Detoxification (detox), is the natural, continuous process of the body to neutralize and/or eliminate toxins. Toxins are anything that potentially causes harm to the body’s tissues, including waste products that natural result from the activity of normal cells, including human-made toxins that your body is exposed to from food, water and the environment. Your intestines, lungs, kidneys, liver, lymphatic system, blood and skin all work together to make sure these toxins are chemically changed into less harmful substances and then excreted from your body.
What is a Detoxification Diet?
Detox is typically associated with being a treatment used to rid the body of drugs and/or alcohol, but the same concept is also used to cleanse the body from dietary and environmental toxins. A detoxification diet usually involves the use of herbs and/or specialized diets to flush the toxins out. There are several different types of detoxification diets, all of which are short-term and typically:
- Contain foods, such as water and high fiber foods that increase urination and bowel movements in order to draw out and eliminate toxins.
- Minimizes the amount of consumed toxins, such as eating only organic and/or plant-based foods.
- Place a high emphasis on foods that provide the nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that your body requires for effective detoxification.
Why Go On a Detox Diet?
Several studies have suggested that a large amount of the toxins people ingest daily through water, food and the air may become deposited the fat cells of the body. These toxins are knowingly and unknowingly ingested and may include:
- Chemicals from food packaging
- Hormones in food
- Food additives
- Household Cleaners
- Heavy Metals
- Cigarette smoke
Eating a diet that lacks certain nutrients can impair your body’s natural ability to detoxify the chemicals it ingests, causing a buildup of toxins in the body. When the body “holds on” to these chemicals, it gradually interferes with and ultimately damages the body’s immune function and metabolism, which causes hormonal imbalance, nutritional deficiencies and illness. Some of the signs that your body is overloaded with toxins may include headaches, muscle pain, fatigue, poor concentration and poor skin.
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Detox Diet
It is common for those who have completed a detox diet to have an increase in energy, regular bowel movements, improved concentration, improved digestion and clearer skin. There are pros and cons to almost everything, including a detox diet. One of the most common side effects of a detox diet is headaches, which often occur within the first couple of days after starting the diet. The headaches are usually due to caffeine withdrawal, but gradually decreasing your caffeine intake before starting the diet may help to reduce the headaches. Diarrhea is also a common side effect of a detox diet, which can cause a loss of electrolytes and dehydration. Some people also experience weight loss, fatigue, irritability and skin acne.
When choosing a detoxification diet, it is important to follow a diet that contains the nutritional needs your body craves. For example, instead of following a liquid only detox diet, consider one that consists of eating fruits and vegetables as part of a well-balanced meal at least twice each day (instead of 3 liquid meals). It is important to drink plenty of water, not only to help flush the toxins out, but to avoid dehydration. You should talk with your doctor before starting a detox diet, especially if you are being treated for liver or kidney problems and pregnant or nursing women should not go on a detox diet.