What Does it Mean to “Detox”?
Detox diets— or detoxification — are now more popular than ever. A detox involves following a specific eating or drinking style that is supposed to rid your body of toxins it gets from the environment and even the foods we eat. By eliminating harmful toxins and chemicals, you can possibly improve your health and assist your body in weight loss.
A typical detox involves fasting, followed by a period of only consuming fruit, vegetables, fruit juices, water, supplements, or tea. Generally a short-term nutrition strategy, a detox diet is designed to eliminate toxins from your body faster than the body can normally do.
Due to the increased exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment and food, these types of diets are becoming increasingly popular.
What Do You Eat When You’re Detoxing?
Several types of cleansing diets range from complete fasting to simple food modifications such as juice or supplement only. While each detox can vary in intensity and duration, here are some of the more popular types:
- Fasting: Consuming only water for 1–3 days
- Juicing: Only consuming fresh fruit or vegetable juices.
- Smoothies: Another form of restrictive eating only consuming blended fruits and vegetables in the form of smoothies.
- Liquids Only: Drinking only specific liquids such as water, lemon water, salted water, or lemon juice.
- Colon cleanses: Involves flushing the colon with laxatives to remove waste and toxins.
- Liver Detox: Usually involves taking supplements to flush out the liver, eating liver-friendly foods, and avoiding certain foods and drinks that harm the liver.
- Master Cleanse: Involves drinking a morning salt water flush, six to twelve 10-ounce glasses of lemonade mixture, then a nightly elimination tea.
What Should You Avoid?
Almost all detoxes involve fasting, eating specific foods, avoiding harmful ingredients and chemicals, and/or taking supplements. However, every cleansing diet is different and has unique intricacies. As such, there is no concrete rule for what to eat when detoxing. However, as a general rule of thumb, avoid highly processed, fatty foods that are generally considered unhealthy.
Before starting a specific detoxification diet or regime, be sure to familiarize yourself with the process, timeline, and the foods you should or shouldn’t be eating. Each style is unique and designed to impact your body differently. To get the most benefit, be sure to follow the diet as closely as possible.
Why is Detoxification Becoming More Popular?
While there is little scientific evidence that proves detoxes themselves actually eliminate toxins from the body, more than thousands of people stand by them. People report feeling better, healthier, and happier after completing most detox diets.
Here are some of the benefits that people commonly experience when following a detoxification diet:
- Removes toxins: The main goal is to detoxify the body of harmful chemicals from the environment and our diets.
- Increased focus or energy: Some people report feeling increased energy or focus during or after a detox.
- Weight loss: Some people have reported weight loss after following this diet. While not uncommon, the weight loss is often due to loss of fluid and carb stores rather than fat, often making the loss temporary.
- Increased intake of vitamins and minerals: Most detoxes increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables, thus gaining the benefits from eating more of these foods.
- Identify food sensitivities: Detoxes can help identify food sensitivities. After eliminating certain foods for a period of time, you can gradually reintroduce foods to identify potential trigger foods.
The Challenges of Detox Diets
Detoxification has become increasingly popular in recent years. Some people love them, and others don’t. That said, there are some challenges to be aware of during cleansing.
- Natural Detox: Using the liver, kidneys, digestive tract, and skin, the body breaks down and removes toxins on its own. Because of this, the diets’ effectiveness is often questioned.
- Difficulty: Detoxing is a short-term diet that usually requires a period of fasting along with restricted eating. For people who aren’t used to either, this may be challenging to stick to.
- Fatigue: Detox diets severely limit protein and require fasting, which can cause fatigue.
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies: Long-term detoxing can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Despite thousands of people reporting the positive effects of detoxing, there isn’t a ton of scientific evidence to back it up. So why do people report feeling better after a detox? It’s most likely because a detox diet eliminates highly processed foods that contain a lot of added sugars and unhealthy fats. Simply avoiding these unhealthy, high-calorie foods for the duration of the cleanse may be why people report feeling better, healthier, and of a clearer mind.
One important thing to keep in mind is that detoxing is a short-term solution. For lasting, long-term results, your best bet is to focus on consuming healthy fruits and veggies, whole grains, and lean protein sources. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a solid way to kickstart new healthy eating habits, a detox just might work for you.
Before starting any new nutrition strategy, consult with your doctor to see if it’s right for you.
Although detox diets aren’t heavily backed by research, there are more than thousands of people who stand by them. Many of these cleanses are well-documented, popular, and as a result, there are plenty of free resources.