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What is a detox?
Detox, short for detoxification, is the process where over a period of time a person abstains from consuming a product perceived to be unhealthy or containing toxic substances. Detox diets are rigid and require completely avoiding specific foods or whole food groups. Some detox methods include herbal supplements, pills, juices, diet restriction and even enemas and last for one to two weeks.
Why do people detox?
Detox diets promise to reset your metabolism and overall health by giving your “overloaded” organs such as your liver and kidneys time to “recover.” They claim to flush toxins from your body leading to more energy and weight loss in a very short period of time.
Do detox diets work?
In short, no. There is no body of evidence supporting engaging in prolonged dietary exclusion and supplementation for improved weight loss or to improve the removal of waste products from our body. Most research in support of detox diets is heavily flawed with low sample sizes and poorly structured research investigations (J Hum Nutr Diet. 2015 Dec;28(6):675-86). Our lungs, kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract and immune system are all perfectly capable and are able to efficiently remove or neutralise toxic substances in our body.
Benefits of a detox diet
The benefits of a detox are very few. Your body is constantly “detoxifying”. The only benefit may be that by engaging in a strict set of rules may assist you to break an unhealthy habit or perhaps create a healthier habit such as increasing your vegetable intake.
Risks associated with detox diets
It must be understood that children, teenagers, pregnant or breastfeeding women and older adults should not engage in a detox due to people in these stages of life having a higher energy requirement and being more prone to illness or infection.
Often detox diets omit entire food groups which result in an unbalanced diet causing a compromised immune system, fatigue, inability to concentrate and also a poor relationship with food with a heavy reliance on fad diets. Individuals who lose weight on detox diets also usually regain the lost weight, plus more and they often find it more difficult to lose this weight at a later date.
Do I need to detox?
Luckily, healthy adults can rely on their lungs, kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract, and immune system to remove toxic substances and the toxic by-products of metabolism within hours after we consume them.
The key to feeling more energised is not a detox, but rather a consistent healthy and balanced diet including plenty of healthy nutritious foods each day, regular exercise and stress management and to limit unhealthy habits that might be causing you to feel fatigued and function inefficiently such as excessive alcohol intake.
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Themis Chryssidis is an Accredited Practising Dietitian at Sprout Health Studio – a multidisciplinary health care studio in Adelaide. He has a Bachelor of Psychology, a Masters of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Cert IV in Fitness.