Cleansing diet/detox – does it really make sense?

What does science tell us about removing toxins from our organism? Article written by clinical dietitian.

Despite of what one can find on the internet, the notion of detoxification or cleansing of the organism from toxins is more of a marketing gimmick than a fact. Advertisements of a few days’ diets, supplements, and promoting certain foodstuffs’ miraculous effects – yet dietetics is a branch of science and what count in science are facts, i.e. something that can be proven by research (and I assure you, one study is not enough).
Currently there is no research available describing what this “dietetic detox” would consist in or stating whether we really need it.

pexels-photo-104662The term “toxins” is too general. One might get poisoned with a particular substance but in such a case no “detox” will be enough. We are taken into a toxicology ward and without certain medicines administered intravenously, or sometimes even dialysis, we will not be able to recover drinking only nettle or rockrose brews.
Our organism is created to cope with anything that is harmful; if it is not able to do it by itself we have to help it, however, then it is too late for methods other than medical. We can only AID it with diet, herbs or supplementation but the actual detoxification will be different from what we may imagine and drinking maple syrup with lemon juice for a week is not a good idea.

water-drink-fresh-lemonsIf someone asks me about cleansing their organism, I ask whether their liver and kidneys are functioning well…
If something is toxic for our organism, our liver will get rid of it, if harmful substances are water-soluble, they will be excreted in the urine; however, those substances are most often fat-soluble and cumulate in our body fat. I assure you that in this case no supplements, herbal teas, or starvation diets will be able to wash these substances out! Moreover, acquiring energy from fat reserves in diets based on energy deficit (such as slimming diets) causes a release of toxins accumulated in body fat to bloodstream. Therefore, as stated Damian Parol, dietitian well-known in the world of science, it is more likely to get slightly poisoned while using these diets than cleanse our organism from toxins. Of course, the organism will cope with it well, so it is no excuse for giving up slimming, nevertheless, it is a sufficient argument proving that this method of “cleansing” does not make any sense.

One should understand that I do not intend to belittle the importance of drinking fruit or vegetable juices, cocktails, herbal infusions, or using herbs as spices.
Water with lemon juice certainly helps the body function properly, however, it does not help more than water only. Juices and cocktails provide the organism with many precious minerals and vitamins, including antioxidants. Drinking cocktails and smoothies every day is a good idea for a refreshment, nevertheless, our diet cannot only consist of such meals. In the long run, this way of nourishment will be highly deficient. As a consequence, we may achieve a TEMPORARY effect of flat stomach but it will be only due to the fact that we do not provide our organism with solid foods and the diet is low on fibre.

apple-norms-size-standardsMoreover, we should remember that juices are the source of huge amounts of sugar! If we drink them, we should make them by ourselves or choose those, which are made from fresh fruit. The problem with juices is that they are almost like a mixture of water, fructose and vitamins. In fact, if we choose an unpeeled apple, we are able to eat only about two to feel satiated; the reason is that besides the natural juice and fructose, we consume also the pulp and peel which are high in fibre. It is the fibre that gives us the sense of satiation. When drinking juice, we can drink two, four or more glasses. Thus we consume the same amount of carbohydrates as if we ate kilograms (!) of apples, which is, after all, impossible. Therefore, we should treat juices only as an additional element of meals and an equivalent of portion of fruit and vegetables rather than our basic source of fluids.

What can affect our metabolism? Proper hydration, preferably with water (e.g. with addition of lemon or mint), as well as using spices, small amounts of salt, avoiding sugar, eating regularly… All of this can positively affect metabolism and speed it up. However, we have to bear in mind that without physical activity and appropriate eating habits no one and nothing will help us lose weight or maintain stable body weight. If, in addition, we have numerous diseases or disorders, eg. of hormone system, it will be much more difficult and we will need to regulate the functioning of our body with help of a doctor and a dietitian. Without it, it is simply impossible, magical solution does not exist.











Article written by:

Clinical dietitian, Sports Nutrition Specialist
Dominika Kulczycka-Wójcik