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Why detox diets are bad

Updated on April 2, 2014
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Detox diets are the latest fad, but just because they're popular, that doesn't necessarily mean they're safe. In fact, detox diets are often one of the most harmful form of diets to subject your body to.

Why detox diets are harmful

Diets like the lemon tea detox popularize the idea that the foods you eat and the water you drink lead to a buildup of toxins. According to the principles of these diets, the only way to remove this accumulation of toxins is to consume a certain type of food or drink that will flush them out. In this sense, a detox diet is like a reboot for your body. The first problem with this however, is that these toxins don't exist. Whilst there are indeed toxic chemicals that can accumulate in fat, it is very rare for humans to be exposed to them in everyday life, and no amount of lemon tea or laxatives can expedite the body's own removal process.

The blatant lack of effects is only one of the reasons to avoid detox diets. Other reasons include:

  • A waste of hard-earned money
  • Damage to the body through severe calorie restriction
  • Deficits in most vitamins and minerals whilst on such a diet
  • Side effects from laxative abuse
  • Reduction of the body's own toxin elimination processes


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Necessary nutrients

In order to feel your best and keep your body functioning properly, you need to get enough nutrients in your diet. These nutrients include:

  • Vitamins like vitamin A, C, and E. These vitamins support healthy skin and allow your immune system to function properly. Deficiencies of vitamins affect your hair, skin, and eyes, and leave you more likely to become ill.
  • Minerals like iron and calcium. Minerals are necessary to maintain healthy bones, to produce energy, and most importantly, to produce enzymes. Your body uses enzymes to function, and your liver needs enzymes for its own detox routines.
  • Protein from lean meat and other sources. Protein is necessary to build and maintain muscle, as well as to form neurotransmitters and support a healthy brain.
  • Unsaturated fats and omega fatty acids. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats allow your body to form healthy cells, whilst keeping your heart healthy. Omega 3 fatty acids from fish and other sources reduce inflammation and provide further benefit to your cardiovascular system.

Detox diets cause starvation

When you ingest less food than your body requires to fuel cell renewal and the activities you perform each day, you cause your body to shift into a survival mode where your metabolism and the actions of your organs gradually slow down to reduce energy expenditure and keep you alive. Detox diets like the lemon tea detox provide only a quarter of the average recommended dietary energy intake, and the little energy the lemon detox does provide, is all in the form of sugar.

To put this into context, it is considered dangerous to reduce your daily energy intake by any more than a quarter of what your body needs, or else it will take drastic measures to counteract the deficit. In the case of the lemon tea detox, which provides just over 500 calories, you're cutting out three quarters of your dietary calorie requirement. Your body can't function properly under conditions like this, and it isn't long before the brain starts to suffer, and organs like the liver, which is responsible for the body's actual toxin excretion, slow down to compensate. In cases of severe starvation, the liver can even suffer damage that will further reduce its ability to remove toxins, even after a healthy diet is resumed.

Detox diets deprive you of nutrients

If it's not bad enough that detox diets are often a form of reckless starvation, the little calories they contain are usually empty calories. In the case of the lemon tea detox, the palm syrup and maple syrup, as well as the lemon juice, are the only source of nutrition available for 5 - 10 days. These ingredients provide enough manganese and vitamin C, a little zinc, and just about nothing else. Protein is non-existent in such a diet. The implications of this is that your body is placed into conditions where it isn't receiving most of the necessary vitamins and minerals that it needs to function properly and maintain good health.

The lack of protein is especially harmful. Protein is necessary for the immune system; and the formation of skin, nails, and hair; as well as the maintenance and growth of muscles. In cases where people are fed a low-protein diet where there isn't enough protein to cover their daily needs, the body is shown to leech protein out of the muscles to support other functions, leading to losses of muscle mass and strength. The lemon tea detox doesn't include any protein whatsoever, so the body is forced to consume its own tissues to produce amino acids. The ramification is that the weight loss promised by the manufacturer comes at the price of your muscle and the integrity of your immune system.

Your liver also suffers again because of this lack of nutrients. The liver needs vitamins and minerals, and trace elements like selenium to form working enzymes. Because all the detoxification and excretion processes of your body rely on these enzymes to metabolise pharmaceutical drugs, natural compounds, and environmental chemicals, any reduction in the ability of your body to produce these enzymes could potentially lead to real toxic buildups.

A balanced diet is the best way to support your body's detoxification process.
A balanced diet is the best way to support your body's detoxification process. | Source

Would you still try a detox diet?

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How to support your body

If you want your body to be able to effectively remove toxins, you don't have to look any further than your liver. Your liver is the predominant force behind the metabolism of everything you take into your body, and it removes toxins with the help of your kidneys. The best way to support these functions is to ensure you're consuming a balanced diet, brimming with fresh fruit and vegetable, with ample amounts of quality lean protein and healthy plant oils like olive oil. If you need help to work out holes in your diet, you should consult a dietitian. Dietitians work with people to formulate healthy eating habits and prevent deficits in vitamins and minerals. Printing out a recommended dietary intake chart and keeping it in an easily viewable location like on the kitchen refrigerator, will enable you to see what vitamins and minerals you need at a glance.

Charts like these can help you visualize the amounts and types of food you need.
Charts like these can help you visualize the amounts and types of food you need. | Source

Questions?

Do you have a question about detox diets or an experience to share? Leave a comment to provide your own insight to other readers.

Forming a balanced diet through healthy eating and the use of tools like recommended intake charts is the only real way to detoxify your body and keep yourself in good health. When you eat properly and exercise, you'll be in the best condition possible, and your body really will thank you for it.

© 2014 Maffew James

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    • Maffew James profile image
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      Maffew James 2 years ago

      Definitely Aesta,

      Everyone wants a quick and easy fix for their fitness and health, and fad diets prey on this. Some of them are actually very dangerous.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You have hit the mark about detox diet. I find that there's a different fad each time so I just don't bother. Eating healthy is the best.

    • Maffew James profile image
      Author

      Maffew James 3 years ago

      Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • Kathryn L Hill profile image

      Kathryn L Hill 3 years ago from LA

      This is a great article. Repeating:

      "Forming a balanced diet through healthy eating and the use of tools like recommended intake charts is the only real way to detoxify your body and keep yourself in good health. When you eat properly and exercise, you'll be in the best condition possible, and your body really will thank you for it." Maffew James

      Thank You!