Detox drinks contain various fruit and vegetable juices and thus, can provide various nutrients. They are, however, deficient in protein and calories. This may make you feel drained or weak. They can also lower your metabolic rate because they may starve your body of calories. Most detox drinks act as diuretics (increase your urine output) or laxatives (increase bowel movements). Increased urine output can cause dehydration, which may be perceived as weight loss. This weight loss is temporary and returns as soon as you start eating a regular diet.
Although various drinks may be claimed to detox your body, it is wise to consult a qualified nutritionist or doctor before trying them. Some of the top drinks that claim to flush your system and detox your body include
- Lemon detox drink: Lemon is one of the most common and staple ingredients of detox drinks. It is rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants. It helps build immunity and keeps the gums, bones and skin healthy. Squeeze two to three lemons into a liter of water. You may add a pinch of pink salt for taste to it. Grate some ginger into the lemon water and drink it. Vitamin C is heat-sensitive, so make sure the water is not hot.
- Mint and cucumber detox drink: This detox drink is claimed to be great for managing weight and maintaining fluid and mineral balance in the body. To prepare it, wash and peel two cucumbers and cut them into thin pieces. Wash some mint leaves and chop them up finely. Take a lemon and cut it into thin slices. Take a wide-mouth glass bottle or jug and add the sliced cucumber, lemon and mint leaves to it. Fill it with water and some ice and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour. Take the bottle out of the refrigerator, shake it well and drink the water in sips throughout the day.
- Coconut water detox drink: This is an easy and quick drink to prepare. Take a glass of coconut water, add some chopped mint to it and squeeze half a lime into it. This is a refreshing drink considered good for your skin and hair.
- Chia seed and aloe vera detox drink: Take a liter of water in a jar and add half a cup of aloe vera juice and one teaspoonful of chia seeds to it. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Squeeze half a lemon into it, mix well and drink. Chia seeds are gluten-free and are a good source of antioxidants and calcium. They help regulate appetite and are excellent for weight management.
What claims are associated with detox drinks?
Every year, we witness a new fad or concept coming up with various claims of boosting health or increasing longevity. Although practiced in various forms for centuries, detoxification or detox diet and procedures have become quite popular lately. Detox diets claim that they remove “toxins” from the body and improve your overall health.
The “toxins” as mentioned in these diets are the main culprits that cause ill health and various problems such as aches and pains, hair loss, acne, obesity, dull and dry skin, joint pain and lethargy. These “toxins” include various environmental pollutants, pesticides, chemicals used in farming, food additives, metabolic wastes produced in the body and various bacteria and their metabolic products.
Although many easy-to-make foods and drinks claim to “clean up” our “system,” do they “really” help? There is limited scientific evidence available to support that we “really” need such external detox for maintaining the health of our bodies. Our bodies have their in-built detoxification system that includes the liver, kidneys, blood cells and antibodies. We do not need any drinks or special foods to get rid of toxins. A healthy fiber-rich diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep and plenty of water are good enough to keep us healthy.
Are detoxes and cleanses safe?
The human body has an organ dedicated to detoxification, the liver. The liver works to purify the blood of all the toxins the body ingests. Although so-called detoxification diets (detoxes or cleanses) claim to clear the toxins from the body, aid in weight loss, or promote health, people with good overall health don't need to cleanse because their bodies are already doing a good job.
Though detoxification diets are popular, there is little evidence that they eliminate toxins from the body. There are significant health risks associated with their use and they are not particularly safe.
A better approach is to eat healthier and make lifestyle changes rather than go on a potentially harmful cleanse. Cutting back on sodium, added sugars and refined grains and eating more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats is the healthier option.
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Common ways to cleanse and detox
Cleanses go by many names and descriptions, including:
- Liquid cleanse: Replaces the solid food with liquids, such as juices, smoothies, soups or herbal supplements.
- Elimination diet: Supports the body’s natural detoxification by providing supplements that boost liver and kidney function.
- Colon cleanse: Cleanses the digestive system by using laxatives. This is also called colonic irrigation.
