Detox Dilemma by Kirsten Alexander

If you're feeling a little down or sluggish, you may be advised to go on a detox diet. But do they really work?
It's almost human nature to want a quick fix to everything, from a computer issue to health-related problems. Certainly when it comes to looking good, the faster the better is what people are looking for. But it's not that simple. It's well known that if you lose weight too fast on a diet that's not sustainable, you won't keep the weight off. Fad diets have proven that time and again. It's the same with detox diets ' are they actually necessary or just a fad? TRUST YOUR BODY First, you need to understand the basic premise behind detox diets or programmes. Most people are aware that the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat is a potential source of numerous harmful chemicals and toxins. Over time, these toxins build up in the body and are sometimes stored in fat cells. Depending on the toxin and the dose, you could be heading for a health melt-down. Or, just a bit of a struggle. So, detox diets are geared to assist your body in getting rid of these toxins.   But, Dr Michael Gershon, professor of pathology and cell biology at Columbia University says that the body is well equipped to get rid of toxins on its own. Your liver is one of the main organs for getting rid of toxins ' everything you ingest is broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream and this passes through your liver.  The liver then decides what to do with what it's given. It can store, regulate, secrete or synthesize important nutrients and proteins, or it can purify, transform or clear toxins and unneeded substances. If you are healthy, toxins aren't stored in your liver ' they are turned into water-soluble chemicals that are expelled from your body through sweat or excretion. If you have hepatitis or alcohol-related liver damage, then your liver may not be able to function properly and toxins may well remain there. So, while many detox diets claim to assist in cleansing the liver, this may not actually be what your body needs. A better option would be to work towards ensuring liver health, giving it the opportunity to work optimally to keep your body toxin free. Your kidneys and colon also play a major role in ridding your body of toxins. Something that is abundantly clear is that your stomach needs bacteria to work optimally. It's designed that way. Some detox diets offer a colon-cleansing effect and this might be harmful to you. If you flush out your colon, you run the risk of losing important electrolytes and putting your body under too much stress. You may feel lighter and slightly more energetic for a while, but in actual fact your body is going to be depleted of all it needs to perform the way it needs to. IN SICKNESS AND HEALTH If you've been on a detox programme, one of the things you'll have experienced is nausea, headaches and a general feeling of overall 'yuckness'. Most people will tell you this is completely normal because your body is busy eliminating toxins. That may well be, but your body is likely also eliminating lots of good things too. While the concept of cleaning everything out in order to start again may sound good, it really isn't wise to completely 'gut' your body in order to build it up again. Science has quite extensively proven, however, that intermittent fasting can have a greater therapeutic effect than dieting or detoxing. Intermittent fasting can mean limited or no calorie intake on alternative days, or five days on and two days off in terms of eating. It's said that this type of eating can reduce oxidative damage and inflammation as well as enhance cellular production and optimise energy. This is also tied up with calorie restriction diets, which are said to increase your life-span and reverse the aging process. It must be noted, however, that calorie restriction isn't something to be taken lightly because if not planned properly, there is a risk of malnutrition. Resveratrol, found in red-wine, among other foods, has been touted as a calorie restriction memetic, meaning it has the same positive effects on the body as calorie restriction, without any negative connotations. That's not to say you should increase your intake of red wine, but there may well be effective supplements in the future to mimic this effect well. However, all things must be in balance and you'll still need to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible even if you are supplementing. NO QUICK FIX Instead of looking to celebs or internet fads, it's wiser to rejuvenate your body healthily. This will take time, but will be more sustainable. It's quite simple ' a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. Here's what to include in your diet: '       Keep it fresh: Organic and fresh fruit and veg are rich in antioxidants ' eat lots of them '       Carbs can be good: Ditch processed and go for whole grain. You need fibre and protein. Don't throw the good out with the bad. '       Protein is important: If you're a vegetarian, make sure you get enough through beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and non GM soy products. If not, rather stick with lean meats. '       Dairy do: Your body also needs calcium, so don't cut out all dairy products. If you're vegan, get yours from kale, broccoli, raw fennel, tahini, oranges, figs, roasted sesame, dates and artichokes. '       Think fermented: foods like kraut, kefir and kimchi provide probiotics for good digestion. '       Drink it down: You need to hydrate. It's a given that water is essential for life. Then, you need to do all the other things that contribute to a healthy lifestyle, like regular exercise, no smoking or other drugs, get a good night's sleep and do what you can to reduce stress, and drink alcohol in moderation. FAT BUSTING While detoxing may not actually help your body rid itself of toxins and may actually be harmful to you, a detox plan to kick-start a healthier lifestyle or weight loss programme can be a good thing. If you are like most people in SA and are on the run most of the time, you probably also tend towards eating convenience food more often than you'd like. Putting yourself on a programme with set rules and a timeline will usually assist you in breaking bad habits and moving into a healthier way of being. To kick bad habits and get your body ready for more health, do this for a week: Fill up on fruit, veg, beans, lean protein, healthy fat, water and fibre. Cut out fibre-free carbs, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, alcohol and other liquid calories like fruit juice, and added sugar. Limit your calories to around 1,500 a day. GET ADVICE While your body is generally highly effective at eliminating toxins, there is such a thing as toxic overload. However, it's always best to get clinical advice before embarking on a detox programme for this reason. Don't just decide to pick up on the latest internet craze of only eating watermelon for a week, for example. Check what your body needs to work optimally and rather work towards health than try to get it done overnight.  

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