Detoxing has become quite popular in recent years. A quick Google search of the terms “detox plan” will give you about 14,100,000 results. Cleansing recipes that promise to “maximize immune and digestive health,” “flush the fat away” and “kick start your metabolism” can be found all over Pinterest and Instagram. The internet is flooded with tons of “before and after” photos, each one acting as motivation to any aspiring detoxer. Even celebrities are in on the trend. Actress-turned-health-guru Gwyneth Paltrow has raved over the results of detox diets on her lifestyle website, Goop. And Beyonce used a juice cleanse to lose 20 pounds for her role in Dream Girls back in 2006. But are detoxes healthy for you? Here are three different opinions on that question.
What is a detox?
Detoxification is a broad term that could involve anything from changing a person’s regular routine or habits, to incorporating supplements into their diet, says Dr. Erica Nikiforuk, a naturopathic doctor at the White Lotus Clinic in Toronto. Detoxes generally last anywhere from a week to a month and are used to eliminate toxins from the body, improve one’s mental clarity, skin or digestion or to kick start weight loss.
Dr. Erica Nikiforuk, a licensed board-certified naturopathic doctor, says make sure a detox is tailored and customized to you. “There’s lots of messages that we get through the media and friends. We might hear about a detox that was great for somebody that we knew, but it may not actually be what we need,” said Nikiforuk. She suggests speaking to a health care professional before starting a detox. “I think that’s the best way because then we can have a really broad look at not only what their goals are, but what is the healthiest, like really the best way, to approach those goals.” By having a customized detox plan, it allows you to pay attention to how your body is reacting to the cleanse. “If you’re already in a program or you’re thinking of starting a program and you’re not feeling so great, it could be a warning sign,” said Nikiforuk. “We want to make sure you’re getting enough calories, you’re sleeping okay, you’re having regular bowel movements, all your digestion is working well, so anything there that’s not working you really want to stop and address it.”
Detoxing, especially as a diet technique is a concern for Kate Comeau, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for Dietitians of Canada. She says juice cleanses tend to typically be low in calories and protein. “So when you’re losing weight, you might actually be losing muscle mass, which is not what we want.” For those wanting to lose weight, Comeau gives this advice: put the focus on eating at home. “We know that when you’re cooking meals at home you tend to use less sodium, less added sugar, less unhealthy fats.” Comeau says to cook with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and lean proteins and to cut back on alcohol and sugar-sweet drinks, such as energy drinks, pop and sweetened coffee drinks, like mocha lattes. “When I think about healthy weight loss, it would be a lot more advantageous to think about healthy habits. I know it’s not as sexy as a detox, but in terms of your long term health it’s a lot better. It’s a much better strategy.”
Carol Belmonte, owner of Belmonte Raw, has a Bachelor of Science from University of Toronto and has spent years studying alternative medicine in Asia. Sbe thinks detoxing could have health benefits. She’s been offering organic raw foods, juices and cleanses to Torontonians for five years. “Through the use of organic natural raw foods, we help the body detox of chemicals that’s accumulated in your system just from everyday living.” She does not suggest using detoxes as a weight-loss technique, but does say that if doing a detox will help a person kick start a healthier lifestyle, she’s all for it. She says that an ideal detox includes hydration. “Adding just a little bit of lemon into that water will also help to detox your system,” says Belmonte, who lists your liver and kidneys as two major detox organs. She suggest eating vegetables, “like beets and carrots and dark leafy greens. We like to use a lot of ginger because it’s anti-inflammatory, it’s also anti-fungal. [It’s] really good for your intestines [and] for your digestive system.” Belmonte recommends doing a detox between seasons, but adds in that everyone is different and a detox should depend on a person’s goals.