by Kathryn Orange MSc., LCPH, IAHT, IANLPC ……

What have Kate Moss, Katy Perry and Beyonce all got in common?

Well apart from fame; fortune and the kind of body shape that many of us covet, they are amongst recent celebrities to reinvent the Detox Diet.  These diets claim to help us lose up to 14 pounds in as little as 10 days, banish cellulite for good, stop bloating, improve skin tone, banish colds, make you feel calmer, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and give you untold energy.  Promises too tempting to resist for those of us desperate to shed those excess pounds that are still making our clothes feel tighter than they did a few months ago.

How healthy is a detox diet?  The idea behind detoxification is not new: both the ancient Greeks and Egyptians believed that food would putrefy in the body and cause ill health and various versions of the same theory have been generally held right up until the current day.  A basic principle of modern detox diets is that we are surrounded by poisons within our environment on a daily basis: alcohol; caffeine; pesticides; chemicals used to grow or prepare food; smog, benzene, lead or other substances in the air; artificial sweeteners and sugar are just some of the things that we cannot get away from.  The continual bombardment of these toxins results in a build-up which has a negative effect on our bodies’ health, resulting in: weight gain; cellulite; headaches; dull skin; bloating; fatigue; lowered immunity; aches and pains and a general lack of well-being.

It is popularly believed that the process of detoxing helps to purge the body of these poisons, effectively enabling it to ‘reboot’, with the result that you lose weight, feel healthier and recover from all those other niggling health problems.

Detox diets follow many forms: fasting; herbal formulas; food elimination or increasing fibre intake are all popular techniques which focus on extensively restricting certain sets of foods.  For a day or two this is unlikely to cause any harm but if you look online you will see advertisements for 7, 14, 30 and even 60 day detox diets.  You don’t have to be a medical expert to appreciate that following an unbalanced diet for such long periods of time will lead to nutrient deficiency and can have dangerous health consequences.  It is for this reason coupled with a lack of scientific evidence to support this method of detoxification that many health experts are questioning if detox diets are in fact really good for us or if we could actually be damaging our bodies by following them.

Can’t we detox naturally?

Way back in High School, Biology 101 taught us that our bodies have their own mechanisms for detoxing: the colon, kidneys, liver, lungs, skin and lymph glands are there to provide a housekeeping function that will keep our bodies clean.  Providing these organs are healthy and functioning properly, they are perfectly capable of dealing with all the waste that needs to be excreted from the body which helps you to maintain health and keep weight in check.

Should the Detox Diet be thrown into the Garbage?

It has already been said: there is little evidence to support the use of detox diets and plenty to suggest that used for more than a day or two they could in fact damage your health. However, there are some positive aspects of them which can help you to kick start a healthier routine: Detox diets will make you think about what you are eating and encourage some good eating habits.  You will drink more water, cut down on caffeine, alcohol and sugar, eat more fruit and vegetables and less meat and junk food.  Inevitably you will lose weight as they are very low in calories and if you use up more calories than you consume you will eventually shed those pounds as you lose water and burn up your fat reserves.   But be warned, the results will be short lived and your body will kick back against such a low calorie intake and store additional fat to avoid the starvation experience it has just been through.  Your immunity will slide as you have too few nutrients to sustain health and the lack of food will give you side effects such as tiredness, headaches or food cravings. Taken to the extreme, strict detox plans may even lead you to develop an unhealthy obsession with food and a potential eating disorder and of course it will ruin any chances of socializing with friends over a nice meal.

Conclusion

If you are trying to lose weight, improve your skin or cleanse your liver then think carefully before embarking on a detox diet that lasts for any more than a couple of days.  They are too low in nutrients, too low in calories and will make your body think it is starving and it will react accordingly: your skin, hair and nails will suffer; you will put on even more fat than before when you start to eat normally again; and your immune system will struggle.  At the end of the day there is no substitute for taking exercise and eating a balanced diet to achieve the correct weight and maintain a healthy body.

About the Author

Kathryn Orange is a Licensed Naturopath with 20 years experience. She uses herbalism, homeopathy and nutrition to cure a range of ailments and promote good health.  She has written instructional texts based on her own clinical experiences and research, has taught and supervised students of complimentary health, presented at health conferences and written an advice column for the newspaper.  She now lives in North Cyprus and is committed to raising health and nutrition awareness and to show how complementary therapies can be used successfully to support mainstream medicine.