Detox, a short for detoxification, is a natural process that involves neutralization and elimination of the harmful toxins from the body. Toxins are substances that can damage the body tissues and include the waste products resulting from the normal cell activities like lactic acid, ammonia, and homocysteine, as well as the man-made toxins to which we are exposed in the environment, water, and food.
The different body organs like the liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines, skin, lymphatic system and the blood work together to transform the toxins into less harmful compounds, which are later excreted from the body.
What is a detox diet?
Although detoxification is primarily considered a form of treatment for drug or alcohol dependence, it is also a form of diet that helps remove the dietary and environmental toxins from the body.
The initial part of a detox diet involves fasting in which you have to go without food for two days. This is followed by a diet that includes a few specific foods that promote the elimination of toxins.
Most detox diets encourage a form of “cleansing” by using an enema or colonic irrigation. Some detox plans also include the use of laxatives and some supplements that assist the purification processes.
There are several different types of detox diets as given below:
- Eating only organic foods to minimize the amount of chemicals ingested
- Eating foods that contain the essential nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants
- Contains foods like water and high fiber foods that promote the elimination of toxins by stimulating bowel movements and increasing urination.
What are toxins and how does a detox diet help to get rid of them?
Toxins are chemicals that can have an unfavorable effect on the body. They enter the body through the ingestion of foods and the substances used in growing crops like pesticides and insecticides. They can also enter the body through the intake of polluted water and the air we breathe. These toxins are processed through the liver and kidneys and then, eliminated from the body through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements.
However, the natural elimination processes of the body are not capable of eliminating these toxins completely. As a result, they accumulate in the digestive and lymphatic systems and cause harmful effects like fatigue and headaches. Over a period, these toxins can cause considerable damage to the normal tissues resulting in chronic disorders like cancer, peptic ulcers, menstrual irregularities, fibroids, and so on.
A detox diet involves supplying the body some specific substances, which boost the processes that eliminate the toxins. A detox diet also contains foods that are low in fats and rich in fibers. It includes the natural, healthy foods that lead to an improved nutrition and enhance the overall health and well-being of a person.
Also, most of the chemicals we ingest through food, air, and water tend to get deposited in the fat cells in the body. These toxins include antibiotics, pesticides, and hormones in food, chemicals from household cleaners, food packaging, detergents, heavy metals, food additives, pollution, cigarette smoke, and drugs.
A diet lacking in certain nutrients can impair the natural ability of the body to detoxify these chemicals, which results in their accumulation in the body.
This cumulative load, also called the “body burden,” can increase the risk of several illnesses by causing hormonal imbalance, nutritional deficiency, impaired immune function, and an inefficient metabolism. A detox diet helps in preventing this ‘body burden’ by ensuring proper supply of the essential nutrients that keep up the elimination processes of the body.
Foods to include in a detox diet plan:
- Fruit: A detox diet consists of fruits in all forms including the fresh, dried, frozen, and canned ones. You can eat apples, pears, bananas, oranges, satsumas, grapefruit, sultanas, pineapple, raisins, mango, strawberries, kiwi fruit, raspberries, peaches, melons, nectarines, and star fruit.
- Fruit juices: You can make homemade smoothies and fruit juices from fresh fruits. You may drink the ready-made juices, but make sure they are labeled as ‘unsweetened’.
- Vegetables: You can include the fresh, canned, or frozen vegetables in your diet. Make sure the canned vegetables have no salt. You can eat carrots, swede, sprouts, onions, turnip, cabbage, sweetcorn, peppers, peppers, mushrooms, leeks, potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, spring onions, cucumber, etc.
- Beans and lentils: You can eat any beans, including the dried and canned ones. These include red kidney beans, cannellini, haricot, butter, pinto, red lentils, brown lentils, black eye, and green lentils.
- Fresh fish: You can eat any fresh fish like cod, mackerel, salmon, lobster, trout, haddock, Dover sole, tuna, crab, prawns, red mullet, lemon sole, halibut, and monkfish.
- Unsalted nuts like peanuts, cashew, almonds, macadamia, hazelnuts, pine nuts, walnuts, and pistachio
- Unsalted seeds including pumpkin and sunflower
- Plain popcorn without salt and sugar
- Quorn and Tofu
- Oats can be sprinkled over fresh fruits or used to make porridge
- Rice noodles and brown rice
- Oatcakes, rye crackers, and rice cakes
- At least 2 liters of water a day
Foods to avoid during a detox diet:
- Chicken, red meat, turkey and other meat products like burgers, and sausages
- Eggs, milk, cream, and cheese
- Margarine and butter
- Wheat products including bread, cereals, croissants, cakes, pies, pastry, and biscuits
- Chocolate, jam, sweets, and sugar
- Processed foods, ready-made sauces, ready meals, and takeaways
- Fizzy drinks and squashes
- Tea and coffee
What are the health benefits of a detox diet?
