What is a detox?
“A detox is a treatment that is intended to remove poisonous or harmful substances for your body”
Collins English Dictionary – Online
Basically removing toxins from our bodies that have been ingested in some way and which are harmful to our health.
However many detox companies have a variety of definitions depending on what they are trying to sell. None of which are clear-cut but much of it is marketed in a way that suggest it’s about cleansing the body of harmful substances that build up over time. These strategies can include attractive words and specific timeframes such as ‘21 day slimming detox’ and present it with colourful and enticing illustrations of fruits and vegetables that are generally blended in the form of a shake.
In the context of detox diets, these harmful substances cause havoc with our health and cause all sorts of issues. Substances include; heavy metals, pesticides, pollutants, preservatives, food additives, added sugars such as high fructose corn syrup and synthetic chemicals in general. All of which appear to build up throughout the year with our bodies requiring a yearly spring clean that just happens to fall in January.
What are toxins?
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine:
“toxins are substances created by plants and animals that are poisonous to humans. Toxins also include some medicines that are helpful in small doses, but poisonous in large amounts.”
So basically we are talking about poison. If we ingest poison we are putting our health at risk. Of course this makes sense and as kids there are certain things our parents educate us on. Consuming poison is one of them, that should be up there, along with jumping in fires and playing chicken with trains.
Apart from drinking from the bottle marked X that is housed on the top shelf of grandma’s pantry we need to consider dosage and context. For example, alcohol in significantly large quantities can cause alcohol poisoning; this would require medical intervention to treat. However in small to moderate amounts can be metabolised safely by our liver… our natural detoxifying organ.
“Even water can kill you if you drink too much over too short a period of time, since it lowers the concentration of electrolytes needed for muscles (including the heart) to function” – Examine.com
Considering context, marketers to these cleansing diets will jump aboard the train to “con the public out of money” Ville using smart marketing strategies that play on our emotions. Ever noticed January is rife for detoxing diets, pills and supplementation? The same time of year when most people are feeling lousy and crave motivation, it’s not a coincidence. This is where modern day evils such as high fructose corn syrup, preservative and additives can be labeled toxic. Marketers use these examples to scare us in to believing we have plied our bodies with these harmful substances throughout the year and must now take action. However, these are likely to be no more harmful than regular table sugar
So you’ve had a few extra alcoholic beverages than normal. If this were going to be any cause of concern you would certainly know about it by now. Our bodies are continuously working hard to maintain a normal internal balance (homeostasis) and undergoes hundreds, if not thousands, of processes on a daily basis to keep us alive and healthy. No super shake or miracle detoxifying pill is going to make a shade of difference. If in fact a substance was noxious then further treatment would be advised, not a cleanse.
“Acute toxicity would likely constitute a medical emergency, while chronic toxicity is best addressed by a well-fed body” – Examine.com
Why do people gravitate towards detoxes?
Weight loss is the simple answer. Detoxes and cleansing diets all have one thing in common:
Reduce calories and the main outcome is weight loss. Whether you eat pizza or drink “detoxifying” super shakes, if you consume less calories than you expend you will lose weight…it’s that simple!
Unfortunately many people do see these as the Holy Grail to kick-start their new year, but lets consider one thing:
Weight loss = a combination of:
- Water, stored energy (glycogen), muscle and fat
Certainly the first two aforementioned would be where the initial weight loss comes from within the first few days to week… You know, the weight where you dramatically lose 5-10lbs within the first week and claim it to be the best diet ever.
Fat loss = a combination of:
- Fat – yep, the one thing you really are looking to lose.
The likely hood with weight loss is that once you refer back to normal eating habits the weight will return, with friends.
Do we need to spring clean?
Consider that we already have our own built in detoxifying system. Our liver, kidney and lungs are pretty good at metabolising and excreting harmful substances and require no help from deceptive marketing diets and supplements. And guess what? It costs you nothing!
Actually, I revoke that claim. It does cost you something. It costs you your care and attention. Instead of looking for a miracle cleanser, provide your body with the things that keep it functioning optimally and the things it actually thrives on: Whole nutritious and fibrous foods that contain a host of vitamins and minerals. These are far more nutritious, tasty and sustainable.
But wait! You want to lose fat, right? Then consider these six helpful tips.
One final consideration:
An investigation in 2009 found that out of fifteen detox companies not a single one could provide evidence of the effectiveness or safety of their marketed supplements. The investigation also found that not only could they not name the toxins targeted by their product they couldn’t even agree on the definition for the word “detox”