From celebrities who swear by them, to experts on the topic, it seems like everyone is talking about a popular trend known as detox diets. There are plenty of detoxes out there nowadays that claim and aim to help clear out the pipes and tubes of the liver, colon, kidneys and intestines. But many experts are still on the fence about whether they actually work and do the body any good.
Clear the body
Detoxification means getting rid of harmful or unhealthy substances or toxins in the body. These toxins are thought to build up in the kidneys, liver, intestines, colon and other areas that are supposed to break down and get rid of toxic materials.
Many people engage in detox diets to “help with elimination of contaminants and allergens,” says Dr. Patrick Montgomery, a supervising clinician at Logan University’s student health center in Chesterfield, Missouri. “Many detox diets include fasting for one to three days, then coming off the fast by drinking fresh, not commercially made, fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, water and some teas. After one to three days, more solid foods are reintroduced, such as slightly cooked vegetables. Then more animal proteins, such as fish and chicken.”
Detox diet ingredients vary, of course — some popular ones include apple cider vinegar, tea, juices, smoothies, avocados, even beets.
“Often corn, grains, gluten and dairy products tend to cause inflammation of the bowel, and when [people] ingest these foods it can upset the microbiome,” Montgomery says. “Detoxification is one proven method for making the body more clean by eliminating external and/or internal toxins, i.e., foods you are eating that you are sensitive or allergic to, and can lead to an overall healthier (person).”
Montgomery adds that the skin may become clearer with less blemishes and skin eruptions. “Some report less problems with allergies, he says. “Some report better bowel habits, firmer stools, less constipation or diarrhea.”
Detox the right way
While detox diets may lead to more energy, focus and weight loss, many experts say there is really no hard proof that they work. In fact, some advise against it. Side effects may include constant hunger, fluctuation of body weight, dizziness, nausea, poor sleep and damage to the tooth enamel.
“A detox diet may have short-term results, but they are not sustainable,” says Kira Litras, a registered and clinical dietitian at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. “Many supplements that people take in order to promote a detox are also not vigorously tested and may be unsafe.”
Litras says people often go on detoxes because they are looking for a quick-fix where they can eat what they want and still lose weight quickly when they want.
“It seems easier to drastically change one’s diet for a small period of time rather than following a healthy diet pattern for the rest of their life,” she says. “For this reason, I do not recommend them.”
Montgomery admits that detox diets can be taken to an extreme. “A good health assessment along with a dietary history should be taken by a qualified nutritional adviser prior to any detox program,” he says.
Litras says if you want to try a detox, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to continuously cleanse the body. Also, eat more than five different fruits and vegetables per day to increase antioxidant intake and combat the toxins within the body. You can also increase fiber intake by eating whole grains, beans, lentils, avocado and most fruits and vegetables. Limit processed and convenience foods, which add toxins to the body.
“These will all help with bowel regularity and help the liver in eliminating toxic waste from the body,” she says.