Detox myths: why wellness is a better approach

Detox programmes have become a popular way to lose weight quickly.  But how healthy are they?

Detox claims

Some detox programmes are marketed as ways to ‘cleanse your system of toxins’.  Many involve refraining from eating certain food groups, e.g. dairy or concentrate on eating only specific foods such as fruit and vegetables. 

Many claims are made including:

  • Rapid weight loss

  • Improved digestion

  • Better hair and skin

  • More energy

  • Boosted immune system

  • The evidence behind these claims is scant.

Why you might feel better

Of course if your diet is currently poor, you eat too much sugar, do not consume fruit and vegetables, over indulge in alcohol and do not do any exercise, when you make a change and cut out the bad stuff you are bound to feel better – for a short while.

However, detox programmes are not a sustainable way to lose weight nor are most of them a healthy approach to wellness.

As the British Dietetic Society explain,

‘Fasting, or severely restricting food consumption, limits intake of energy and important nutrients that are needed for health and well-being. Rapid weight loss occurs when fasting or severely restricting dietary intake, but this weight loss is water, glycogen (the body's carbohydrate stores) and muscle, rather than fat. You may feel fatigued and dizzy and it's likely you'll have less energy while you are following a detox programme that involves fasting.’

Of course not all detox programmes are the same and some fasting regimes do not limit, and in fact encourage, a healthy balanced diet, e.g. intermittent fasting. 

A wellness approach

Rather than deprive yourself of certain foods or severely restrict your calorie intake why not take control of your overall health and wellness.  Following some well researched ways of living and eating, will over time, lead to healthier choices and improved wellbeing.

There are a number of elements that go to make up what can be termed wellness.  These include: 

  • Eating a balanced diet including 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day.  Carbohydrates such as wholegrain rice are important to supply you with energy (for exercise) and protein is important to help muscle recovery (after exercise)

  • Exercise, which is good for both physical and mental health.  Include exercise that makes you hot and sweaty, exercise that supports flexibility and balance, like Pilates and strength exercises using either  weights or your body weight.

  • Rest, relaxation and sleep.  Vital for recovery and repair.  Schedule rest and relaxation periods and ensure you put in place a good sleep routine.

  • Society and stimulation, being with others, doing things you enjoy, learning something new and contributing to your community or society are all aspects that have been shown to improve mental health and wellbeing.

 Perhaps you see a detox as a quick fix, but why not take a longer-term approach?  Consider how you live your life combining these four elements and whether there are changes you can make that will invest in your health and wellbeing and be sustainable.


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