Health & Wellness

Are detox diets safe and effective?

detoxDetox diets have become popular during the spread of COVID-19. These short-term diets involve changing eating habits to include the elimination of foods to purportedly rid the body of “toxins.” These diets claim to reduce contaminates in the body, but evidence of such is limited. Most food grade products are safe for consumption. Additionally, the liver plays a vital role in filtering the blood coming from the digestive tract and detoxifying chemicals and metabolizing drugs. Detox diets, often promoted on social media by celebrities through sponsored posts, typically involve eating restricted foods, coupled with periods of fasting. A typical diet might include combinations of vegetables or juices with periods of abstinence from eating other foods. Some may include the use of laxatives, colon cleanses or enemas and/or eliminate alcohol, cigarettes, carbs, high-fats, processed food, coffee, and sugar. The social and personal stress of Covid-19, coupled with poor lifestyle habits, is pushing people to consider detox diets, but are they safe and effective?

Three primary reasons people follow detox diets are to lose weight, gain better health advantages, and reduce stress. For some individuals, fasting can be dangerous as it can limit nutrient intake which can lead to vitamin, mineral, and electrolyte imbalances and limit physical and mental energy. Bodily cleansing can also have negative effects on people by causing dehydration and other serious conditions. People often experience lightheadedness, fatigue and so forth on nutrient-poor or restrictive diets. This can be dangerous, especially for people with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes. Extreme water intake, a common part of some liquid-based detox plans, can lead to a life-threatening condition called hyponatremia. This occurs when the kidneys cannot excrete the excess water and the sodium content of the blood becomes diluted. Malnutrition can occur if a detox diet is followed for an extended period. So, while these diets are popular, they may cause more harm than help.

There are grave psychological consequences to detox diets. Knowing that food is limited can make people feel hungrier. Once the detox diet is complete, they may crave foods on the forbidden list and overindulge. In turn, not only do they gain back the weight they lost, they sometimes gain more. People who eating disorders or those with low self-esteem may also fall for detox diets. Folks should be cautioned about participating in costly detox diet plans as promoted by scammers designed to take their money. If herbal supplements, diet teas, diuretics, or other drugs are encouraged within a detox regimen, safety is a major concern due to lack of quality standards. Vitamins and dietary supplements are not subject to the same FDA safety and efficacy standards as imposed on prescription drugs. Thus, it is important to know what one is taking and trust the source. Dangerous side effects are of concern, especially for lesser regulated pills, liquids, and supplements.

We live in a day and age where men and women feel pressured to be young and fit. With alternative medicine on the rise, some may think that a detox diet is the way to go. However, it is far better to eat a well-balanced diet and exercise on a regular basis rather than attempt to make up for a poor diet and lifestyle choices through detox methods. Avoidance of smoking and reduced alcohol consumption are also helpful to a healthy regime. Adapting to a regular healthful lifestyle can keep organs and tissues functioning properly. It can also help the body to fight off disease, infection, fatigue, and other conditions naturally. If you are considering a detox diet, talk to your health care professional to discuss what lifestyle choices are right for you. Caloric and nutritional intake varies in individuals and no significant lifestyle changes, including diet, should be attempted without proper medical advice.

This article is purely informational and is not intended as medical advice. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your lifestyle.

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