As in all of my musings this post is completely my opinion and I do not wish to be the definitive source of information for anyone (other than my children- and only until they are old enough to have good decision making skills). As with anything you read from me please use your own judgment before making any decisions.
Right now one of the most popularly marketed weight loss fads is to cleanse or detox. Miracles such as lose 10 pounds in a weekend, gain energy, boost the immune system, strengthen bones, brighten skin, reduce risk of illness and disease, and even reverse ageing are promised on bottles and boxes all over the internet and in retailers of all types. These diets aren’t new, they have been around for a long time, under all sorts of different names. While these detox diets are popular, they’re not scientifically proven.
If they don’t work why does it seem that everyone sells them? That my friend is basic economics and herd thinking. Most people know that they eat poorly, a friend of mine in her mid-twenties freely admits that she eats “crap” so she just eats once a day, and the idea that something can push all that junk out is enticing. We also live in the age of instant gratification, I can speak into my phone via my car’s audio system and have a paid for pizza meet me at the door by the time I get home, so promises of rapid weight loss and energy seem logical.
Let’s break down some of the most common promises to the Cleanse/ Detox fad.
Remove harmful toxins from the body via fasting, by a strict diet of raw vegetables and fruit or juices (and possibly some herbs or supplements and even enemas – eww gross). Actual benefits from a detox diet may really be coming from avoiding highly processed foods that have solid fats and added sugar. It seems though, these diets seem to forget a few key points that a high school science teacher- or student who stayed awake could remind you of. (Maybe not 3-4 but Google can handle that.)
- The human body comes equipped with its own filters- the kidneys and liver.
- The cells of your gastrointestinal tract are regenerated every three days.
- The FDA has mentioned that people should limit intake of highly processed foods, especially those containing solid fats and refined sugars. (Ahem- if it came out of a window it shouldn’t go in your face.)
- FDA only approves colon cleansing prior to some medical procedures.
Rapid weight loss. Yeah check the bottle again, in the fine print most of those will say that weight loss is not guaranteed or results are not permanent. (Ok so duh, if you lose weight by any means then go on a massive binge the weight will come back.) During cleanse, a person limits their diet to special vegetable and fruit juices (plus hopefully water) for few days to several weeks. The juices have to be freshly made, unpasteurized juice, so the usual bottles of Juicy Juice from the local store are not allowed. Depending on where the cleanse comes from expensive juices from a manufacturer of juice cleanse products or a juicer are required. Any actual weight loss is coming from the reduction in calories. Most of the newer new cleanses contain about 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day and often include a nut-milk component to provide a small amount of fat and protein. (New York Times)
Increased energy, less bloating, reduction of brain fog, renewed youth. This one I agree will work- but not because the cleanse is magic, but because you have stopped putting crap in your body. If you hit Mickey D’s or start chowing down on snack cakes all of those “symptoms” (and the weight) will come right back. This is a big topic so I am going to put it out by the numbers.
- Our body feels sluggish for two main (non- medical- wait for me to finish my masters then I will publish in JAMA, lol) reasons.
- First we are tired- not enough sleep due to mental fatigue or Netflix.
- Second our body is trying to process food- have you heard of the 2pm droops- when our body (thank you high school biology, and college bio, A&P, human systems….) is digesting food blood is diverted to the stomach versus other parts of the body. When we eat starchy, fatty, high sodium foods that are low in fiber and useful vitamins/ minerals the digestion process takes longer.
- Bloating is primarily from increased sodium intake the other common culprit is gas (tacos from the drive thru anyone?).
- Salt causes us to retain water, just ask a pregnant lady about her feet. Just because you didn’t put salt on that fatburger doesn’t mean that it wasn’t cured with it then marinated in more sodium for flavor. Unless you have hyperkalemia, cutting back to AMA/ FDA sodium intake levels will fix you right up.
- Gas is the byproduct of food breakdown, the higher the fat content the more noxious the gas.
- Brain fog comes from a lot of things; fatigue, not enough essential nutrients, decreased circulation. Hmm there seems to be a pattern here.
- Sleep is important. Finding the reason you cannot (TV, sleep apnea, stress) will help a ton.
- Essential nutrients; not going to be in anything fried, can come from a bottle but best from actual food- in its least man-handled form.
- Circulation can be impeded by 2 reasons pump problems or pipe problems. This gets into MD territory. But the lay is too much fatty high sodium foods cause increases in blood pressure, too much fat on your body causes your heart to have to work harder and can build up in the pipes.
- Renewed youth. This is pretty subjective, more in the mind of the individual. For some that might be more energy others may envision brighter skin and the list goes on. Taking out bad foods that have no benefits and adding things full of actual vitamins and minerals will do a little for all of that.
Now for the scary stuff- diets that severely limit protein or that require fasting can result in fatigue and cause the body to cannibalize- yes, if you are looking to lose weight the cannibalization of fat is a good thing, but more commonly what happens is the body breaks down muscle first. Long-term fasting can also result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies that may lead to health problems later- especially for women. Colon cleansing, which is often recommended as part of a detox plan, can cause cramping, bloating, nausea and vomiting which makes dehydration a concern. Keep in mind that fad diets aren’t a good long-term solution, anything that is hard to stick to or makes you feel uncomfortable (sick) is most likely doing more harm than good. If you want REAL, LASTING, MAINTAINABLE results try a diet based on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein. Another addition that will work actual miracles is water. Yup just plain old water, not the flavored or sugared, just water. Drinking ½ ounce for every pound you weigh is a good rule of thumb, this will also weed out a lot of excess cravings.
To sum it up I do not think a long cleanse/ detox is a good idea. If you know you eat junk and actually want to do better, get a plan. Gradually changing your lifestyle has been shown to create a more lasting effect. Sign up for Pinterest, Spark People, Skinny Mom, Blogalotes there are so many great sources of information. Start switching to water, there will be withdrawals, but you will get through them. Next try cooking at home and packing your lunch.
2pm droops- that time mid-afternoon while in work or school that it is impossible to stay awake, most common if you have actually eaten