Diet and Detoxification
‘December’ and ‘January’ are the months of marriages and festivals. Christmas, New Year, and Makarsankranti, in addition to the social functions brings some lip-smacking delicacies to our mouths including marriage special desserts like Gajjar ka halwa, rabdi, Christmas cakes and Gujarati undhiyu poori during Uttarayan- the festival of kites. After enjoying these goodies and putting on additional calories, it’s time to go for a post festive detox. But wait a minute, have you heard this word before? You might have read this word while going through Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Let’s delve a little deeper to know more about post-festive detox.
What is Detox?
Detox, short for detoxification, is body’s mechanism to remove unwanted waste products known as toxins. These can either be endotoxins like urea, ammonia, lactic acid, that are generated in the body as a part of metabolic activities or exotoxins which can enter in the system by eating, drinking, breathing or are absorbed through the skin. Exotoxins can be pollutants, pesticides, arsenic containing water, mercury in sea foods and many more. Our body’s detoxifying agents are kidneys, liver, intestines, skin and even lungs. These organs excrete such toxins through urine, faeces, respiration or sweat. The ability to detoxify one’s body differs from person to person and is greatly influenced by the diet and lifestyle of that individual. Timely excretion of these toxins is inevitable or else it may get accumulated in the fat cells, bones and soft tissues causing inflammation and deterioration of health.
What are these Cleansing Diets?
Ever wondered how Bollywood celebrities manage to lose more than 6 kgs. in a month? Yes, my friend you are thinking right, they go on detoxes to lose a huge amount of weight in a short period. Detox diets also known as “cleanses” or “flushes” have become big businesses in the nutrition industry because of its increased popularity amongst the celebrities. These diets are short-term interventions designed to eliminate toxins from the body, promote health and assist with weight loss. Most of the naturopathic doctors in the United States use detoxification therapies to treat a wide variety of medical conditions. It has different approaches which may range from complete starvation to liquid or juice diets and often include the use of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, supplements and/or cleansing foods like avocados, asparagus, grapefruit, apples, beetroot, cranberries and many more. These foods aim to cleanse the body’s detoxification organs like liver, kidneys, intestines, lungs and skin.
Detox and its Types
Typically, a detox plan begins with a state of fasting followed by a diet with more servings of fruits, vegetables, lesser carbs, dairy and abundance of water. Detox plans can be as short as for 1 day or it can be as long as for 21 days. There are various detox diets like Juice Fasting, Raw and Vegan cleanse, Fruit Flush diets, Sugar Detox and Liver cleanse just to name a few. One of the most popular cleansing diets is a Lemonade Cleanse diet or Master Cleanser. This diet basically involves drinking 6 to 12 glasses of lemonade made of lemon, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and purified water. Additionally it includes salt water flush and laxative herbal tea to help cleanse the colon. This diet claims weight loss in short period but is nutritionally inadequate and the weight loss that occurs is basically water, electrolytes, glycogen and not body fat.
What Does It Contain?
Foods recommended in “detoxes” or “cleanses” are fresh and organically grown foods, plenty of water (at least 2 litres per day), hydrating fluids like fruit and vegetable juices, whole and non-glutenous grains, nuts, lean protein, more servings of fruits and vegetables (minimum 5 servings), cruciferous foods (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and many more) and diuretic foods (cucumber, watermelon, parsley) etc. Some herbs like licorice root, psyllium seeds, laxatives like castor oil, salt flush are often used in commercial detox plans. Many foods restricted in such diets are energy dense and processed foods, refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, red meat, caffeinated drinks, alcohol, tobacco and foods to which some people are intolerant such as dairy (lactose), gluten, peanuts, eggs, mushrooms etc. In detox plans these foods are referred to as toxins.
Another aspect of detox regimen is a detox drink or a cleansing drink. It can either be detox water, detox tea or detox smoothie. They usually contain some combination of water with fruits, vegetables, herbs or other natural ingredients that boost your body’s ability to eliminate toxins from the system. Mostly lemon, orange, mint, cucumber, cinnamon, cilantro is used in detox water whereas detox smoothies are made of spinach, spirulina, avocado, beet, watermelon etc. Detox tea can be made from ginger, lemongrass and dandelion.
Is Detox Really Helpful?
Apart from eliminating toxins and assisting in weight loss, detox diets claim to promote skin health, boost energy, mental alertness, reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune system. But there is no scientific evidence to support such health claims. Also, no studies have investigated the effectiveness of detoxes in losing weight. The weight loss on a detox diet may be because these diets are very low in calories. They may make you look thinner temporarily but the weight you lose is mainly water weight and not body fat and once you resume your routine diet this lost weight will be regained immediately. A prolonged juice cleanse can cause severe imbalance of electrolytes like sodium and potassium. Low calorie detox can lead to muscle loss, fatigue and irritability. Prolonged detoxing can lead to severe nutritional deficiencies. Also, no research supports that detoxing helps your body get rid of toxins and result in lasting weight loss.
The Health Mantra
Our body is a self-designed detox machine with liver acting as its primary filter. The liver metabolizes nutrients and degrades the toxic substances produced during metabolism. To run this machine optimally, proper nutrition must be provided. Instead of investing in expensive cleansing foods, you should focus on eating a well-balanced diet which contains complex carbohydrates and fibre from whole grain, pulses, fruits, vegetables, dairy, moderate fat coming mostly from unsaturated fats (omega 3 and omega 6), an active lifestyle and adequate sleep.