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To Detox or Not to Detox

cucumber_waterI’ve gotten a lot of emails asking my opinion of detox diets. I can see why some would appeal to these. It’s so enticing… walking through the vitamin/supplement aisle of your local health food store. There are boxes and boxes and detox quick fix promises… all promising to lose weight fast. Even some high profile celebrities promote detox liquid diets for quick weight loss. As a dietitian, I’m NOT a proponent of these quick fixes. In writing this post, I wanted to provide you with the REAL info on detox diets from a professional who practices this with their clients. For this, I turned to Naturopath Doctor Lucky Bennett. Here is what she had to say about detox diets:

“Detox diets should be primarily plant-based (organically grown whenever possible), if people want to consume animal protein, it should come from free-range organically fed sources or wild-caught fish. The whole purpose of a detox is to decrease the body’s toxic burden, so we want to decrease the amount of toxins coming in to the body (i.e. organic foods, filtered water) while increasing the body’s ability to remove both the toxins it creates and the toxins we encounter as part of daily living. For many people, a detox diet is a pretty dramatic departure from their regular diet (which is part of the reason they may need to detox in the first place!), so it can feel like they’re depriving themselves. But a detox diet is NOT about calorie restriction – it is about changing where those calories come from.

There are detox diets out there that are quite extreme and do restrict calorie intake, but these are very difficult to maintain over an extended period of time and people frequently fall off the wagon, so to speak. Additionally, there are some people for whom an extreme detox diet would be contraindicated, but a more nourishing detox diet can be quite beneficial.” For Lucky’s clients, her preference is for them to stay on a detox for 4-6 weeks, so a diet that can sustain them for that period of time is very important.

As far as detox supplements are concerned, most of the commercially available supplements have a fiber component that increases stool bulk and frequency and usually some herbs that support the liver’s detoxification pathways and the kidneys’ eliminative function. Lucky feels it is important for people to remember that while these herbs can be very effective, they can also interact with the metabolism of prescription and over-the-counter medications. If people have questions about whether or not the supplements are appropriate for them, they should consult with someone who has experience the herbs.

The detoxes Lucky guides her clients through always involve other components such as aerobic exercise, sweating, deep breathing exercises, and proper hydration to support all of the body’s primary pathways of eliminating toxins. The diet is the primary way we can influence the toxins coming in, but we can’t forget to address the ways the body rids itself of toxins either. Lucky believes that to effectively detox, it isn’t enough to take some pills for a week or two and expect miraculous changes.

Lucky provided me with some great information! Detox diets don’t have to be extreme. My interpretation of Lucky’s information was that the goal is to eat “REAL” food, food that is as close to nature as possible… this CAN be a huge departure from someone’s regular diet, which can make them feel deprived. Slowly moving your diet towards more real foods and away from processed artificial foods can be an easy natural progression towards a healthier diet. Like Lucky said, this is not about reducing calories, but changing the source of where calories come from.

I hope this info was helpful! I’m still on the fence regarding true detox diets and cleanses. I really believe in feeding the body whole foods.


Question of the Day?

What are your views on Detox Diets? I believe in eating what my body wants. If I’ve been eating out a lot, by body natural craves fresh food, more fruits and veggies. This may be my body’s way of naturally detoxing. I never deprive myself.

17 Responses

  1. The Paris Food Blague said on January 21, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Thanks so much for the info. I think that detox is a word that gets thrown around a lot, and can mean different things. For some people it’s a fast (bad! bad!), for others it’s just a few days of eating whole foods (good! good!).

    A bientot!
    The Paris Food Blague

  2. Julie @savvyeats said on January 21, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Great post! I think people can take the idea of “detox” to an extreme (calorie restriction, etc), and should instead listen to what their body wants!

  3. Marisa (Loser for Life) said on January 21, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Great info! I agree with you, Estela. I believe in EATING. Our bodies are naturally designed to detox and eating the right foods (whole foods) keeps that design functioning properly!

  4. Kelly said on January 21, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Great information…thank you so much for posting!!!

  5. Heather (Heather's Dish) said on January 21, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    i’m the same way…i get obsessive with stuff if i focus on it too much, and i’d rather feed my body what it wants and actually NEEDS. plus, if i’m eating well and taking care of myself, there’s really no need to “Detox”

    great post today!

  6. Mommy RD said on January 21, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    I believe the body naturally detoxifies itself and that fasting and/or supplements are somewhat hype. I sometimes joke that I need to “detox” after a weekend of overindulgence, but that to me, means getting back to my normal eating and exercise

  7. Jessica @ How Sweet said on January 21, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    I SOOO dislike detox diets. I think they set most people up for failure and binging! I agree that sometimes our bodies naturally detox.

  8. Sarena (The Non-Dairy Queen) said on January 21, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    I agree with you on the subject of detox. I think you should increase your foods that are the closest to their natural state and you will definitely detox! There is so much water content in fresh fruits and vegetables! It just makes you feel good to eat them! Fasting is definitely not the answer!

  9. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman said on January 21, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    I think they’re all hype. Everything I’ve read from reliable doctors is that doing a liquid-only diet just reduces water weight. And the liver is self-detoxifying, so there’s no need to do a detox. I like the “detox” you’re doing. To me it sounds more like a way of getting away from unhealthy foods and eating a cleaner diet–without all of the restriction that comes from a typical detox diet.

  10. Ameena said on January 21, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    I did a detox but it was one with real food, not something like Master Cleanse. It helped me A LOT! It involved fruits and vegetables and protein. Seriously, it was the best thing I ever did.

  11. Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said on January 21, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    great post! i have never formally detoxed (by accident eating toooo many beets in a sitting!) but never on purpose. Whole veggies & fruit, minor processed foods, low or no animal proteins, I think that people who live this way really dont need to “detox”.

    Ocean Beach..when did you live there? That’s awesome!!!!!!

  12. lynn @ the actors diet said on January 21, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    i have detox diets and cleanses before – and i have to say that NOTHING feels as good as after i’ve had a tasty healthy delicious meal.

  13. Joanna Sutter (Fitness & Spice) said on January 22, 2010 at 7:40 am

    I’m not really a fan of the detox concept. What I am a fan of is upping my water and veggies…that seems to make me feel lighter in a matter of meals!

  14. Kris | said on January 22, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    I love your blog! I love detoxing 😉 I eat a very healthy diet daily, but I also take some 100% plant based daily detox drops. they kill parasites and keep cellulite off 😉 LOL!!!

    Keep the great posts coming!


  15. Carissa @ Fit To Indulge said on January 24, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Great blog. I’ve also written on detox as it seems to be a popular quesion with all the detox diets these days. I agree that it’s not about losing weight/calorie restriction, but more about recentering your diet around natural foods that will make you feel good.
    By the way, your biscotti looks so tasty. 🙂

  16. Gelareh @ Orange Truffle said on January 24, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Great Post. Detox diets that are marketed towards weight loss and the only thing on the menu is juice or lemonade or soup, I don’t agree with, but a detox/cleanse where you are eating a lot clean food (Veggies, Fruits, healthy fats) I am ok with. I do believe strongly that from time to time it is good to give our digestive system a little break and let it relax by eating foods that are easier on digestive system. Hence the cleanse that I am doing now. I am eating tons of calories but I am eating a lot clean, well combined and easy to digest meals.

  17. Kristen said on January 24, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    I tried a detox diet once. I can’t remember the combo of what the drink I had had in it, but remember part of it being Grade A maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Yuck!

    I drink cucumber water all the time. Is that a detox drink?