The Myth behind DetoxingBy: Evita Basilio
There are all kinds of detoxes and cleanses out there and this fad is gaining in popularity. The concept that you can binge on food and drink and magically rid yourself of these ‘toxins’ is enticing. Additional claims will generally follow such as, ‘purify your body’ (what does that even mean?), ‘banish bloating’ (maybe find out what’s really causing you to bloat), and ‘improve complexion’ (really? That comes naturally with healthy eating). If you really have been eating poorly and drinking excessively, then those claims will likely feel real, no matter what. These ‘detoxing cleanses’ are just another form of dieting and can cause more harm than good.
For starters, our body is not filled with ‘toxins’ that a liquid diet can cure (and those so-called ‘toxins’ are largely undefined). We have our liver and kidneys to thank for the breakdown of harmful substances. Our liver has several important functions, one of them being detoxification where it converts ethanol and ammonia into less harmful products. Ethanol (alcohol) is converted into acetyl coenzyme A, used in the production of fat or energy, and ammonia into urea. Our kidneys role in detoxification is the removal of nitrogenous waste.
The hugely lucrative detox industry is able to scam the public because we’re all looking for that easy fix- a way to forgive our weekend of drinks and junk food or a quick solution to fit into those jeans. A detox cleanse such as the infamous ‘Master Cleanse’ involving 10 days of drinking lemonade with maple syrup and cayenne pepper will certainly make you shed the weight. But once the starvation ends and regular foods are back in your diet, the weight will creep back on. Weight lost is generally water weight and muscle mass – loss of muscle actually decreases metabolism. It’s not a sustainable solution and can cause your body more stress to adjust. Depriving your body of protein with a detox cleanse will result in it having to scavenge protein from other sources such as muscle tissue, organs or the bones. Laxatives can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances if not used carefully.
The Real Detox
Unfortunately, there is no easy fix – like they say, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The real detox is following a healthy lifestyle. Let’s get back to the basics of drinking plenty of water; eating lots of fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains; and avoiding tobacco smoke and other fumes, cutting back on fried foods, animal fats, sugar, and caffeine. And if you’re also looking for weight loss: weight gain and loss comes down to the calories in/calories out formula.
The body is incredible at healing itself and removing waste products and toxins naturally. You can detoxify your body by supporting your liver and kidney in their roles. Antioxidant vitamins such as C, E, and beta-carotene (eg, carrots, oranges, almonds); minerals such as zinc and selenium (eg, oysters, wheat germ); B-vitamins that aid alcohol metabolism; and branched chain amino acids (found in animal protein -dairy products, eggs and whey protein) support detoxification.