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Do Detoxifying Diets Work?

Detoxifying Diets

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The ongoing fad of using detoxifying diets to cleanse the body have come with all kinds of different claims (depending on the strategy) for healing, correcting or preventing a range of different health problems and risks that are supposedly caused by harmful toxins and chemicals built up in the body. By removing those toxins, the idea is that the body will be able to recover and eliminate the risk of developing the issues in the first place.

How Are Detoxifying Diets Meant to Help?

The concept behind detoxifying diets is that our current lifestyles cause a gradual buildup of toxic agents in our bodies.  It’s not that we’re doing something as directly toxic as consuming a cleanser or other dangerous chemical in large quantities. It’s something that supposedly occurs over time in microscopic amounts.

Since these chemicals are not harmful in small amounts, only in larger accumulated amounts, we don't notice side effects until time has passed. A proper, even if occasional, detoxifying diet is – according to proponents of detoxes – necessary to relieve our bodies of harmful toxins and chemicals, and maintain a healthy, normal, and long-lived life.

For instance, while a bite out of one strawberry that has been sprayed with pesticides and insecticides might not do anything to harm us, when that quantity is multiplied across all the strawberries (and other foods) we eat over days, weeks and months, the build-up of those substances is supposedly problematic and can explain all sorts of common ailments from indigestion to fatigue and from brain fog to headaches.

How Are Typical Detoxifying Diets Practiced?

The main idea of detoxifying diets is to eliminate nearly all foods and restrict the body to only water and vegetables for a few days, usually around 5 or 6 days is adequate. Most detox diets then allow for a slow re-introduction of other foods, gradually. The diets generally restrict foods from your diet that are said to have harmful toxins. Along with this a detox diet should then flush the existing toxins out of the body. A detox diet essentially gives the liver and other organ's a chance to catch up and remove all the toxins.

This is done through our sweat, feces, and urine. Our bodies simply cannot cope with the normal day to day ingestion of chemicals. Most these chemicals come from foods, as mentioned before, but also have a wide variety of other sources. Although we do not know what foods are the cause of it all, we do know that pesticides, heavy metals, such as mercury and lead, and the chemicals in cigarettes and the air we breath, all enter our bodies via our lungs or stomach and can cause an excessive build up. These chemicals in small amounts are harmless, its the day after day ingestion and build up of them which can lead to degenerative diseases.

One common detoxifying diet is the combination of nothing but fruits and water for a given period. The promotion of chemicals being metabolized by our bodies can be helped with certain vitamins, herbs and supplements. Some supplements claim to help the mobilization of toxins in our fat and other toxin deposits located throughout the body. Others pretend to work as well as the best diet pills. Since our bodies rid themselves of chemicals through sweat, sauna therapies can also provide a great benefit. There are many other diets and detox therapies, these are just a few common methods.

Do Detoxes Work?

Here’s the rub. As fantastic and believable as all that sounds – particularly with all the chemicals, pesticides and herbicides that are indeed contained within many of the foods we eat (in micro-doses) – the vast majority of the medical community does not recommend detoxification diets.  Even if the build-up of those substances was a thing – which it very likely is not – detoxing is not how those substances would be eliminated from the body.

Digestion already includes a natural elimination process. By eating enough fiber and drinking enough water, anything the body doesn’t want is sent out with its waste elimination process – urination and defecation.  This means that as long as you’re pretty much regular in the bathroom, you’re getting rid of your body’s waste.  It doesn’t build up in the liver or kidneys. That’s just not how those organs work.  

If you’re not going to the bathroom regularly, a detoxification diet still isn’t necessary. Eating more fiber and drinking more water likely is. Detoxing is known to stress the organs and body systems far more than it benefits them. Talk to your doctor before considering any major alteration to your diet.