From aloe vera to only apples, there are more detoxes around that you can shake a cinnamon stick at, and it’s often confusing to know what one might be best for you. What can you expect to achieve, and what does a detox actually do? We decided to delve a bit deeper and consulted nutritionist Ben Coomber for some help…
The word ‘detox’ is thrown around so often and people make it sound like an easy, quick fix to losing weight and getting healthy. But it’s important to understand what it actually means and what damage it can do to our bodies. The term detox refers to the act of ‘abstaining from or ridding the body of toxic or unhealthy substances’. Firstly, it’s important to get one thing straight: it is impossible to detox your body in the sense that a lot of people think you can. It’s really popular nowadays to promote juice cleanses, Aloe Vera gels and other cleansing or detoxing products, which are truthfully useless at best and potentially harmful at worst. No single food or drink can increase the rate that toxins leave our body to a meaningful degree unless you are working on a specific level with a certain toxin and a nutrient you have been given by an appropriate medical professional. Taking a shot gun approach isn’t going to help many people, and is likely just going to lead to wasted money.
Detox products are sold alongside plans involving shakes or specific foods, and together they promise to help rid your body of toxins, help you lose weight, help you feel more energised and other vague and positive sounding benefits – but the majority don’t actually discuss what these toxins apparently are and or what they are supposedly doing to our bodies. They make it all sound great, but what you are actually doing by following these plans could be incredibly damaging to your body.
The damages of detoxing
In terms of how a detox can be harmful to your body, you’re replacing food intake with water and/or very low calorie shakes. This ensures you lose weight quickly due to the fact you are starving, but also due to the fact that this causes rapid glycogen depletion (loss of your body’s stored carbohydrates), meaning intramuscular hydration (water stored in muscle cells – which is a good thing) is reduced.
We live predominantly on liquids that have a very fast gastric transit time, which means it leaves your stomach really quickly, helping to reduce ‘bloat’ which you get from undigested food matter in normal circumstances. This can take inches off your waist – in a very unhealthy manner – very quickly.
The previous two points are accelerated by the fact that most ‘detox’ teas, as well as Aloe Vera gels have strong laxative and/or diuretic properties. You are starving, meaning your body kicks into ‘fight or flight’ mode and releases stress hormones including adrenaline which can leave you feeling euphoric. Often plans come alongside fat burners which are simply stimulants. The energy isn’t really all that surprising!
Detox plans may make you lose some weight in the short term, but this isn’t sustainable as a healthy long term regime. As a whole, this is far away from a healthy and balanced method of living your life.
So how do we detox?
We don’t need detox plans; our bodies are perfectly capable of removing toxins on their own – it is happening all the time. What we do need is to support those natural detoxification pathways by ensuring what we eat, drink and do is in line with what we want to achieve – optimal health and bodily function. The liver is the main organ that deals with eliminating toxins from your body, so keeping that healthy is important by limiting your alcohol intake where possible, as well as ensuring you drink lots of water. It is also important to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and less processed, refined food and ensure you exercise a few times a week working up a good sweat (another detoxification process).
Well, there you have it. Eat well with lots of fruit and vegetable variety, stay hydrated, and exercise and your body will do the rest for you. You’ll save a few pennies too!
- Ben Coomber is a nutritionist at British Military Fitness, to find out more see www.britishmilitaryfitness.com