- Boosts Your Energy
You will feel more energetic after a detox diet as it prevents the influx of toxic products in the body that are present in the processed and packaged foods. When you cut out caffeine, sugar, saturated fat and trans fat from your diet, and replace them with fresh fruits and vegetables, you provide a natural energy boost to your body.
- Eliminates any excess waste from the body
The biggest advantage or the basic purpose of a detox diet is to allow the body to get rid of the accumulated toxic by-products released during various functions. A detox program stimulates the body to purge itself and enhances the elimination functions of the liver, kidneys, and colon.
- Helps with weight loss
A detox diet can help you lose a few pounds in the short term. However, a healthier way to lose weight would be to establish long-term, healthy eating habits. Following a detox diet for a few days prepares the body as well as your mind for the healthy eating habits and helps you stick to them even after you have completed the program. The short-term weight loss achieved during the first few days of a detox diet plan can last longer if you replace the junk foods with healthy foods, and use your regained energy to exercise and be physically active.
- Stronger immune system
A detox diet improves the functions of the vital organs. This gives an effective boost to your immune system as it increases the ability of the digestive organs to absorb the nutrients, including Vitamin C. It is known that vitamin C plays a major role in regulating the functions of the immune system. Also, the herbs you consume while on a detox diet will stimulate the lymphatic system to eliminate the toxins faster and in a more efficient manner.
- Improved skin
You can expect a smoother, vibrant and clearer skin at the end of your detox plan. A detox diet allows the skin to get rid of the body’s toxins through increased perspiration and thus, provides a healthy glow to the skin. Besides consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, sauna is also considered a healthy way to detoxify as it helps the body to sweat out more toxins.
- Better breath
A backed up colon is a major contributor to bad breath. A detox diet can help you get rid of the bad breath by ensuring complete colon cleanse. It improves the bowel movements and enhances the functions of your digestive system, which result in an improved breath.
- Clearer thinking
A good detox program pays attention not just to the state of your body, but also to the state of your mind. Meditation is considered an effective way to get back in touch with your physical self during and after the cleansing of toxins. It helps you to lose the sense of fogginess and improves your ability to think clearly. These benefits can be attributed to the exclusion of sugar- and fat-filled foods from your diet that are known to make us feel lethargic and affect our thinking.
- Healthier hair
You will find a gradual improvement in the growth and volume of your hair after a detox program as it helps your hair to grow uninhibited by the internal toxins. Your hair will appear shinier, and soft to touch.
Who should avoid a detox diet?
- People suffering from an eating disorder like bulimia or anorexia nervosa
- Children, diabetics, teenagers, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and patients with heart diseases
- People who are physically active or have a physically demanding job
- People who regularly participate in sports
- People suffering from the liver or kidneys disorders
What are the side effects of a detox diet?
You may suffer from a few side effects when on a detox diet. Some common side effects of a detox diet include a headache, loose motions, electrolyte loss, and dehydration. Some people may develop constipation especially if their water intake is too less. There can also be tiredness, weight loss, irritability, acne, and hunger. However, by the fourth or fifth day, people often begin to feel more energetic and notice an improvement in digestion.
If a detox diet is continued for a very long time, it can lead to nutritional deficiencies, particularly of proteins and calcium.
What should I do if I get a headache?
A headache is more likely to occur within the initial 2-3 days of starting the diet. It may occur due to the sudden caffeine withdrawal. Therefore, it is advisable to gradually decrease the amount of caffeine you consume before starting a detox diet. Additionally, you can begin the diet on the weekend so that you can cope with the symptoms better.
A headache can be relieved by increasing the water intake, massaging the temples, and trying aromatherapy. You may also have a cup of white or green tea, as both of these contain less caffeine and do not interfere with the detoxification processes.
Can I work out?
Strenuous exercises are not recommended when you are on a detox diet as it may worsen your weakness. You may try light exercises like walking, yoga, and stretching; but don’t push yourself too hard. Exercises can increase the benefits of a detox diet by improving the blood circulation, which, in turn, improves the elimination of waste products.
How often should I go on a detox diet?
You can go on a detox diet once or twice a year for improving your health and preventing diseases. However, you may practice it more frequently or for a longer duration if you are suffering from any illness that can benefit from the faster elimination of toxins like cancer.
What do I eat afterward?
Usually, a detox diet is used as a springboard for giving a boost to your health. After the diet plan is over, you can gradually get back into a less restrictive, but healthy diet. Check this out for more diet options.
You can continue eating vegetables and fruits as you did when on the detox diet. You should reintroduce the different food groups like wheat, dairy, corn, and gluten systematically and note the reactions. This will help you to identify the food groups that could be aggravating your health conditions like fatigue, sinus, congestion, allergies, arthritis, constipation, and bloating.
A detox diet can cleanse your blood and all the organs by eliminating harmful toxins from the body. It can help in preventing diseases that occur due to the build-up of harmful chemicals in the body and allow you to live a healthy life.