I would guess many dietitians don't support the use of detoxification diets simply because in most cases they're nutritionally inadequate. Lasting anywhere from 24 hours to two weeks, these diets often cut out entire food groups in an effort to cleanse the body of harmful toxins that build up from foods we eat. Most detox or cleanse diets have rules that include eating mostly fruits and vegetables and increasing water intake with the hope of increasing elimination and purifying the body. It's like Drano for your digestive system. So what - if any- truth is behind them?
• For the majority of people, a true detox diet or nutritional cleansing regimen is stricter than what you really need. • It's not unreasonable to think there are byproducts floating around in our bodies from the foods we eat. However, the point at which they become harmful toxins continues to be debated. So while the byproducts of conventionally grown produce (i.e. pesticides), high fructose corn syrup, stabilizers, food colorings, sodium, etc. likely aren't hurting you on a day-to-day basis, there may be some truth to them becoming harmful over the course of a lifetime. All in all, there may be times you want to flush the system and give yourself a fresh start. So when might this be?
o Maybe you've been feeling tired or sluggish. You have a "blah" feeling you can't otherwise describe. o Perhaps you've been feeling more bloated or had increased gassiness. o There are things going on in your body you don't normally experience such as acne or dry skin. o A few weeks or few months spent traveling with work or a busy season has left you ordering in or eating out more than usual which meant more fried food and large portions. Or maybe its wedding season and you've been ingesting more alcohol than is typical for you.
If you're looking to switch it up nutrition cleanses, when done the right way, can be the fresh start you're looking for and won't hurt to try. Again, to be clear, I'm not recommending everyone start cleansing and detox dieting, but if you're interested in trying it, try these few things to get a fresh start and follow a modified "detox"_
• The Golden Rule: A safe cleanse shouldn't last more than 2-3 days. • Try making water your only beverage. It can be hot, it can be cold, you can squeeze fresh lemon into it- whatever it takes to drink more water and drink less of everything else. • If you must drink something other than water, make your own juice. There really is nothing better than fresh squeezed juice-cut the sweetness with water and you're in business. • Get rid of (or at least cut back on) caffeine. • Avoid high fructose corn syrup, and added sugar for that matter. Remember, you're going for a fresh start and this doesn't have to last long. In other words, the warm chocolate chip cookie and/or diet soda aren't "bad"...they just doesn't belong in your cleanse. • Increase fiber with fruits, veggies and whole grains. If you want to be consistent with the alternative medicine gurus, buy organic if you can. This could be the perfect excuse to check out local produce at a roadside stand or Farmer's market (check out this blog for more Farmer's Market info). If it's local, then it's in season. If it's in season, then it will taste that much better. • Go without meat. Again, we aren't becoming vegetarians, we're simply starting over. Simple ingredients with easily digestible nutrients are the name of the game when you cleanse. Meat, specifically the protein, is the most complicated nutrient our bodies digest. Let's keep it simple. • No alcohol. • Exercise- sweat it out! • Take a multivitamin to cover your bases for an adequate nutrient intake.
Despite all the bogus information that tends to come along with detox diet claims, I do think there is some value to be found through a dietary cleanse. Remember, the goals of a cleanse are mainly to increase elimination (or at the very least get back to a regular bowel movement schedule) and to get back to basics in terms of ingredients- saying goodbye to processed/packaged foods. If and when the time is right for you; try these tips to help give you the fresh start you're looking for.
Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of www.Skinnyandthecity.com. She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto www.FFactorDiet.com.
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.