Should you detox?

Linda Cumines
Friday, December 31, 2010

Detox programs come and go like new diets. Here are some pros and cons, if you're thinking of undergoing a cleanse.

Cleansing and purifying food restrictions are often touted as giving health benefits. We may eat too much and do too little exercise, but do we need to go to extremes of detox? There is no scientific evidence to support the benefits of intense detoxifying or fasting and most dieticians don't promote routine fasting or extreme forms of detoxing.

Detox is the informal word we use for detoxification, representing a range of ways to rid waste and toxic substances from the body. Medically it's the term that refers to getting rid of harmful or excess drugs, such as alcohol or illicit drugs, from the blood stream. Detoxifying from these substances should only be instigated with professional help of a doctor, plus a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.

Fine line between hazard and health
Fasting for 24 hours is not dangerous for a healthy person who is drinking water. During this period you may feel great and the feeling of empty can be a positive experience if you prone to constipation or eating too much on a regular basis.

Prolonged fasts, on the other hand, of 48-72 hours or programs based only on water, lemon juice, vinegar or restricted vegetables are hazardous. Early signs of lack of nutrition are dizziness, mood swings, irritability, lethargy and headaches. Frequent episodes of fasting might lower your metabolic rate, so that the benefits of any weight loss are reduced each time you try and fast.

It's also important to not fast or detox without medical supervision. This is especially the case if you are on any medication or have raised blood pressure, heart disease, hypoglycaemia, diabetes, insulin resistance, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, kidney stones or disease, ulcers or if you are pregnant or elderly.

VIEW GALLERY: Your detox shopping list

Five easy detox steps

Here are some recommendations on how you can help cleanse and purify your body in a safe way. Use these guidelines as a long-term platform on which to build healthy eating habits.

1. Eliminate non-essentials such as alcohol, caffeine, fried foods, takeaways, processed foods, soft drinks and lollies, as well as extra vitamins and minerals, unless you have a proven deficiency. You do not need to eliminate everything straight away. Reduce at a pace that doesn't stress you out!

2. Add the liquid to rinse. Think of hosing out the gastric tract in an easier way than colonic irrigation. The best for this is drinking tap water. No fancy waters or other drinks are needed. Make sure you drink at least two litres throughout the day.

3. Add fibre such as psyllium seed husks, bran or commercial products like Metamucil and Benefiber.

4. Reduce the volume. Don't overfill your body. Stop eating at the first sign of satisfaction or allow at least 15 minutes before taking that extra serving.

5. Continue to eat the essentials — they are vital for the body to work. Include vegetables, fruit, wholegrain cereal, legumes, lean protein like fish and meat, low-fat dairy and healthy oils like olive, rice bran or canola. Your biggest challenge is to avoid processed foods — try to eat and cook from fresh foods, make your own cereal blends, casseroles and soups rather than the pre-prepared options in the supermarket.

Detox to kick-start weight loss
After conquering the above steps, you will need to add cardiovascular and resistance exercise routines to your daily and weekly schedule. You may also need to think about how you balance volumes of foods balanced with exercise. While you should not expect a weight loss greater than 0.5 kg per week long-term, you will most likely loose more some weeks.

Detox for healthy bowel habits
The extra fibre, legumes, vegetables and water will have a positive impact on regular bowel habits, plus help you fight long periods of constipation, bloating and discomfort.

Detox to max up energy
Maintain a balance between physical and mental energy via regular exercise and adequate sleep. Learn and practise relaxation techniques and eat regular meals without too much snacks in-between.

Detox myths
Grapefruit juice, lemon juice or vinegars don't burn fat.

Now when you are on the pathway to a cleaner and healthier diet, remember that no food needs to be banned for life — allow yourself a nice cuppa or a glass of wine every now and then!

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