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Debunking the myths surrounding detox diets

Detox (short for detoxification) or liver cleansing diets have been around for many years.

We have all heard the claims in the media that you are vulnerable to dangerous toxins poisoning your body and you need a detox diet, a cleanse or a special product to flush these toxins out so that you could regain good health, stop feeling terrible and lose weight. But is all of this really true? Do you really need to detox or is it just another marketing tactic to sell you a cleanse or detox diet?

What are toxins, should we detox?

A toxin is a poison of natural origin that is difficult to digest or eliminate, causing structural damage, and is blamed for creating an imbalance in your body as well as disease. Toxins arise from our body being overloaded with pollution, nicotine, a poor diet, eating refined foods, food additives, alcohol and caffeine.

Toxin build-up can contribute to poor digestion, bloating, flatulence, constipation, lack of energy and fatigue, difficulty in losing weight.

The aim of a detox is to give your body a break from handling its usual load, allowing it to eliminate the build-up of excess waste and toxins accumulated over the winter or festive season, and as a result you will feel healthier.

Popular detox diets

There are numerous detox plans, diets and kits available - books, boxes or bottles, with some combination of “detox”, “cleanse” or “flush” in the product name.

Detox diets can vary from a simple diet of raw vegetables and unprocessed foods and the elimination of caffeine, alcohol and refined sugars, to a much stricter diet bordering on a starvation diet with only juices consumed or even foot pads! Detox diet programmes can last anywhere from a day or two up to several months! Popular detox strategies include juice cleanses, coffee enemas, vitamin injections, foot pads/baths, ear candles X all promising detoxification.

Most detox plans include two main elements – a liver booster (eg milk thistle) and/or a laxative (eg senna). One should, however, be cautious with some of these elements.

The laxative, for example, can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances if not used carefully, especially when used regularly, your bowel can grow accustomed to the effects of laxatives. This may result in constipation once you stop using them.

Colonic hydrotherapy

During this treatment 60 litres of water are piped into the colon X supposedly removing stubborn plaques of impacted faecal matter present in the colon. The dangers of colonic hydrotherapy include changes in your gut bacteria, risk of perforating the bowel, pelvic abscesses, dehydration and it can also skew your electrolyte levels. It has also been linked to liver toxicity problems – instead of flushing toxins, it can cause damage to the liver.

Juice cleanses

Juice cleanses generally claim to give you more energy, make your skin glow and help you lose weight, by ridding your system of heavy metals, pesticides and other toxins.

How the body detoxifies itself

Just as nature intended, your body has the ability to “detox” naturally on a daily basis. Our body’s detoxification process is far more complex than most people realise. Toxins enter the body. Some toxins are eliminated via the skin (sweat), lungs (mucus), digestive tract (stools), kidneys (urine), while others are transported to the liver. The liver is the body’s master organ of detoxification – breaking down toxins using enzymes.

The liver is responsible for an amazing number of highly complex chemical reactions that neutralise toxins and prepare them for removal from the body through the urine or stools.

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