There is no month that offers more promises and new beginnings than January.
As we try recover from festive season overeating, we’re seeing it all on social media. There’s detox tea, 21-day weight loss programmes and meat-free diet plans promising to give our bodies a reboot while making us leaner.
Many experts agree detoxing can be effective for weight loss, but is it something we should be doing to our bodies? These are the do's and don'ts.
Detoxing refers to removing toxic waste materials from the body, according to dietician Norma Mangesi. She says the kind of lifestyles we lead often make our bodies more susceptible to all sorts of toxins. And because of this, she believes it’s a good idea to detox every once in a while, to flush all that bad stuff out.
“The body is constantly working to get rid of toxins and unwanted matter. Over time our bodies become run-down from unhealthy food and lifestyle choices – alcohol, caffeine, stress – and the environmental toxins that are part of our lives.”
Mangesi says if we don’t take time to cleanse our bodies and nurture our vital organs, we could become ill. She adds that detoxing can also help with health issues such as unexplained fatigue, constipation, irritated skin, allergies, low grade infection, puffy eyes or bags under the eyes, bloating, menstrual problems and mental confusion.
But the most obvious advantage of detoxing is weight loss – mostly water weight or muscle weight. Your stomach size should shrink and you’ll find yourself eating less as a result. In addition, your palate will probably become more sensitive to sugar and salt, so you’ll crave less of it.
“One of the pros of detoxing is that it may kick-start a healthier way of eating,” fitness trainer Mondli Sibiya says. “Other benefits include increased energy and a sense of vitality, revitalising your mind and spirit, and jump-starting a weight-loss programme or new diet.”
Sounds good, right? But that’s not the full story.
Apart from the agonies of trying to stick to a detox diet, the long-term results are questionable at best and can be dangerous at worst, so always consult a doctor or dietician, especially if you have other health issues.
“Most detox diets are extremely deficient in nutrients, are completely unsustainable and serve no true natural purpose,” Sibiya says.
“Like any drastic change, detoxing comes with risks.
“Detox diets aren’t usually recommended for teens, pregnant women or those with health conditions as there’s the risk of consuming insufficient kilojoules and proteins.”
He believes detoxing and cleansing aren’t intended for long-term weight loss, but can be helpful to kick off a new regime of healthy eating and exercising.
“It hasn’t been proven that detoxing rids the body of toxins better than your body’s natural mechanisms,” he notes.
Joburg-based dietician Lila Bruk agrees and is against detoxing as she says it serves no biological function.
“Your liver, kidneys, skin and lungs naturally detox the body,” she says. “So taking products to enhance detoxing is pointless. In addition, many detox products consist mainly of laxatives or diuretics, which can be dangerous.
“It’s much more prudent to follow a healthy, balanced eating plan that can be sustained and that provides all the essential nutrients.”
Bruk strongly advises against detoxing, noting that people can die from extreme detoxing and that it should only be done under medical supervision.
“It’s dangerous to drink fibreless juices while taking detox supplements as there won’t be enough fibre in your body to pull the toxins out of the blood,” she says. “Instead, they will be reabsorbed by the liver and will reintroduce dangerous concentrations of toxins in your body all at once, which can then cause acute toxicity and poisoning.”
She adds that detoxing is not recommended for people who suffer from certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and digestive problems.
DIFFERENT WAYS TO DETOX
Fitness trainer Mondli Sibiya says you can pick and choose your detox, whether it’s in the form of a new diet or supplements, and this allows you to make your cleanse as efficient and careful as possible.
“Make sure you examine all the options when deciding how best to detox,” he says. “You don’t have to use supplements as there are other ways to detox without using chemicals that might not be suitable for your body.” If you’re thinking about it, he recommends a fruit detox as a good starting point.
“A fruit detox is a great way to fast without starving yourself. Getting enough fruit can increase your energy levels, help manage your weight and even reduce the likelihood of a stroke,” he says.
“You can either detox by eating a variety of fruit or by only eating one kind of fruit. For the best results, choose a fruit you enjoy so you don’t feel like you’re suffering when eating it. And don’t exceed seven consecutive days on a fruit-only diet.”
Sibiya says oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemons and limes have the highest detoxifying effects, and they can be eaten in combination with other fruit or on their own. “Or try a grape detox. Grapes contain properties that protect against cancer, diabetes and potentially prevent blood clots. They are also a great source of potassium and vitamin C. Eat nothing but grapes, whichever kind you like, for three to five days,” he says.
One very important thing to remember if you decide to go this route is to drink plenty of water, which helps eliminate toxins. Also try to get as much sleep as possible to help rejuvenate your body’s cells
Note: This article does not constitute medical advice. It is advisable to seek the advice of a registered health practitioner before beginning an extreme diet change or detox.