Myth #1: Detoxing is good for you...
In 2006, the British Dietetic Association (BDA) published a report which revealed that detoxing - for example juice cleanses, taking detox pills or abstaining from certain foods - has no proven health benefits. Although hordes of celebrities, whether it’s Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow or Beyoncé, love to extoll the benefits of this or that detox trend, according to the BDA, there is simply no scientific proof that detoxing actually works.
“Detoxing is nonsense,” says a BDA spokesperson. “It’s a complete fallacy that the body needs to detox. Removal of waste products and toxins is a continuous process and we don’t need to periodically flush them out. The body does a perfectly good job of eliminating any substances on its own.”
The concept of detoxing was originally bandied about in the early 20th century with autointoxication theory – the idea that disease was caused by waste products building up in the body yet this idea was quickly rejected by experts.
The BDA spokesperson commented: “This was debunked in the 1930s but the term seems to have prevailed and it keeps cropping up.”
The spokesperson added: "There are no pills or specific drinks, patches or lotions that can do a magic job. The body has numerous organs, such as the skin, gut, liver and kidney, that continually 'detoxify' the body from head to toe.”
Juice Cleansing is good for you...
Many detoxes claim that you can flush toxins out of your body by cutting out food for several days and going on a ‘juice cleanse’.
However, by replacing regular meals with fruit and/or vegetable juice, you are denying your body lots of other essential nutrients. According to the BDA, juice cleanses not only lead to deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and essential fatty acids, but they also cause low levels of protein, which can have a serious impact on your overall health.
BDA spokesman Rick Miller warns: “Protein is a vital nutrient needed on a daily basis. When it is not provided, your body will scavenge it from other sources such as muscle tissue, organs or the bones. People could actually end up in a worse state after a detox because of this.”
Also, if you are hoping to lose weight through a juice cleanse, be warned. The loss of muscle mass caused by protein deficiencies can dramatically slow down your metabolism, since the more muscle you have, the faster your body burns calories.
Drinking lots of herbal tea is good for you...
It’s easy to automatically associate herbal teas with healthy living, but even herbal tea consumption can prove harmful. In January 2017, the British Medical Journal published a paper about a 47-year-old woman who was admitted to hospital after undergoing a “herbal medication” detox in which she drank vast quantities of water, green tea and sage. The woman ended up suffering seizures brought on by low sodium levels in her blood and only recovered after the hospital managed to bring her sodium levels back to normal.
Following the case, Dr Oliver Tooley, of Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, issued a warning to the public against detoxing, highlighting the complications that can be caused by consuming too much liquid.
He said: “The complementary medicine market is now very popular in the UK and the concept of the New Year ‘detox’ with all-natural products is appealing to those less concerned with evidence-based medicine and more with complementary medicine.
“Excessive water intake as a way of ‘purifying and cleansing’ the body is also a popular regime, with the belief that harmful waste products can thus be flushed from the body.
“Despite marketing suggesting otherwise, all-natural products are not without side-effects.”
Detoxing can undo damage caused by an unhealthy lifestyle...
Celebrity culture has helped fuel a rise in the popular belief that the harmful effects of a wild, excessive lifestyle can simply be counteracted by detoxing for a week or two or by taking a break at a fancy retreat. Whether it’s Professor Green attempting to counteract late nights drinking by going tee-total or Paul Gascoigne checking into the Priory for a detox retreat, celebs would have us believe that unhealthy excesses can simply be detoxed away.
But unfortunately, as health experts are keen to point out, we cannot just trigger our body’s detoxification systems into working overdrive on demand. Instead, the body is constantly trying to remove toxins day in, day out, whether we are detoxing or not.
The best way to reduce the body’s overall toxin levels is to consume fewer toxins your daily life. Nutritionists advise that the most effective way to do this is to reduce your general consumption of alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, drugs and processed foods, while striving try to consume at least five portions of fibre-rich vegetables per day. Many also recommend regular exercise, which can speed up your metabolic rate and stimulate the body’s natural detoxification process. Drinking water regularly (but within reason) will also keep you healthy and hydrated.
Everybody should try a detox!
On the surface, detoxing may seem harmless, but in fact detoxes can have a very damaging effect on certain individuals. Any detox that involves a change in diet or calorie restriction should be avoided by pregnant women; breastfeeding women; children; those with autoimmune disorders; people suffering from exhaustion or stress; or anyone with an eating disorder or history of an eating disorder.
During pregnancy and lactation, the body’s need for nutrients such as calcium, protein and iron is doubled due to the needs of the baby, which is why detoxing can prove extremely harmful to both mother and the child. Furthermore, some herbs, such as cilantro, which can be found in some detox remedies or diets, have also been linked to miscarriage. Children, as they are growing up, need high levels of nutrients and vitamins to grow, meaning that detoxing is off-limits until a child has become a fully-grown adult.
If you are considering a detox diet and you’re not sure whether it’s right for you, double check with your doctor before going ahead.
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