Nutrition Common Misunderstandings of the Detox Diet

detox diet

The general consensus in social media is you can and should detox your body to become healthy.

These detox diets are also called dietary cleanses or elimination diets. Social media and popular press have glamorized these diets, but they often involve restrictions that cause more harm than good. Detoxifying is not something you do through special supplements, cocktails, magic drinks or beans. It is something your body does naturally every day. Detoxification is what happens when your body removes molecules or toxins that are not needed in the body. Some of these molecules are just byproducts of natural metabolism, and others can be harmful substances such as drugs or alcohol. You can classify these toxins as those that occur inside the body from metabolism of hormones, by products of bacteria, and other molecules; and those that occur from outside the body, such as chemicals and pollutants in the air or water, food additives, or drugs.

Detoxification occurs at the cellular level (inside the endoplasmic reticulum), and in the gastrointestinal tract, liver, and kidneys. As the body processes and removes toxins they are excreted through feces, urine, sweat, and breathing (exhaling). Knowing this occurs naturally more informed consumers believe that certain items can help or hurt this process. To some extent that is true. If you are a smoker, or have large amounts of excess body weight than your body is already fighting a battle with itself.  The natural detoxification process may be stunted or occupied fighting the bigger battle of a depressed immune system from the smoker, or in the case of the person with excess body fat already storing lots of toxins in adipose (fat) tissue.

What should I not do?

  1. Drink excess amounts of water in hoping of flushing out toxins. This is very dangerous, and can result in hyponatremia (a condition from abnormally low sodium levels in your blood) often caused by drinking too much water during sports or restrictive dieting.
  2. Fasting (not eating) in hope of reducing body weight or restricting food groups. Our liver, kidneys and intestines don’t need you to stop eating. Reducing calories too low puts too much stress on the body and the metabolic functions that need energy and specific nutrients to function. By avoiding certain food groups your body is robbed of not only vitamins and minerals, but also phytochemical that have other health benefits to your body’s metabolic functions.
  3. Perform any sort of liquid cleanse. Your body does not need to be flushed, awakened, or rehydrated from sleep to perform better. Eating adequate amounts of lean healthy protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and heart healthy fats through out that day is all your require. If your digestive track is having issues drinking lemon juice in water or plain hot water is not going to help. Nor is bone broth soup. What will help is meeting with medical professionals who will use evidence-bases science with a patient focus to determine if there is an underlying issue.
  4. Buy supplements or other products believing they will detox your body or reset anything in you. Detox happens naturally, excessive medications and supplements are not going to make this process faster. Just because an ingredient is FDA approved does not mean that product itself is.

What should I do to help my body?

  1. Consume prebiotics (foods that stimulate growth of bacteria in the colon) and probiotics (containing good bacteria) to boost naturally occurring detoxication in the body.
  2. Consume adequate amounts of whole fruits and vegetables to promote healthy urine and bowel production.
  3. Consume enough fiber each day from vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains to have healthy bowel movements.
  4. Do not buy into marketing scams from non-credible sources. Talk with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutrition and Dietetic Technician, Registered (NDTR) before trying new diets. An expertly trained and licensed food and dietetic professional will cost less than your average monthly purchase of over the counter supplements.

Krause’s Food and Nutrition Care Process 13th Ed, Mahan, Escott-Stump, and Raymond. 2012.
Elsevier Saunders.
“What’s the Deal with Detox Diets?” Robin Foroutan, MS, RDN. 26Apr2016.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

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