After the holidays and the CNY feasts, your body may now be feeling the effects of the cocktails and rich, oily food. You feel heavy, sluggish and possibly put on a couple of pounds. This is the perfect time to go on a detox!
What is a detox program?
Detox diets or programs – sometimes called body cleansing or cleansing diets – have gotten a lot of buzz because of celebrities or even advocates of natural, healthy living.
The idea is that our diet and lifestyle fills our body with toxins that affect our mind, mood, weight and energy levels. The “toxins” include fats, processed food and other flavour enhancers made of chemical compounds we can’t even pronounce.
Detox diets and programs are like doing one big Marie Kondo makeover on your internal organs.
These ingredients are difficult to digest and purge from our system, because most of them are artificial and unnatural. The body isn’t optimized to break them down, and it’s possible for some of them to stay in our system weeks after we ate them. While they’re technically not poisonous, those trace amounts can accumulate and increase our risk for cancer, liver disease and other health problems.
Detox diets and programs are like doing one big Marie Kondo makeover on your internal organs. You remove possible toxins from your diet and take supplements that can help you cleanse your system. Instead of asking, “Does this item bring me joy?” you’re asking, “Does this ingredient do good things for my body, and remove bad things from my body?”
How does a detox or cleansing program work?
Doctors actually use the word ‘detox’ differently. From a medical perspective, detox applies to life-threatening situations where patients need to quickly purge harmful levels of drugs, alcohol or poisons from their body.
From our perspective, detox supplements and diets take a different meaning. They’re geared towards quality of life, rather than life-and-death situations. You just want to help your body work more efficiently in its natural detoxification functions. Your liver, kidney and digestive system are already absorbing and processing nutrients and removing waste products. You are simply helping it do its job better – and slowly, you will feel the effect on your body and mind.
Do all detox diets help the body?
No. A lot of so-called detox diets are actually extremely low-calorie diets that force the body into starvation mode. Starving the body does not necessarily cleanse it. In fact, when you go on a very low calorie diet for too long, your body will start breaking down muscles and fats, which can release nitrogen compounds that are actually harmful.
Extreme diets or juice cleanses are also typically low in fiber, which your body needs to pull out toxins. Without fiber, the toxins are reabsorbed by the liver.
Many people also tend to overdetox and end up stressing the body. For example, going on an extreme diet and doing laxatives and doing supplements can lead to dehydration, low electrolytes, and impaired bowel functions.
Another common detox mistake is ignoring your body’s total nutritional needs. For example, juice cleanses and juice fasts are fantastic ways of getting vitamins and minerals and freeing the body from unnecessary fats, preservatives and chemicals. However, when it’s done too long – and you aren’t getting enough fiber, protein and carbohydrates — you’re depriving your body of what it needs to function.
What’s the safest way to detox?
First of all, never go on a detox without medical supervision if you are diabetic, have high or low blood pressure, are pregnant or breastfeeding.
If this is your first time to do a detox, start slow or keep it short. Try a three-day juice cleanse, and see how your body reacts. Or, replace one meal or two meals with a juice or protein shake but still have one healthy “regular” meal. A food app like My Fitness Pal can also help you track the nutritional values and calories you take every day, so you never go dangerously below your daily requirements.
Remember, your doctor is the best person to give expert advice on what is safe for you, because he or she knows your medical history.
IF you take detox supplements or go on a detox program, research on reviews – not just the testimonials on the site, but whether or not doctors and the medical community think it’s safe and effective. If you do decide to follow it, stick to the recommended protocol. If it says it’s for five days, do it for five days – never be tempted to extend it because you’re so happy with the results.
What kind of detox program gives the best long-term results?
The short answer: detoxing your bad habits.
Detox programs can never replace or exceed the benefits of healthy lifestyle changes. Get exercise and eat a healthy diet with proper portions. Cut out oils, preservatives and switching to complex carbohydrates. Try to eat as many natural or fresh meat, fish and produce as you can, instead of canned or instant food.
While detox supplements and cleansing diets can jump start or benefit your overall health, they are not shortcuts or magical solutions. Think of them as part of an entire, holistic healthy lifestyle.