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What is a Detox Diet?

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 13 Apr 2010 | comments*Discuss
Detox Diet Toxins High-fibre Water

Many women – and occasionally some men – see the appeal of a detox diet as a sure-fire way to lose weight fast. If you want to lose a few pounds to fit into that tight black dress for that special night out, a detox diet might appeal to you too. But what exactly are detox diets, and are they really good for you?

In short, detox diets are designed to eliminate what people believe are the “bad” toxins in our diet, and cleanse our systems from top to toe. Made to be short-term, they, in theory, work by cleaning us out – and leaving us feeling lighter, more refreshed, and full of energy.

Mainstays of a Detox Diet

A good detox (which is short for detoxification) diet is designed to minimize the number of chemicals we ingest. It will concentrate on providing the healthy nutrients we need, and contain lots of water combined with high-fibre foods that will help us excrete toxins more easily.

Many people who go on short-terms detox diets see immediate benefits. Not only do they lose weight quickly but their digestive systems improve, they have renewed energy and clearer skin. These benefits, however, are only short-lived.

Going on a detox diet also means some short-term hazards. While you are on the diet you may initially have a lot less energy, and also suffer from headaches, irritability and a general bad mood. Don’t worry, all this will pass within a few days.

Do They Really Work?

The idea of detoxing may sound better than it really is. In fact, many health professionals say that’s the case. The truth is that our bodies are able to detox naturally, without us having to resort to fad diets, starvation diets or even detox diets.

Our natural digestive systems are more than capable of doing this for us, with the help of our kidneys, lungs and other necessary organs, not to mention the bowels. We don’t really need to starve ourselves to get rid of toxins in our bodies, we are getting rid of them naturally every day.

Saying that, many people believe that a two or three-day detox can be a good way to kick-start a proper, sensible diet plan. But while you may appear to be shedding the pounds quickly, in reality you are only losing the necessary fluids your body needs, which you will put back on once you start eating normally again.

Detoxing is a regular thing for some people, who eat to excess 25 days a month, then starve for the remainder. They see it as a way of bringing balance to the body, in effect allowing themselves to pig out most of the time, knowing that they’ll detox it all away when the time comes.

That type of bingeing and starving is bad on the system, and can only be detrimental to our health, rather than helpful. People who detox once or twice a year, however, may see some benefits.

Detox Fads

Drinking water is a good way to flush out bad toxins, as anyone who has had a cold will know. But don’t drink too much - most experts agree that 64 ounces a day is more than adequate. And drinking fancy “power water” or other expensive bottled liquid won’t help any better than just plain old tap water, so save your money.

Eating raw food can provide health benefits, but remember that some food is much better for you when cooked. Tomatoes, for example, release lycopene when cooked, which is an anti-carcinogenic.

Another myth is that of the long-term detox. While most of us can detox for a few days and not do our bodies any long-term harm, being on a detox diet for any significant length of time will mean depriving your body of the necessary nutrients it needs to stay healthy.

Finally, lots of people are taken in by the idea of colonic irrigation and the allure of colon-cleaning products in general, which promise to rid the body of all harmful bacteria that has built up over the years. But you will be getting rid of not only the bad stuff but the good stuff as well, such as the healthy bacteria your digestive tract needs.

You can also get a nasty infection from colonic irrigation if it is done in unclean surroundings, or carried out using equipment that has not been properly sterilized. If you decide colonics are for you, go to a licensed professional with a good reputation.

Healthy Habits

Having healthy long-term eating habits, taking regular exercise and avoiding such bad vices as regularly drinking alcohol to excess or smoking nicotine is much better than doing a detox.

Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid overdosing on processed foods, fat and excess sugar. Stick to high-fibre foods in general, drink plenty of water throughout the day and take regular exercise. Enjoy a healthy lifestyle full-time and you'll have no need for a detox diet!

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