live well.

Should You Detox?

photo by Anna Oates via Creative Commons

Detox diets have been the rage for years. Celebrities promote them, late-night television sells them, and I am sure you know someone that has tried one. These diets usually last from five to twenty-one days and involve eating little to no food and drinking various concoctions of fruit juices, syrups, peppers, and large amounts of water. The original premise of these programs was as an avenue to cleanse or purge your body of toxins produced either from an unhealthy diet or a weekend binger of drinking alcohol and decadent food choices. However, the current fad is to use these detox methods not as a way of ridding your body of impurities, rather as a way to lose weight.

First of all, what is detoxification? Detoxification is the process of eliminating harmful substances like alcohol, excess minerals, pesticides, food additives and other ‘toxins’ caused both by the diet and as a result of normal metabolic processes within our bodies. It’s impossible to avoid these so-called toxins; you ingest and create them every day.

Your body has its own detoxification systems and is quite capable of purging toxins by itself. Scant evidence exists supporting the efficacy of detox diets and most health professionals dismiss them as unnecessary and possibly dangerous. Even less scientific evidence exists supporting these diets as effective weight loss tools.

One of the more popular detox diets is the lemon juice detox diet, also known as The Master Cleanse. This diet is fairly straightforward: consume no food but repeatedly drink a combination of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and water up to ten times per day. This diet is designed to promote inner cleansing and flush wastes from the body. However, most people choose this diet as a means of losing weight, and losing it quickly.

So will you lose weight following this lemon juice detox diet? Absolutely; mainly because this diet is severely deficient in calories, fiber and essential nutrients like protein, vitamins and minerals. The majority of the weight you will lose comes from water and muscle, not from fat. Regardless of weight loss, this diet can have adverse effects if followed over a prolonged period. Here are just a few repercussions of this type of detox diet:

  • loss of lean tissue (muscle) contributed to inadequate protein intake.
  • decrease in metabolic rate (burning fewer calories throughout the day) from loss of muscle.
  • further decrease in metabolic rate as body compensates for inadequate calories by going into a conservation mode, leading to increased fat storage.
  • fatigue caused by inadequate calorie and essential nutrient consumption.
  • gastrointestinal issues such as stomach irritation, reflux, and heartburn as a result of consuming large amounts of lemon juice and cayenne pepper.
  • rapid weight rebound and weight gain once a normal diet is resumed; often causing participant to gain more weight than what was lost while following the detoxification program.

A short-term detoxification program can’t nullify a poor diet or lead to lasting weight loss. Only long-term, sustainable changes like increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, consuming whole-grain carbohydrates, choosing lean proteins, and increasing daily exercise and activity, will ensure your weight loss is healthy and long-lasting.


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