Detoxification programs range from total starvation, intermittent fasting to simpler food modifications. These include:
- Drinking fruit and vegetable juices, water or similar beverages
- Drinking only specific liquids, such as salted water or lemon juice
- Eating only certain foods
- Avoiding foods high in heavy metals and contaminants
- Avoiding all allergenic foods and then slowly reintroducing them
- Taking supplements or other commercial products
- Taking herbs
- Using colon cleanses, enemas or laxatives
- Eliminating alcohol, coffee, cigarettes and refined sugar
- Reducing environmental exposures
- Using a sauna
What are the risks associated with cleanses and detoxes?
Before planning a detox diet, it is important to get a doctor’s advice and learn the potential side effects and risks of detoxes and cleanses. Side effects and risks include
- Calorie restriction: Several detox diets recommend fasting or severe calorie restriction. Short-term fasting and limited calorie intake can result in fatigue, irritability and bad breath. Long-term fasting can result in deficiency of energy, vitamins and minerals as well as electrolyte imbalance and sometimes even death.
- Deficiency of nutrients: When food intake is restricted, important nutrients, such as healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and proteins needed for body functions and optimum health may not be available, posing various risks to health.
- Short-term weight loss: When people fast for several days, weight loss will happen due to loss of water weight and muscle mass, but not fat. Most people regain the lost weight after stopping the detox and when they start eating again.
- Overdosing: Some detox diets pose the risk of overdosing on supplements, laxatives, diuretics and water, causing harmful effects on the body.
- Lack of regulation and monitoring: The ingredient labels on detox products may be misleading. There is always the risk of serious and fatal consequences associated with these products.
- Glycemic control in diabetic patients: In people with diabetes, low caloric intake or high intake of fruit juices may alter the blood sugar levels. This would require changes in their insulin regimen during the cleanse program. Before going on a detox diet or changing eating patterns, consultation with a doctor is necessary.
- Detox diets can be addictive: Going without food or having an enema can make some people feel high. This can lead to a dangerous addiction, leading to health problems, eating disorders, heart problems and even death.
- Laxative effects: Most supplements used during detox diets are laxatives and can cause gastrointestinal distress, frequent bowel movements, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
- Metabolism slows down: Fasting for long periods can slow down a person's metabolism, making it difficult to keep weight off or to lose weight later.
- Unpasteurized juices: Unpasteurized juices or regular packaged juices that have not been treated to kill harmful bacteria can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, the immune-suppressed people and those at high risk for infection.
- High oxalate intake: Many juices are made from foods that are high in oxalates, such as spinach, beets, kiwi, parsley and soy. Drinking large quantities of high-oxalate juice can increase the risk of kidney problems.
- Risks in colon cleansing: Associated risks with colon cleansing include bowel perforation, infection, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, cramping, bloating, nausea and vomiting. People with a history of gastrointestinal disease, colon surgery, hemorrhoids, anatomic colon abnormalities, kidney disease or heart disease are at a higher risk.
- Dehydration and electrolyte abnormalities: Detox diets, calorie restriction and bowel cleansing programs could lead to dehydration and electrolyte disturbances.
Cleansing diets are not recommended for
- Populations at risk: Certain people should not start detox or calorie-restricting regimens without consulting a doctor first. People at risk include children, adolescents, elderly, malnourished people, pregnant or lactating women and those who have diabetes, eating disorders or other chronic medical conditions.
- Teens: Teenagers need adequate calories and protein to support their rapid growth and development and physical activities. Detox diets don’t provide enough calories and can be risky for teenagers.
- Athletes: Lack of carbohydrates would result in loss of sources of energy during exercise. So, a detox or cleanse isn’t suitable while training for any sport.
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National Institutes of Health: "'Detoxes' and 'Cleanses': What You Need to Know." https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/detoxes-and-cleanses-what-you-need-to-know
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Do Detox Teas Really Work?The body has a natural detoxification system that eliminates toxins and harmful compounds. Hence, detoxing tea is ineffective and unnecessary for weight loss and detoxification. There hasn’t been any evidence regarding detox teas that these would flush toxins out of the body.
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