← Go back Junk in, Junk out: Detox Diets
Published on Monday, January 7, 2013 by

After giving birth to her son, Sheri-Lynn Day wanted to shed the baby weight. The 38-year-old was put on bed rest during her pregnancy and subsequently gained an extra 50 pounds. Standing only 5’4, the extra pounds were literally weighing her down. Not only was she feeling bad about her weight, her energy was low. She turned to a “detox diet” called Isagenix.

“[The Isagenix diet] can be done in nine days or 30 days,” she says from her Vancouver home. “The ‘cleansing days’ consist of a liquid made with aloe vera and other cleansing ingredients. There are ‘shake days’ when you replenish your body with a protein shake for breakfast and dinner and a sensible meal.”

Sheri-Lynn instantly started to feel more energetic and at the end of her diet had lost 22 pounds.

The 38-year-old divulges, “I get hungry but it is so worth it!”

Celebrity Endorsements Detox diets have become front and centre over the past few years. Cate Blanchett, Kate Moss, and Gwyneth Paltrow are all believers. Detoxification, or detox for short, is any method of removing potentially toxic substances from the body. Detox diets use fasting, herbs, and cleansing foods to aid in detoxifying the body. Detox diets claim to improve health, energy, resistance to disease, mental state, digestion, as well as aiding in weight loss.

Dr. Jennie Weisenburger, naturopathic doctor at Bellevue Natural Health Centre in West Vancouver, says that even though celebrities are bringing detox diets to the forefront, they are definitely nothing new.

“The concept of detoxification or cleansing has been around for a long time, and has been a common prescription from naturopathic doctors,” says Weisenburger. “Body purification has been a part of many ancient traditions, religious ceremonies and rituals for health and well-being.”

Weisenburger says that there are so many options out there that a health professional should help you to wade through the choices. Most are a variation or mixture of herbs, teas, shakes, fibre, diuretics, and raw foods. The length of these diets varies from a one-day to an ongoing basis.

Dr. Joshi’s Holistic Detox has made headlines since Princess Diana, Kylie Minogue and Ralph Fiennes have sworn by it. The 21-day diet requires that you eat only white poultry meat, brown rice, certain cheeses and yoghurts, certain vegetables, a limited amount of egg, some fish, gluten-free/wheat-free cereals and breads, honey, olive oil, pulses, lentils, chick peas, soya and tofu products and two litres of water a day.

Detox Decoder Detox diets are controversial and not everyone is a fan. Before Sheri-Lynn decided to detox, she checked with a few doctors.

“Some doctors are all for it and some are not,” Sheri-Lynn says. In the end, she decided that if the jury is out, she would try it and see for herself if it worked.

Dee Sandquist, a registered dietitian, and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association warns that detox diets could be harmful. She says that often detox diets lead to rapid weight loss that may not be healthy.

“Rapid loss of muscle and body fluids can lead to weakness,” Sandquist says. “Often the weight is regained because habits have not changed. When the weight is regained, most likely it is regained as fat instead of muscle.”

Weisenburger retorts that if the appropriate diet is chosen, there are rarely any complications or negative consequences. “The problem comes in when, people who say, for example, should not be fasting, choose a fasting program, or someone with unstable blood sugar chooses a diet void of protein,” she says.

Stelvio Bandiera, UBC professor of pharmaceutical sciences and biochemical toxicology admits that there are toxins in the food we eat and the air we breathe.

“There is no denying that there are pesticides, and other chemicals in our food,” Bandiera confesses. “But, the level that we are taking them in at is much lower than what Heath Canada considers safe.”

Bandiera says that various detox diets will flush the system of undigested food, but once toxins have been absorbed into our systems, they are deposited into our fat stores.

“There are no herbs, foods or man-made chemicals that can get into our fat stores and release these toxins,” says Bandiera. “Our bodies naturally metabolize fat by using our liver, and get rid of toxins through our excrement.”

A Non-Toxic Lifestyle Sandquist admits that some people may respond well to a kick-start approach to weight loss, but detoxing isn’t something that should only be done when one wants to shed a few pounds.

“A slower, more health-positive approach is to approach the detox as lifestyle management for the long term,” says Sandquist. “For example, following a Mediterranean diet or the dietary guidelines will provide an ongoing option for the body to detox naturally.”

Bandiera also says that eating a diet rich in anti-oxidants is a better bet to preventing cellular damage caused by chemicals. He says that eating more fruits and vegetables, and eating less meat and processed food is the best way to help our bodies get rid of toxins. Coincidentally, it is also a great way to lose weight.

Jennie Weisenburger mentions that there are other indirect advantages of detox diets. “Another important benefit is that patients report an increased awareness about what kinds of foods they are putting into their body, and how these choices impact their health,” she says.

Sandquist warns that anyone with a chronic medical condition and a compromised immune system should consult their physician before starting any detox diet.

“When the body naturally detoxes by following a healthy lifestyle of food balance, variety, physical activity and stress reduction, the effect is positive and long term,” Sandquist advises.

Sheri-Lynn Day is a firm believer in detox diets now.

“I think it is worth a try for any mothers looking to boost their energy and feel better!” Day says. “I believe there are toxins in our world and in our food. So, it feels good to get the junk out!”

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