The premise of a detox diet is to rid the body of accumulated toxins, acidity and other contaminants. But here is a not-so-surprising fact: the human body is infact pretty darn good at doing this by itself. And it has been doing it for quite some time.
We hear this ‘detox diet’ term bantered around frequently. Detox diets are appealing because they offer the promise of a quick fix; often juicing or fasting for a short few days, to reduce weight, gain energy, even treat disease.
As a nutritionist I’m often asked about detoxing in an accusatory manner, suggesting or even assuming that this must be something that I advocate for.
From the get-go; I do not believe there to be substantial evidence to indicate that detox diets can in fact do this, ie. detox the body of specific toxins.
Our liver and kidneys process our blood, removing wastes, regulating water balance, metabolising nutrients and producing hormones essential to our metabolism. This is integral to maintaining our body’s homeostasis, its set-point, for example blood pH (which is tightly regulated around a pH of 7.4).
I’ve said previously that I don’t do diets. And the same goes for a detox diet, for the sake of removing toxins and pollutants.
I work with individuals’ to improve their overall nutrition, which is appropriate for their own biology (for example, activity level, age, sex), psychology and circumstantial needs (family life, work routine).
It is about finding the right balance of macro- and micro-nutrients. This may include experimenting a bit. Sometimes taking certain foods out for a period of time is useful, testing how the person feels and reacts, what alternatives they find, and perhaps reintroducing the food in a different amount or form.
It can be useful for individuals to experiment with eliminating various foods in their diets for a period of time (when guided by information from health history and any symptoms).
And these are the reasons why I find that approach useful;
To stimulate mindfulness: it is a great way for someone to generate a point of focus, to kick start their own mindfulness about what they are putting in their mouth and how it is affecting them.
To make room for more nutritious options: taking out some foods for a short time creates space for more of what is necessary (eg. vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds). It encourages you to think outside of your normal routine consumption and introduce or experiment with foods, to include replacements or additions you might not have otherwise. To diversify.
To help educate about balance: balancing the correct nutritional elements can be difficult, for example appropriate combinations of protein, carbohydrates and good fats. This process is better facilitated when the focus is taken away from certain foods consumed routinely (ie. when they are removed) and combined with a more mindful approach.
To address suspected sensitivities: an elimination approach with certain food groups is useful when exploring potential sensitivities, often in conjunction with Dietician or other health professionals.
In essence, it is about making room for more of the nutrient rich foods and empowering the individual to be mindful about their own nutrition. And doing this in a measured, slower-paced way. This is the only route for better long-term health.