You may have noticed a number of weight loss programs recommend starting with a detox or cleansing regimen. Is this a good idea and is this a safe thing to do?
The practice of “kicking off” a weight loss program with a detox offers those looking to shed a few pounds some advantages.
By removing foods that are calorie-laden and replacing them with nutritionally-dense foods like fruits and vegetables, you’re probably going to lose a few pounds quickly.
By eliminating addicting substances like sodium, sugar and caffeine plus chemicals such as artificial sweeteners and colorants, you’ll likely have more energy and feel pretty good too.
Ideally, this early success will motivate you to make the dietary and lifestyle changes that lead to a more sustainable, healthier weight.
Whether the practice is safe or not depends on your approach and health history. Below is some general information and guidelines on how to start a detox program. Just keep in mind, you should speak with your doctor before starting a detox or weight loss program.
What is the Goal of a Natural Body Detox?
Dr. Oz and Mark Hyman, M.D. have helped popularize 10-day detox diets whereas niche brands like BluePrint have helped create the fast growing juice cleansing diet category. Regardless of the name used – detox diet, cleansing diet, fasting, juice cleanse, colon cleansing – the goal is to remove unhealthy foods from your diet and give your body a chance to “clean the slate”. By removing addictive foods and chemicals, a detox also helps to break the cycle of poor eating habits and reduce cravings.
How Long is a Detox Program?
While differences exist, most detox programs are designed to be short-term, lasting from a day or so but some can last for up to two weeks.
What Parts of the Body are Detoxed?
A detox program targets one or several of the body’s innate systems designed to eliminate toxins. These include the respiratory (lungs, sinuses, nose), gastrointestinal (liver, colon, GI tract), urinary (kidneys, bladder), skin (sweat and sebaceous glands) and lymphatic systems.
Do I Really Need to Do a Body Detox?
Critics of detox programs argue that the body does a good job eliminating toxins and a detoxification program is not necessary. Proponents of detox programs say it is necessary. Indeed, the human body does a remarkable job to remove its toxic load. However, our diet, lifestyle and environment are dramatically different than that of our ancestors. With the increased chemical burden on our bodies, the need for a periodic detox seems prudent and beneficial.
What Foods Should Be Removed While Doing a Body Detox?
You’ll want to remove the obvious dietary toxins like sodium, sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Other foods such as dairy, wheat and gluten, peanuts, and soy, which promote an allergic reaction in certain individuals, should also be removed.
Here are three food categories that you should eliminate while on a body detox:
A good rule of thumb is that the most healthful foods – fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, lean meat, poultry and seafood – don’t require labels. If they do, such as canned chickpeas, the number of ingredients is very limited and you can recognize each ingredient listed. Start becoming more aware of what you’re eating by reading labels!
What Other Substances Should be Eliminated While Doing a Body Detox?
By virtue of removing the foods outlined above, you’ll be removing the primary source of dietary toxins. During a detox, you’ll also want to remove and/or limit your exposure to environmental toxins. These include pesticides, antibiotics, chemicals from food packaging (e.g., BPA), household cleaners, detergents, heavy metals, pollution, drugs and cigarette smoke. Many of these toxins are stored in fatty tissue and their long-term effect on human health is debated.
What are the Benefits of Doing a Body Detox?
While the benefits are numerous, key reasons to conduct a periodic detox include weight maintenance, rebalanced gut bacteria, improved blood sugar control, increased awareness of eating behaviors and improved overall health.
Who Should Not Do a Body Detox?
Certain individuals should not embark on a detoxifying program including pregnant or nursing women and diabetics. If you have a heart or other chronic condition, check with your doctor before trying this type of program. If you’ve just had a surgical procedure, you should not go on a cleanse. In fact, your body’s requirements especially for protein are much higher following surgery to help repair injured tissue.
What about Detoxifying Supplements?
Entire aisles of health food stores are devoted to weight loss products. Within this section, you’ll find supplements targeted for detox and detoxifying. Detoxifying herbal blends are the cornerstone of these programs with bulking agents often sold in conjunction with these supplements.
Detoxifying Herbal Blends
Although a formulation can include upwards of twenty botanical ingredients, their benefits are usually grouped into 4 functional categories:
Oftentimes, a detoxifying program will include a bulking agent which works as a colon cleanser. These supplements are formulated with fiber and other ingredients that help with elimination such as oat bran, flax seed, psyllium seed husks, pectin, aloe vera, acacia fiber, prune powder, glucomannan, chi seed, and inulin.
What Else Should I be Doing While Detoxifying?
In addition to restoring balance to your body, an aspect of detoxifying is to create mindfulness. The goal is to become better in touch with your body, your feelings, your relationship with food, etc. As a result, during a cleanse, you may want to spend the weekend catching up on sleeping and reading. A massage, aromatherapy bath or sauna helps to round out a body detox. Take it easy on physical exertion. Instead, it’s a good time to stretch or practice some yoga.
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