So I was recently approached by a magazine for some information on detoxing. The editor gave me a list of questions that I provided answers to and I wanted to share that information with more people.
Below is the Q&A session.
- In what ways does a detox help the body?
There are many different types of detoxes on the market and depending on the detox there are many different ways a detox can help.Some detox programs are focused on heavy metal detox, detoxing the liver, kidneys, and gastro intestinal tract (GI tract) which also includes the colon.
Depending on the focus of a detox and the intention of the user, many benefits can occur, but our body has organs that actually detox the body naturally: our liver, kidneys and colon. Some benefits could include reduced heavy metals in the body, improved liver and kidney function, increased energy levels, clearer skin, less smelly body odor, better GI function, better hormonal balance, possibly more efficient metabolism, improved mood and an overall sense of better well being. The reason why these benefits occur are because of the increased intake of fruits, veggies, herbs and spices and all the good stuff that is packed in them. When fruits and veggies replace more processed foods, the body will start to feel differently. There are draw backs to doing a detox if you are not getting a balanced diet or have an unbalanced relationship with food to begin with.
- Why has detoxing become such a popular trend in recent years?
I think that detoxing has become popular in recent years because it is like any other fad diet that promises rapid weight loss and that is attractive to many people. This can be a trigger for people who have struggled with their relationship with food. I also believe that our society is looking for a more natural way of health and living.
- Many people do a detox cleanse and then fall back on old habits, causing their weights to fluctuate dramatically. Is this ever healthy? And how do you recommend continuing healthy eating habits after finishing a cleanse?
Any time someones weight fluctuates more that 10% in 6months or less that is a major health risk factor and is never healthy. If your body is changing that dramatically your metabolism is actually being damaged. Our bodies have a biologically appropriate weight at which all systems function best, and the body will do what it can to maintain that weight. If your loose weight too quickly, your body will be in shock and actually be programmed to store more fat as a protective mechanism to get back to the weight prior to the significant change in weight.
What is recommended is gradual change. That will produce sustainable results. I work primarily with Eating Disorders and have seen some many clients with EDs that stem from dieting at a young age and yo-yo dieting. As a Registered Dietitian I never recommend any kind of diet. What is recommended is having balance of all nutrients and making sure you have fun foods regularly.
The best thing to do if you do decide to do a cleanse is to make sure you are still getting a balanced diet. Make weekly nutrition goals around what foods to include and limit. Make sure you are still having “fun” foods and foods that you do enjoy because if you don’t, you are setting yourself up for overindulgence and “last supper” type eating of those foods.
- Are there cases in which detoxing is unhealthy or even dangerous?
Yes! Always check with your physician or a registered dietitian about what kind of cleanse your interested in and that medical professional can give you advice on whether or not it is appropriate. An annual general detox is acceptable, but I have seen clients who take detoxing to the max. If you do certain things to detox your body you can actually be doing more harm than good. Especially when it relates to the body’s major organs (kidney, liver and colon). If you do too many colon cleanses or GI cleanses, you can damage the delicate microbial balance and open yourself up for a really bad infection if you don’t have enough of the “good” bacterias to fight off the “bad” ones
- Are there any specific foods that people who are detoxing should eat?
Making sure to get enough protein, carbs and fats throughout the day is really important. Our brain’s main fuel source is glucose, which comes from carbohydrates, so we need carbs every 3-4hrs on a daily basis. We do need protein on a daily basis to rebuild, repair and replace various things in the body. Protein is not only used for muscles, but it is used to replace hair, skin and nails, along with being used for enzymes, cellular communication and the transportation of biological molecules. A lot of times when people go on cleanses, they loose water weight and protein from their skeletal muscles and bones because it is missing from the diet and the body needs it. Fats are also necessary on a daily basis to help us absorb fat soluable vitamins (A,D,E,K). If we don’t consume fats we cannot absorb those vitamins that actually help us on many levels. Including more “healthy fats” like nuts, seeds, avocados and oils, you will still be eating “clean” on your cleanse but you will also be getting vital nutrients that your body needs. Fats play a role in brain health, mood stabilization, neurological function and many other processes in the body.
Having a balanced relationship with food and exercise will also provide the above mentioned benefits of a detox. I really hope this writing helps provide information and also explain the “why” behind nutrition for people to make informed decisions.