You will likely be bombarded with advertisements promoting the benefits of cleanses and detoxes as soon as January 1st hits. Should you do one?
Commercial cleanses can be very expensive and many peoples budgets are already taxed after Christmas. However, many people think their bodies are due for a detox after indulging over the holiday season. There are innumerable pills, powders, teas, juices, and products on the market that tout the benefits of doing a cleanse or detox. Do they live up to the hype? Let’s take a closer look.
What is a detox and what is a cleanse?
Whether it’s a 10-day cleanse of spices, water, lemon, and maple syrup, or a 3-day herbal juice fast, both detoxes and cleanses can include any variety of foods and substances. There is no regulated definition.
Do they work?
There’s no evidence to support cleanse or detox diets. The human body has well-designed mechanisms to “cleanse” itself without us having to do anything. The liver collects waste from the bloodstream and delivers it to the kidneys where it is filtered and excreted in urine. All other waste products are “eliminated” through our intestines, after we’ve absorbed what we need. Many cleanses use juice, but juice doesn’t have fibre. And fibre is actually important to help the body eliminate unhealthy substances.
Are they safe?
Depending on what you’re consuming, cleanse or detox diets can be dehydrating, cause constipation or diarrhea, and lead to headaches, fatigue, poor ability to concentrate and overall irritability. If you’re significantly limiting calories and nutrients for an extended period of time, more drastic consequences can occur that can even be life threatening. Herbal products may be labelled as “natural,” but they can contain medicinal components that result in side effects just like any medication. They can also be very expensive without known benefits.
Will I lose weight on a cleanse?
Some people lose weight in the short term, often from fluid loss or because of restricted intake. In response, the body’s metabolism slows down and hangs onto calories more tightly. As a result, people often gain the weight back, plus extra pounds, when they return to their usual pattern of eating.
What’s the bottom line?
Trust your body. It is a natural detoxifying system. If you perform a detox or cleanse for a short time, it will not likely cause serious health effects, but may hurt your pocketbook if it includes expensive supplements. However, be sensible, and as much as possible, aim to include a variety of foods from all four food groups.
Be aware that detoxes and cleanses are not recommended for at-risk populations including children, pregnant women, older adults, or anyone with a chronic health condition such as diabetes. For everyone, it’s advised to consult a health care professional before making any significant diet changes or taking supplements.
What do we suggest?
If you’re looking to improve your health, one of the best things you can do is look at your pattern of eating and set a specific, realistic goal towards making healthier choices. If you want to make a tailored plan to improve your eating habits, check out FoodTrack: Check on Balance, or call 8-1-1 and ask to speak to a dietitian.
by Nicole Spencer, MEd, RD
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