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healthy bytes: to detox or not to detox … that seems to be the question

“Detox” has become such a buzz word in the health/exercise/nutrition industry that it instantly conjures up images of bored housewives sipping on warm lemon water. Or cabbage soup days. Or some incredibly intrusive medical procedure. Recently, I’ve been doing an incredible amount of accidental reading about detoxes – they seem to have popped back up on the radar. So, let’s disseminate:

What’s in a detox?
The first point of differentiation we have to make between detoxing and dieting is that detoxes are only meant to last a few days and are designed to “flush” the system of toxins and decomposing matter that is stuck in the intestines/bowels. A result of detoxing may be “weight loss” but this isn’t the primary purpose. This lost weight as a result thing may be just a feeling of lightness (kind of like after going to the toilet).

What kind of detox?
An increasingly popular type of detox is the “juice detox”. There are many different type of juice detox, but they basically all come down to a fresh juice only approach. This type of detox strikes me as a relatively balanced because you’re getting in fresh fruit and veg (that can’t be bad right?) and seems to be less complicated or dangerous for your general wellbeing. As opposed to taking in large amounts of cabbage soup or those caffeine detoxes, which don’t even make sense! Caffeine creates toxins after all.

To save on column space, let’s look at a juice detox plan by Jason Vale. This guy is known as “The Juice Master” and he has a whole business behind him. His detox plans seems to be quite easy to follow. It’s three days; all fresh fruit and veg; you juice it yourself; he gives you a shopping list and a three-day plan. Seems simple enough, right?

In his book The Juice Master: Over 100 Delicious Juices and Smoothies: Keeping it Simple!, Vale writes: “Once you clean your system of caffeine, refined sugar, refined fats and other junk for 72 hours and flush and nurture your body with the finest freshly extracted ‘live’ fruit and vegetable juices, your nervous system becomes calmer, you start to think clearer and you begin to notice a heightened mental sharpness and awareness.” He goes on to say that this has a domino effect with the system becoming more ‘alkaline’ and cravings for junk food subsiding.

His top tips also include things like: being prepared, letting the fridge run to empty before embarking so you don’t feel guilty about wasting food, mental preparation and even meditation, making friends with the right juicer, clearing your social diary, turning off the TV/computer, getting enough sleep and maybe even pampering yourself. Sounds like a pretty good weekend to me! But the one thing I’m not sold on is the myriad of other products he “recommends”. If you do choose to do this detox (or any for that matter) I would suggest choosing one which requires only fresh, locally grown produce and nothing else!

And the verdict is?
While I don’t think that detoxes are harmful, I don’t think they should be used as a vehicle for ‘weight loss’ or done more than twice a year. If you’re thinking of doing a detox I would suggest you do a lot of research before you start. Choosing something that involves fresh fruit and veg strikes me as relatively safe – but not for prolonged periods of time. It’s estimated that every person has between 5-7kg of decaying fecal matter in their intestines so perhaps doing a detox  isn’t such a bad idea. Even if you have a relatively balanced diet and exercise regularly, toxin build up is inevitable, especially if you indulge in alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes (even passively), fast food etc. Having said that, the body has its own cleaning mechanism and generally eradicates most harmful toxins, so detoxing is not something that needs to be done regularly.

What do you think, would you do a detox or not? And if you have done one, what was it like and would you do it again?  Let us know in the comments!

(Image credit: 1.)

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