Are Juice Fasting & Detox Diets beneficial?

This is a question that I hear often so thank you for asking. Personally, I am intrigued by the word itself. The definition of detox is: “a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances; detoxification.” Who wouldn’t want to rid their body of harmful and toxic substances? I certainly would. However, “detoxing” the body can mean many different things depending on who is using the word and what diet plan they may be selling. Some companies sell detox plans that are not evidence based, can be pricey, and that may be dangerous. On the other hand, there are some clinical dietitians that have researched safe detox plans and they could determine if it would be safe and possibly beneficial for you. The key is to know who is encouraging the detox diet.

I first try to get my patients to understand that our amazing human body has organs and an immune system that naturally detoxifies our body. One of the debates among healthcare providers is: given the highly toxic nature of our current environment, is our body able to effectively do this job on its own OR does it need help via specialized diet plans and supplements? Following a healthy and well-rounded diet that includes adequate fruits, vegetables, fiber and protein and limited added sugar, salt, and trans fat is kind of a “natural detox” given that you would not be assaulting the body with a lot of chemicals and additives that may affect your body’s systems. Marjorie Nolan, MS, RD, CDN, ACSM-HFS says that the human body does just fine at getting rid of any harmful toxins. She states, “Detox diets are illusive and popular, but they aren’t proven to do what they say they’ll do—ie, flush toxins out of your system.”

On the other hand, there are several integrative and functional medicine dietitians that disagree and feel that some detox diets can be very helpful for the body. Robin Foroutan MS, RDH, HHC, an integrative medicine nutritionist, says “physiologically speaking, detoxification is the primary biochemical process for removing toxins by converting non–water-soluble toxic compounds into water-soluble compounds that can be eliminated through urine, sweat, bile, or feces.” She goes on to remind us that these processes often occur in the liver and the liver can be influenced by many things, including the diet. These dietitians feel that certain individuals may have complex medical history or family history or may have various environmental assaults on their body that may warrant some type of detox plan.

But most dietitians agree: more specific scientific research is needed on the safety and effectiveness of detoxification diets. The detoxification diet should be prescribed by a professional with much knowledge and training in that field, and people should not look to the internet or invest their money in companies selling gimmicky products.

(check out this article: Today’s Dietetian, March 2014, Vol. 16 No. 3 P. 34)

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