Let’s look deeper into what a detox diet is and examine why it might benefit you.
If you’re in the loop with current nutrition trends, you’ve probably heard of detox diets. Have you ever tried a detox diet yourself?
Here’s the thing—there are about as many different detox diets as there are seeds on a watermelon. There are juice cleanses, liver detoxes, fasting detoxes, and colon-cleanses just to name a few.
Not all detox diets are made equally. There are detoxes that can be harmful to your health, and there are detoxes that can be beneficial. For example, some rely on extreme calorie-restriction to induce weight loss, and some detox diets may help you eliminate toxins from your body and improve your overall health.
Before we go any further, it's worth noting that detoxing normally shouldn’t be used as a long-term diet plan, but as a short-term strategy to help your body reset after being exposed to potentially harmful chemicals. Just because you’re detoxing doesn’t mean that all the other rules of nutrition such as consuming adequate protein, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and avoiding sugar don’t still hold true.
Now, let’s look deeper into what a detox diet is and examine why it might benefit you.
What is a Detox Diet?
Detox diets are usually meant to be short-term diets for reducing your intake of toxins. Commonly, these diets are high in fruits, vegetables, and sometimes teas and juices.
Toxins are naturally occurring chemicals in our food and man-made chemicals used to treat our food. Many toxins have endocrine-disrupting effects, which means they interfere with your body’s natural hormone production. For example, soy contains phytoestrogens that mimic estrogen in the human body. Over-consuming soy may affect healthy fertility. (1)
Fruits and vegetables may be sprayed with pesticides to kill insects. However, when humans consume these pesticides, they may negatively affect optimal endocrine function. (2)
Here are a few examples of forms a detox diet may come in:
- Eliminating alcohol, caffeine, smoking, sugar, etc.
- Eliminating foods that are potential endocrine disruptors
- Eliminating foods that are common sources of food sensitivities such as dairy
More extreme methods that can be abused if done for too long include the following:
- A complete fast for a given amount of time
- Consuming juices, teas, and supplements exclusively
- Cleansing your colon with natural edemas
Your liver is responsible for targeting potentially toxic chemicals and eliminating them from your body. Following a detox diet may reduce stress on this vital organ if done properly. However, continuing to follow an extreme diet for more than a few days can have the opposite effect.
Be careful when following any type of diet that promises immediate weight-loss. When it comes to losing weight, a slow and steady strategy is usually the best way to lose fat that stays off.
Should You Start a Detox Diet?
Detox diets vary widely, so it’s difficult to group them together and say that all detox diets are healthy or unhealthy. Because of the restrictive nature of detox diets, they’re generally low-calorie by nature.
Some detox diets may eliminate smoking and drinking, which is universally known to support an optimal lung and liver function.
FASTING FOR WEIGHT-LOSS
Going through short-term fasts can have several health benefits such as increasing life span. (3) Essentially, fasting reduces metabolic stress on your body so it can slow down and relax.
In one study published by researchers at Seoul Women’s University, they examined the effect of a lemon detox diet on several health measurements. (4) They found that after a week on the lemon diet, the participants had significant improvements in measures of body weight, BMI and body fat.
So in the short-term, a fasting detox diet may lead to improvements in body composition. However, as we already mentioned, detox diets that restrict calories aren’t sustainable long-term. Uncontrolled extended periods of fasting increases your stress hormone cortisol. (5)
HOW LOW IS CONSIDERED LOW CALORIE?
One study published in 2010 examined the effect of a 1200 calorie diet on the hormone levels of women. (6) The researchers found that after three weeks on the low-calorie diet, the participants experienced suboptimal cortisol levels and perceived stress.
DETOX DIETS MAY SUPPORT OPTIMAL DIGESTION
Detox diets may also help you identify food intolerances by removing certain foods from your diet. (7) If you suspect you have a food intolerance but aren’t sure what the cause is, you may want to try following a detox diet that eliminates the following:
- Nuts and peanuts
- Fish and shellfish
- Wheat (gluten)
You can try reintroducing each food back into your diet one by one until you find the cause of your digestive problems.
Certain foods and household goods you come in contact with each day might be interfering with your natural hormone production. Detoxing from these foods may benefit your health. Here are some of the more common endocrine disruptors:
Foods that contain soy, contain phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are a group of chemicals that replicate the hormone estrogen in the human body. When estrogen levels become impaired, it may affect the optimal function of the body's endocrine system.
Some detox diets may require you to eliminate foods contained in plastic packaging. BPA (Bisphenol A) is a chemical found in some plastic containers such as water bottles and food packaging. Like soy, it replicates estrogen in the human body. (8) Over-consuming BPA may cause your body to be out of balance.
Dairy foods can cause several problems. Cows are often injected with hormones to improve the yield of milk they produce. One of the common hormones cows are injected with is called recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), which is the cow equivalent of human growth hormone.
It’s thought that drinking too much milk can cause the elevation of the hormone IGF-1 which may affect the body's optimal inflammatory response. (9)
Giving cows rBGH also increases the number of udder infections cows develop which can increase the number of antibiotics they’re given.
Things to Consider before Starting a Detox Diet
If you’re wondering if you should try a detox diet, you should first ask yourself what your goal is.
The number one mistake people make when trying a detox diet is depriving the body rather than nourishing the body. Detox diets that restrict calorie intake shouldn’t be a long-term weight-loss strategy. However, detox diets that are high in fruits and vegetables may increase the number of vitamins and minerals that you consume, and help to nourish your body during the detox.
When you go into a detox diet, we don't recommend that you begin with the mindset that you’re going to lose five or ten pounds in a week. However, a detox diet is a great way to eliminate toxic chemicals from your body and reset your diet so you can establish healthier habits.
Always check with your primary care physician before starting any type of detox diet. They may even be able to provide for you a detox plan that best fits your lifestyle.
We highly recommend that you consult your doctor or your health provider before you start a detox diet. If you have any health concerns that may be affected by dietary changes, a detox diet could be dangerous for your health.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. Readers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither the author(s) nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or person reading or following the information in this educational content. All readers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.
4. Kim MJ, Hwang JH, Ko HJ, Na HB, Kim JH. Lemon detox diet reduced body fat, insulin resistance, and serum hs-CRP level without hematological changes in overweight Korean women. Nutr Res. 2015;35(5):409-20.