Many years ago, when we heard the word detox, we thought of substance-abuse rehab. Today, detox is associated with liquid fasts, concoctions of cayenne pepper and Grade B maple syrup, herbal teas and colonics.
Detox diets have been around for decades, but they regained popularity thanks to celebrities boasting about undergoing something known as the Master Cleanse, a 10-day liquid starvation program involving the aforementioned cayenne and maple syrup that promises to satisfy Hollywood and the fashion industry’s body image standards for women. Since then, it has become almost de rigueur for women to slurp suspect concoctions in the name of weight loss.
Ladies, please, don’t do this.
Here’s how it often works. For a few-hundred hard-earned dollars, you are promised all kinds of results. Some people seek detoxification because they’re constipated or bloated. Some seek it as a means of losing weight. But there is no substantiated evidence or scientific, randomized, controlled data, to prove the methods work. Furthermore, detoxing is not safe. It is not FDA-approved. Abdominal damage, liver failure, hepatitis, severe diarrhea and skin irritations have been reported as a result of the regimens.
Detox diets make all kinds of claims. They promise to remove toxins from your body, improve your complexion, strengthen your immune system, promote rapid weight loss and increase energy levels. The faux science behind the diets states your body needs to be periodically cleansed to remove impurities that can cause headaches, fatigue and chronic diseases. Again, there is no data to back this up. Here’s a fun fact: Your liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract remove toxins from your body. Eat healthy food, indulge in a variety of fruits and vegetables, and let natural fiber do its job every day.
Part of the appeal of detox plans is our insatiable desire for instant gratification. The thought of losing 20 pounds in 10 days, or purging those so-called toxins with one or two colonics, sounds quick and easy. Not only are the methods ineffective, but they also can mask serious medical problems that require much more than laxatives and enemas as treatment. Furthermore, because the procedures are not FDA-approved and the facilities are not regulated, anything can happen. Do you not see the irony in refusing to undergo a physician-recommended colonoscopy, yet allowing an unlicensed stranger to insert a tube into your rectum, possibly causing irreparable tears, damage or infection? All this for perceived rapid weight loss — water-weight loss, which is short-lived at best and risky or possibly fatal at worst.
It is alarming just how many of us are drawn in by celebrity endorsements, and celebrities have jumped all over the detox bandwagon. Likewise, the internet offers an endless number of websites, mostly set up by random bloggers and often consisting of consumer forums and opinions, offering success stories and promises of health and wellbeing. Product advertisements feature so-called “physicians” as spokespeople, but the physicians’ credentials are seldom researched and they often have no bearing on the product being promoted. Buyer beware: Just because a product is “natural” does not mean it is effective or safe. There is a tremendous difference between a “natural” laxative like prune juice and the list of “natural” ingredients found on pill bottles, teabags and beverages.
Is there ever a time when detoxing can be beneficial? Hypothetically speaking, yes. Let’s say you had a “bad food day” consisting of donuts for breakfast, a large order of fries for lunch, an entire pizza for dinner and a family-size bag of chips as an evening snack. The next day, you wake up feeling like a sludge pit. Rather than hold your nose and gulp down that cayenne pepper and molasses nightmare for the next few days, the best way to “detox” is simply to let your body do what it’s meant to do, which leads us back to those same basic principals: Consume more vegetables and fruits and fewer processed and unhealthy foods, cut back on sugar and sodium, drink plenty of water and stay away from laxatives of any kind. It’s not glamorous or exciting or celebrity-endorsed, but it’s the best thing you can do for your body.
Jenna Andre is a total gearhead who also appreciates the simpler things in life. She is not a medical professional, and opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily endorsed by the publisher. Email her at Jenna.Andre@ynotcam.com.
FYI: Jillian Michaels is not into the Master Cleanse.