Are Detox Diets and Cleanses Dangerous?
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9. Practice meditative breathing.
10. Get adequate sleep.
11. Advocate for universal healthcare, clean environmental, agricultural and energy policies. A toxic environment can overburden even the cleanest diets.
Hemmelgarn’s list is nearly identical to the recommendations provided by De la Forêt and Donahue. De la Forêt comments on a few of these tips, saying that, “Exercise is one of our best detox methods – it helps clean out all of the nooks and crannies.”
As an herbalist trained in traditional Chinese medicine, she provides some additional advice. “I really believe in herbs and foods with a lot of antioxidants. Eating bitter foods or taking digestive bitters with all foods can help stimulate digestion," she says. This helps one both absorb foods better and get rid of wastes. Traditional Chinese medicine also advocates eating and living seasonally, which means supporting our bodies by eating more warm, dense, and heavy foods during the winter, and sleeping more. “This is the worst time of year to eat cold foods and do starvation diets” says De la Forêt. “Prolonged fasts consuming only foods like juices and raw foods are really damaging this time of year.”
Additionally, she notes that, “In herbalism we look at if someone is experiencing symptoms of excess or deficiency. A greater percentage of the population that I see have deficiency symptoms: tired, weak, sluggish digestion, cold body temperature.” Fasts or purges are “the last thing these people need.” Instead, “they need building, nourishing to help support their energies. And these are the people I see who really want to do these cleanses because they feel sick."
Instead of fasting entirely, she recommends someone who wants to do a detox regime could simply avoid sugar or processed foods for a period of time. This could involve eating a normal, healthy diet but abstaining from sugar or processed food. This won’t be “damaging to the body the way these long-term fasts can be.”
So why are these fad cleanses and flushes so popular? De la Forêt believes it’s because “they have immediate results. People feel very different from them. They have instant gratification but long-term health problems." On the other hand, a healthy lifestyle provides slower, and much less drastic results, even though it is better for you in the long run.
Perhaps Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University and author of many books including What To Eat, puts it best. She says, “Stay away from weird dietary practices. If they sound weird, they are.”