while retaining proper nutrients from the food we eat.
The detox diet is probably here to stay, at least for the time-being, but the jury is out on the question of any real benefits it may have over and above any plan that involves healthy eating and exercise.