Detoxes and Cleanses — Are They Safe?
What is a detox or cleanse diet?
Detoxes and cleanses are types of diets that are intended to rid of “toxins” in the body through restrictive eating. This may involve limiting the diet to smoothies, powders, juices, water, herbs and spices, etc., or partaking in certain “detoxifying” activities, such as sitting in a sauna or taking certain supplements. Detoxes and cleanses claim to improve energy, relieve symptoms (i.e., constipation, headaches, muscle aches, and fatigue), and assist in weight loss. Unfortunately, detoxes and cleanses can actually be unhealthy.
The body’s natural system
The human body has a natural detox system that involves the liver, kidneys, skin, and digestive tract. These systems break down the toxins in the body, turning them into waste products, such as sweat, urine and feces. Detoxes and cleanses do not speed up or aid in this process.
Not only are detox and cleanse diets unnecessary, but weight lost on these diets will more than likely be regained. Once a person returns to their regular diet, the weight that was lost from losing carbohydrate stores, stool, and water will return.
When a person goes on a detox or cleanse diet, they are expected to make extreme restrictions to their eating habits. The diet may suggest only consuming liquids, restricting calories, or only eating certain foods, such as fruits and vegetables. The body needs a balanced diet in order to function properly.
When diet is unhealthily restricted, it is common to experience side effects, such as weakness, hunger, dizziness, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, and low blood sugar. The calorie restrictions can make physical activity difficult because the body is unable to create energy with so few resources.
In rare but serious cases, a person on a water detox may experience hyponatremia, which occurs when the blood does not contain enough sodium and causes cells to swell. This can potentially result in a coma and quickly become a life-threatening condition if not treated immediately.
If a detox or cleanse diet is attempted, the duration should be no more than two days. Generally, these types of diets can cause substantial harm to the body and are most often unnecessary in the body’s detoxification process.