The flowers are blooming, the grass is greening, the world is feeling new and fresh and you want to feel new and fresh, too. You’ve spring-cleaned your house, planted your garden, re-organized the garage and purged all of the junk that has accumulated over the past year, and now you’re thinking about doing the same with your body: cleaning out the junk, giving it a fresh start, maybe losing a few pounds in the process. You’re thinking of trying one of those detox juice cleanses you’ve seen advertised in the health food store, or your friend told you about, or you read about online.
But, wait, what exactly is detoxing. What does it actually do? Is it safe? Is it effective? Will it leave you feeling fresh and new and free of all that “junk” your body has been accumulating?
Here is what you need to know:
Detoxing is based on the idea that our bodies accumulate toxins through the air we breathe and the food we eat: pollution, pesticides, sugars, alcohol, dairy – you know, the usual suspects. Advocates of detoxing believe that by eating a special diet for a few days, or by drinking specific juices, or by abstaining from anything but water, our bodies are given a chance to rest and flush all of those harmful substances from our system. After the cleanse, they say, you will have more energy and fewer headaches. Your clothes will fit better and your mind will be clearer. Your body will be healthier, better able to fight disease, and less likely to develop cancer or other diseases.
These claims are often supported by testimonials of people who have tried them, but there is little hard data to back them up. It is likely that a juice cleanse will help you lose weight quickly because you are consuming much fewer calories than normal. But nutritionists point out that this is not effective for sustained weight-loss: your metabolism will slow down and the weight will creep back on. Cleanses can also lead to nausea, dizziness, and fatigue.
Juice cleanses and diet detoxes are not the only methods of flushing toxins: colon cleansing is another currently popular method. Doctors recommend and often prescribe colon cleanses before medical procedures like colonoscopies, but warn against them in other uses because of the dangers which range from a build up of gas to perforations in the colon to renal failure. Additionally, instruments used in colon cleanses are not necessarily tested for safety or approved by the Food and Drug Administration and could be unsafe.
If you are a little wary of the diet detoxes and other alternative detoxes but worry about all those environmental toxins you keep hearing about, take note: Your body is constantly cleaning itself out. Your liver and kidneys perform that specific function. And if you are worried about cancer and disease causing toxins in your food, the only thing that has been proven to have an effect on cancer and cardiovascular disease is your diet. Data supports a diet rich in – wait for it – “a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, oils, and nuts” as disease-fighting and cancer-preventing.
So if you are in need of a quick fix, if you really need to fit into that dress in a week or two and you’re still a couple of pounds shy of getting the zipper up, it may be okay to try a detox cleanse for a few days. But if you’re looking for long-term detox and improved health, research shows that the better bet is to “detox” on a diet of whole, unprocessed foods.
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