We Should All Skip The Post-Holiday Detox (Here's Why)

We overindulge during the holidays and tell ourselves we’re going to cleanse and get back on track in the New Year. But there’s a lot of misinformation around these fad ‘cleanses’ that even health and nutrition experts have become divided on the subject.

Detox diets can last anywhere between one day to several months, and the form they can take varies vastly. For example, someone can follow a juice cleanse for any number of days, or fast for one to many days in a row, consuming nothing but water, or as is most common, cutting out alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, added sugars, foods high in fats and salt, etc. While experts agree that a cleanse can be beneficial to helping people integrate healthy lifestyle habits, a large amount of research also points to the cons of detoxing.

Registered dietitian Keri Gans, author of  The Small Change Diet, states that “there is no science to support detoxing. Our bodies… naturally remove toxins (aka detox) every single day. With most detoxes, a person may experience fatigue, irritability, headaches, and nausea”. In addition, or aside, from these symptoms, people who report feeling better may just be noticing a difference because they’re no longer consuming diets rich in salt, sugar and processed foods. However, once the detox is over if people fall back into their same eating habits as before starting the cleanse, they just fall into a “detox-retox” cycle and have gone through the fatigue and irritability for nothing. If people end their cleanse with healthier eating and lifestyle habits, then many experts would consider the cleanse a success.

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As Carrie Dennett reports for the Seattle Times, “juice fasts can also overload the body with natural sugars. Your body needs good, complete nutrition to support its natural detoxification processes and run optimally.” While some advocates of fasting argue that juice cleanses, for example, can help give the digestive tract a “break”, so to speak, a lot of experts specify that, when it comes to fasting, they are not advocating for juice cleanses or fasting for any number of days, but rather, they advise intermittent fasting. It’s important to note that this is quite different from traditional fasting.

As has been the case for years now, doctors and health professionals advise against quick fad diets that promise immediate results. As Ms. Gans concludes in her book, “be patient with yourself, set attainable goals… Meet with a nutritionist who can help you lose weight, simply feel better or have more energy”. There's nothing wrong with including more fruit and vegetable juices in one's diet, and if your idea of a cleanse is eating more fruits and vegetables in general, then chances are, most professionals would say go for it! But if you're looking to 'detox', then it's likely worth calling up a nutritionist or dietitian and getting some professional guidance.

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