Every January, I get a surge of questions on detoxing and cleansing. I think the gluttony of the holidays motivates people to make some drastic changes in their diets in order to feel better. And the quick fix of a detox is very tempting.
A typical detox program is juice-based: lots of “green” juices, fruit juices and nut milks. Some programs include light food choices as well, such as soups and salads. You may also be encouraged to drink various teas or use supplements. Beforehand, you’re typically encouraged to eliminate things like meat, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, white flour and other processed foods. (If you do nothing else, this step alone will automatically make you healthier!) Programs last anywhere from 1 day to 1 month. They can also be expensive, with home delivery programs running around $100/day.
If your goal is to lose weight, save your money. While you will lose weight, it won’t last unless you make lifestyle changes. So why not just make the lifestyle changes?
If you’re worried that your body is overloaded with toxins and that cleansing for a few days will do the trick, think again. Nothing you do for a few days only will have a lasting effect on your health. A better plan is to permanently eliminate the foods mentioned above and let your liver and kidneys do their jobs.
However, if you’re trying a detox to launch you into healthier eating habits, I say go for it. Some guidelines:
Keep it to 3 days (or less) and spend time beforehand identifying what dietary changes you’ll make post-program. The key is to have a long-term plan for what happens afterward. I can’t emphasize enough that it’s the lifestyle changes you make that will make the difference.
Avoid teas and supplements that contain diuretics, laxatives or stimulants. These can have a serious impact on your electrolyte balance, which your muscles need to work properly. And don’t forget: your heart is one of the most important muscles you have. Don’t mess with it.
Try a plan that includes food. Low calorie juice-only plans typically don’t supply enough to fuel for your day, leaving you light-headed, lethargic and cranky. They also tend to foster wild fantasies of what you’ll eat once the program ends. Make sure to include healthy soups and salads to get the nutrients and calories you need.
And always check with your health care provider before you start a detox plan.