Editorial By Cassie Evans
Anyone in the health and wellness industry can attest to the plethora of diets available, many backed by unsubstantiated claims. Yet, these flawed dietary attempts to cure the body of all ailments and magically change the body with a quick fix continue to steal the spotlight. A group of dietary practices or products known as cleanses, detoxes or fit teas have been around for some time. The concept of “cleaning” the body is not new!
Detoxes and cleanses are alternative-medicine type of approach with the goal of removing toxins from the body. Some even guarantee to shed at lightening speed. Well-known cleanse/detox are the master cleanse, juice cleanse and even a liver cleanse. While each detox/cleanse has its own set of rules, there are a few commonalities. The hallmark signs of a detox/cleanse are 1) extreme energy restriction if not complete abstinence from solid foods and 2) consumption of some liquid or pill. Classic example is the Master cleanse involves only drinking water with fresh squeezed lemon, maple syrup and cayenne pepper for 3-5 days. Don’t forget the salt water drink in the morning which has a strong laxative effect and could make you nauseas. Sounds fun . . . right?
Are cleanses and detoxes even necessary? Sure, one could argue that we are exposed to a variety of toxins through the air we breathe, food we eat, etc. Ridding our bodies of these seems like a great idea. But the human body is incredible and people seem to forget all the amazing things it can do. To start, it has these really cool structures called organs that perform specific functions dedicated to keeping us alive. Specifically the liver and kidneys, as well as the lymphatic system help detox our body. The liver has a two phase process that breakdown chemicals, medications, foods and converts fat-soluble toxins into water soluble toxins that can be excreted. Next the kidneys filter waste products (urea and creatinine) and toxic substances that will be excreted as urine and return the essentials (vitamins, amino acids, etc) back to the blood stream.
As with any biochemical process in the body, cofactors and enzymes are essential for optimal functioning. Enzymes are comprised of amino acids and cofactors are often vitamins or are made from vitamins and minerals. During phase I of liver detoxification, substances like toxins or pharmaceuticals are converted to intermediate metabolites. Water soluble vitamins (B and C), folic acid, calcium and fat soluble vitamins A, E and D are need for this phase. Next phase II adds a substance, usually an amino acid, to make the intermediate metabolites less toxic and ready for excretion. Protein is key for this phase.
The need for these nutrients means an individual’s nutrition status can greatly influence the body’s natural ability to cleanse and detox itself. Bringing us back to the juxtaposition of embarking on a cleanse or detox diet. Does restricting energy intake and ingesting drinks, teas and pills for a laxative effect really “clean our body”? No! If anything, these practices deprive the body of vital nutrients needed for our body to detox itself. Pass on the money wasting, rather uncomfortable, short-term gimmicks and focus on giving your body what it needs. Most of the essential micronutrients can be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. The added benefit of consuming fruits and vegetable are other bioactive compounds such as antioxidants which are beneficial to our health!
Editorial By Cassie Evans (MS, RD, CISSN)