To detox, or not?

Amanda O'Brien
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Detoxes have been popular for ages, but the subject of detoxing has been really popular lately, not to mention that the choices of programs are now endless.

Recently, celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Demi Moore have been promoting various detoxing methods, and just last weekend CBC’s “Marketplace” featured a special on Dr. Oz’s

48-hour detox plan.

Detoxing may seem like a good idea to kickstart a New Year, but before you jump on the cleansing bandwagon, consider a few things first.

Detoxes often include a regime that involves a change in habits to help rid the body of wastes and pollutants. From a dietary perspective, it usually involves taking pills or capsules, powders or juices, eliminating specific foods from the diet, or periods of fasting. Sometimes claims to help promote weight loss, decease inflammation and promote increased energy are often included.

Advocates of detox dieting and fasting note that toxins are released through the body during the detoxification process. It is true that the body does have several methods of detoxifying itself, however no one really knows for certain right now what these detoxification methods entail, as there is limited science to back up the claims.

On the other hand, reduced intake of processed foods, smaller portions, increased water and healthier lifestyle activities such as exercise — things that often accompany a detox initiative — have proven benefits.  

The body does have a few natural detoxification methods of its own. The primary function of organs like the liver and kidneys is to filter wastes. In addition, our intestines absorb the nutrients from foods we eat, and eliminate waste through regular bathroom breaks.  

If you are considering a detox, it’s important to ask yourself why you are considering going this route.

If you are contemplating a detox to help jump-start a life change for healthier eating, more sleep or increased activity, a few days of modified intake is not really any biggie. Perhaps starting this change with a short detox might be just what you need to get right on track.

If you are looking for a “quick fix” to cleanse the body, or fit into the bikini for March break, though, a detox is likely not the best solution for the problem.

Either way, people with diabetes, as well as growing kids, teens, pregnant women and older adults, or anyone on medication, are best to avoid detox diets all together. Certain detoxes, especially if done for a period of time, could lead to nutrient deficiencies or dehydration if they are really restrictive.

If you do decide to do a short detox, and feel much better, then great. But do remember to ask yourself why you chose a detox in the first place. Chances are if you didn’t do anything to change your lifestyle to accompany it, any result felt is going to be short-lived.

Before you spend the money on a popular detox, ask yourself the following questions about your lifestyle. After all, when a detox is said and done, you still need to go back to eating regular old food, sleeping well and being active to truly be healthier and make a difference in your overall health status.

It’s true there are no specific foods that work to detoxify the body, but if you don’t already practise some of the following tips, it might be a better place to start.

    ‰ Have a fruit or vegetable at every meal and snack. Full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre and water, and low in calories, these foods promote fullness and help the liver and kidneys perform their best.

    ‰ Bright colours are best. Swap out the salt shaker for an array of spices. Similar to fruits and veggies, these are antioxidant rich.

    ‰ Drink plenty of fluids. At least two to three litres per day of mostly water, but some tea and coffee, too. Staying hydrated is important to feeling energized and helping those detoxification organs work their best.

    ‰ Eat fibre-rich foods (aside from fruit and veg) like flax seeds, beans, barley, quinoa, oats and brown rice, just to suggest a few. Fibres do have the ability to bind specific substances like cholesterol, blood sugars and others within the body and carry them out through number two.

    ‰ Eat plain yogurt. It will have no added sugars or artificial sweeteners, and contain probiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria from fermented foods which help to protect the intestines and prevent the growth of unwanted bacteria, all in all promoting good health.

    ‰ Last but not least, choose foods as close to their natural form as possible for less unwanted additives, excess sugar and sodium, and extra calories.


Amanda O’Brien is a registered dietitian in St. John’s.

Contact her through the website:

Organizations: CBC

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