It would perhaps not be erroneous to say that ‘detox’ took over ‘immunity’ to become the buzzword this year. From detox juices and smoothies, to detox foods and diets — the trend made its presence felt everywhere — from social media to on our plates — owing to its promise of “cleansing the body of toxins”.
But can eating certain foods and drinking a few ‘cleansing’ juices really help get rid of toxins from the body and also aid weight loss? To understand the trend and its effectiveness, we reached out to experts — read on to know what they said.
What is detox?
Detox or detoxification is a short-term dietary intervention that claims to help eliminate toxins from the body. They involve fasting for one to three days; or consuming specific liquids like fruit and vegetable juices and infused waters; or eliminating entire food groups; or taking laxatives, diuretics, enemas; or doing colon cleanses, said Purabi Gunjal, lead nutritionist, Proactive For Her.
Is it effective?
“There is little to no evidence to prove that detox diets remove any toxins from the body. Also, there are certain chemicals that cannot really be easily removed from our bodies like BPA, heavy metals, and organic pollutants. But going on a detox can lead to severe energy restriction, and in turn, fatigue, electrolyte imbalance, dizziness or loss of orientation; people can even overdose on laxatives and diuretics, which can potentially be harmful to their health,” Gunjal explained.
As per a National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) report, a 2015 review concluded that there was no compelling research to support the use of detox diets for weight management or eliminating toxins from the body. A 2017 review said that juicing and detox diets can cause initial weight loss because of low intake of calories but that they tend to lead to weight gain once a person resumes with normal diet. There have been no studies on long-term effects of detoxification programs.
In fact, as per Simrun Chopra, Deep Health Coach and Founder, Nourish With Sim, one’s body “has a sophisticated way of eliminating toxins that involve the liver, kidneys, digestive system, skin, and lungs”. “Still, only when these organs are healthy, can they effectively eliminate unwanted substances. Otherwise, it is a health issue and needs special dietary protocols. For instance, kidney transplant, on dialysis, irregular bowel movements, fatty liver, polycystic kidneys, wheezing, eczema etc,” she said.
Chopra said detox diets “are not only harmful to people with certain medical conditions, they could also be harmful in general”.
How do detox drinks behave inside the body?
With a lot of cleanses which are “extremely expensive”, we have this belief that they’re going to be good for our body or it’s going to have a ‘cleansing effect’ on our body, shared Gunjal. “But in reality, the ‘cleansing juices’ are mostly coming from fruit sugars or vegetable sugars — leading to high amounts of fructose in our body. When the body consumes excess fructose, it has a spasming effect on the GI tract, which then leads to the ‘cleansing effect’. So, what is actually a reaction to the high amounts of fructose in our body, is considered the ‘cleansing effect’ because the marketing techniques have made us believe that. But it is not,” warned Gunjal.
Then how do some people experience weight loss with detox diet?
The quick weight loss that is observed after doing detox diets is due to the “loss of fluids and carbohydrate stores from our muscles rather than fat”. “This weight is regained quickly once the detox is over. These diets are unlikely to help you keep the excess weight off in the longer run,” noted Gunjal.
The way ahead
Instead of counting on detox foods, one must add more natural, wholesome foods and also make some lifestyle tweaks, mentioned Chopra. “More whole foods, adequate fluid intake, regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and reducing alcohol, highly processed foods like aerated drinks and ready-to-eat meals. Give your body more of the good stuff so it struggles less with digestion,” she said.
Agreed celebrity dietician Shweta Shah and shared how one should try and “make sure cleaning our insides look less like an punishment and more like loving your body”.
Here’s what to you can do.
*Have half-inch ginger after every meal.
*Practice Shatpawli (100 steps after every meal)
*Have dinner closer to sunset
*Don’t mix fruits with any other food.
*Don’t heat honey
*Don’t mix milk with any other fruits or foods.
“These small practices are not what would ideally fit the idea of detox that is shown everywhere but believe it or not, it surely does the same thing. Making sure harmful toxins are removed from your body daily is way better and easy,” noted Shah.