It’s the beginning of the year and many of us feel like we overindulged during the holidays. You might be thinking about a “detox” to make up for the damage caused by the seasonal cheer. Popular detox regimens include total water fasts, juice diets, pharmaceutical drinks, colonics or the master concoction of salt water, lemon, and maple syrup. Some cleanses consist of restrictions on sugar, dairy, gluten, meat, alcohol, and coffee.
However, claims that “cleanses” cure the body of ailments are not backed by science. Mainstream medicine cites that the body has its own efficient mechanisms to maintain balance, pH, and fluid levels in the blood. Fasting can put the body in an unnatural state, risking damage from dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, disrupting bowel function and infections.
There is limited evidence that shows restricted calories can reduce the symptoms of some chronic diseases. Eastern concepts such as balance and energy have a place in today’s practice of medicine, playing into the idea that diet in its totality can help determine whether we are well or sick. For example, studies show that eating red meat sparks the inflammatory process linked to heart disease. Eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, cools inflammation down. The new theory claims certain food regimes may aid with symptoms that traditional medicine has not been able to help, such as irritable bowel syndrome, rashes, migraines, and hormone imbalances. One theory is that the body’s age-old detoxification system is under assault from modern-day environmental pollutants. Lower calorie regimens allow the body to shed free radicals that promote illnesses and accumulate in fat cells. Free radicals then enter the blood stream to be processed by the liver and excreted from the body. However, the liver cannot do its job if it doesn’t have proper nutritional support. Studies show a lower calorie plan that includes nutritional support for a short time may have some benefits and be safer than a total fast.
Can we really improve upon Mother Nature? Eating natural, whole foods and leading a balanced lifestyle may be the best bet instead of expensive and potentially toxic pharmaceuticals. For most of us, eliminating refined sugars, alcohol, and caffeine, increasing fruit and vegetable intake, and avoiding hormones and antibodies in our food will increase our energy. Perhaps the “detox” that focuses on healthy eating will become part of your daily routine, helping you change your eating habits permanently. There is plenty of medical evidence that supports that concept!
Tips for a healthy “detox” regimen:
• Eat large amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables such as cabbage, bok choy, broccoli or cauliflower that contain antioxidants that help the liver breakdown toxins.
• Eliminate refined sugars. This source of unwanted calories can increase insulin levels; this causes more inflammation in the body.
• Avoid antibodies and hormones in animal products that can accumulate in the body, contributing to antibiotic resistance.
• Avoid caffeine, which can actually contribute to fatigue by revving you up before a crash. After a few days, you may actually sleep better.