The new year is in full swing, and many people are hard at work trying to get fit and lose weight. Complicating matters are the numerous messages we’re inundated with from the fitness, nutrition and wellness industries that have conflicting information. In particular, topics like detoxification, cleanses, hydration and sports drinks can be confusing. Because February is American Heart Month, I’d like to address my concerns with detox culture and the potentially damaging effects it can have on people’s hearts.
Detoxing and Cleanses
A variety of detoxification (“detox”) diets and regimens, often referred to as “cleanses” or “flushes,” are suggested as a means of removing toxins from the body or losing weight.
Detox programs may involve a variety of approaches, such as:
Consuming only juices or other liquids for several days
Eating a very restricted selection of foods
Using various dietary supplements or other commercial products
Emptying the colon with enemas, laxatives or colon hydrotherapy (aka “colonic irrigation”)
At this time, there is no convincing evidence that detox or cleansing programs actually remove toxins from your body or improve your health. In most cases, for healthy individuals, the body’s remarkable intrinsic detoxification system – the liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract and colon – work in conjunction with each other to remove harmful substances without needing any outside help. If we eat high fiber foods and stay hydrated, we will even further be helping this natural process to keep us healthy.
The weight loss element of a detox diet typically results in a severe reduction in caloric intake versus the “detox” itself. Furthermore, long-term fasting or chronically consuming too few calories can be dangerous and lead to losing precious muscle mass, which is the very thing helping to drive our metabolism and keep us strong and functioning well.
Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, a professor of nutrition at Boston University and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says, “Your heart is a muscle, so you want to feed it healthfully. You don’t want to be eating foods that are heart-unhealthy, nor do you want to eliminate foods that are good for your heart or your entire body, for that matter.”
Staying Healthy and Safe
Use caution, as some of the products and procedures used in detox/cleansing programs may be harmful to your health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission have taken action against several companies selling detox/cleansing products because they contained illegal or potentially harmful ingredients. If you do decide to try a detoxification or cleansing product, be sure to clear it with your physician beforehand. QCBN
By Nick Brown
Nick Brown is a kinesiologist and certified fitness professional as well as manager of the Touchmark Health & Fitness Club. Membership is open to anyone 50-plus years, and guest consultations are available to meet with a professional to cater a program to an individual’s needs. For more information, call 928-708-3133.