Detox and Toxins – Truths and Myths
This week’s post arrives slightly later than usual, as I’ve been traveling to see my family in Edinburgh. I find I do a lot of walking in a city as nice as Edinburgh, and there are plenty of hills to climb too.
Taking time off and seeing the family also means I tend to let go of my diet a little bit – I allow myself some treats that I normally wouldn’t accept being part of my diet. We have big meals together and I then over-eat. You just tell yourself, “It’s ok, just for these few days.”
It is ok, of course. If we never treated ourselves then we’d be living a pretty stingy existence, if you ask me. After over-indulging though, you want to atone for that somehow – which got me thinking yet again to detox diets.
I have a number of friends who staunchly believe in the power of the detox. If it makes you feel better about yourself, then that’s no bad thing of course. What is the truth, however? I have written before about the truth behind detox diets, and also how safe detoxing is.
The Standard Detox Diet
What is typical of a detox diet?
Everyone has a different definition of ‘detox’. Most agree that it is based on the idea of cleansing your body of toxins, usually by cutting down on various items of food (and sometimes food all together).
People latch onto the idea of a detox diet because it’s easier for us to believe in a ‘quick fix’. Not many people are enthusiastic about eating a lot of vegetables, avoiding sugar and so on for the rest of their lives. However, if we can indulge ourselves a bit more often and then simply wipe away all the detritus with a quick detox, then we’ll do that.
Our bodies are built to survive for long periods of time without food by storing nutrients and having alternative pathways to metabolize what we have stored up. So we can easily live on just salad or whatever item you decide to focus on for several days.
Some detox diets are sold to us in the form of pills. Just take your micronutrients and drink enough water to fill you up. Nobody will be happy for very long doing this of course.
Not to mention that attempting to get all your vitamins and minerals from tablets is probably a bad idea anyway. There is a lot of research to suggest that it’s practically not worth trying, or at worst can actively harm your health. On the other hand, eating a balanced diet for the rest of your life is proven to keep you in good health.
Just what is a toxin anyway?
Again, it seems almost everybody has their own definition of just what a toxin is and does.
Some say they are the natural products of your body’s metabolism, excess molecules broken down in your liver that you don’t need or are actively harmful to the function of your body. Some will add in external pollutants, and anything we ingest that our body can’t process (which may turn out to be rather a lot in today’s modern world of fast food, processed ready meals and preservatives for longer shelf life).
What do they do? People argue that they inhibit your ability to digest nutritious food, or eliminate natural waste. There is little evidence for this, and indeed the truth is hard to pinpoint due to the nature of the detox diet industry.
The detox diet industry want you to believe the results they tell you because it sells their products, and unfortunately that’s the society we live in. So they will run an experiment and find a small positive result, and then tell you to “eat more X because it gives Y result”, when far more extensive research is really needed.
It’s easy for people to believe what they read on food packages, because it seems like it must be the truth. As I said, the truth is more slippery than that and you do need to be careful.
I suppose the only conclusion I can reach is that if you partake in detox diets, don’t just do it temporarily. Don’t do the extreme diets where you only eat 1 food for 2 weeks. If going on these diets helps you realize that the best thing is to eat a healthy, balanced diet and have an active lifestyle then it will all have been worth it in the end.