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Detox Diets: Not the Life Hack You’re Looking For

Brittney Pereda (Photo by Easterday Creative)

Everyone wants the quick fix.

This goes for anything, really. In the fitness and health industry, we see it time and time again. This concept often comes up when a person has finally decided that they are overweight, unhealthy, sluggish and disgusted with themselves. They search for an easy way out — anything that makes them feel like their body is “cleansed,” or that they can quickly lose the weight they put on over years of eating processed Doritos and drinking liters of Diet Coke on a daily basis. The quick fix is a natural desire, especially in the era of the life hack, as technology has offered us so many shortcuts. So when an advertisement about a new detox supplement or diet regimen pops up on the TV, why not jump at the chance?

These “cleanse” commercials typically begin by telling you they will rid your body of all harmful substances — or toxins — through some type of restrictive diet paired with a box of amazing powder packets or capsule supplements. For example, there is “The Master Cleanse,” which prescribes 6-12 glasses of lemonade with cayenne pepper and maple syrup mixed in. This one drink all by itself for an entire 7 days will be your saving grace! You didn’t really fall for that, did you?

Before we dive in, let’s look at what the word “toxin” really means? In the nutritional context, toxins are substances — believed to be destructive — that accumulate in your human body over a certain amount of time. There are heavy metals, pesticides, pollutants, preservatives and food additives like high fructose corn syrup, artifical sweetener and food coloring, just to name a few. These toxins have always been around and always will be, but we need to take them in context.

Whether a substance is natural or synthetic, anything can be detrimental to our health in extremes. People have died by drinking too much water in a small amount of time because the sudden flood of H20 depleted their electrolytes and in turn stopped their muscles (including the heart) from working. Last time I checked, water isn’t a bad thing. But like anything else, it needs to be taken in portions. While it’s not comparable to water, consuming high fructose corn syrup every once in a while will not be the death of you. It will start causing issues, however, when consumed on a daily or near-daily basis, leading to quick and dangerous weight gains.

Cases of acute toxicity from any substance are serious medical emergencies and call for the proper response. If you’re dealing with such an instance, please hang up and call 911. If you’re worried about toxicity on a more long-term level, however, your best approach will always be a steady, healthy diet, rather than any cleanse, detox supplement or old wives’ tale that has you dumping pepper in your lemonade. It’s important to understand that the vast majority of the organs inside of that wonderful body of yours are actually doing all of the detoxing for you without all of those fad diet protocols. You just watch what you eat and do you, let the body do its thing.

Any time I have a client who comes to me having eaten Dunkin Donuts, Taco Bell and Cook Out (gotta add the sweet tea) for so many years, I will typically put them on a nutrition regimen that benefits their organs to help them naturally remove any harmful substances through excreting waste. The human body uses so many internal mechanisms to get rid of the bad, but it must be aided by good nutrition. No pills, powders or silly, disgusting drinks.

So, why do these fad cleanses and detoxes spread like wildfire despite their awful lack in benefits? Because people tend to lose a decent amount of weight doing them. The problem is, the weight they lose is mostly from water and glycogen stores being depleted because they are underfed. And yet people will continue to attribute great health benefits to their fad detoxes and cleanses because they are uneducated in the matter. And sure, there are more micronutrients in some of these pills and powders then you have ever eaten before, but its a temporary burst that won’t do you much good if you aren’t going to continue eating fruits and vegetables in the amounts you need once the cleanse is over.

Do yourself a favor: Don’t waste your money. And if you are ever actually poisoned with “toxic” substances, please refer to a health care practitioner, not the sexy juice cleanse you saw yesterday on TV.

Brittney Pereda is the founder and owner of eXtreme Body Benefits, a fitness and nutrition company based in south Charlotte.

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