Thursday, December 29, 2016

Detox Diets

If you are like me then you probably indulged in a fair share of "junk food" over the holidays. After days of over-eating candy, chocolate, cookies, and eggnog, I was feeling sick.  A few days after Christmas my wife and I went to a local Brazilian restaurant that serves fresh organic salads. We split a large salmon salad and I could not believe how amazing it tasted and how good it felt to my body. It was almost like I was taking an antidote to some kind of poison. This got me thinking about detoxing my body.

I have always been intrigued with the concept of cleansing or detoxing one's digestive system. Over the years I have heard horror stories about undigested food in people's systems that was bogging them down and causing bloating. Some of these stories have even developed into urban legends involving autopsies on John Wayne and Elvis.

As appealing as a detox diet, may sound, I think it is important to remember that common sense, variety, and moderation should still apply. Our bodies have been designed with safeguards to protect us from toxins. Our integumentary (skin), immune, respiratory, and digestive systems all work hard to repel potential threats. The liver and colon are constantly removing toxins that we may have ingested. Even so, it may be beneficial to occasionally "cleanse" our systems by fasting or eating lighter for a period of time but I don't think people need to go crazy with it.

Detox diets can be a controversial topic and I know there are strong opinions for and against them. Some detox diets promote extended fasting or drinking just lemon juice, honey, and cayenne pepper or other specific ingredients for days on end. I think it is unwise when someone fasts too long or relies on just one type of food for an extended period of time. Some diets or cleanses might appeal to people when they are endorsed by celebrities and show amazing before and after photos over a short amount of time, but it is frequently water weight that is lost as opposed to fat. Using a cleanse or detox diet as a way to lose weight is not a good long term solution.

I'm not a dietitian, but I think taking a more gradual and long term approach is wise. This would include eating less processed foods and more whole foods which are rich in fiber. Drinking more water and eating smaller meals can also help. One of the best ways to detox your system is to never ingest harmful substances that can damage your body to begin with. Alcohol, drugs, and tobacco products can take their toll, so clean living will help you avoid many toxins to begin with.

You don't have to go on an extreme or crazy diet to detoxify and cleanse your body. You can do so by avoiding harmful substances, developing healthy eating habits, and using common sense.