As the weather gets warmer, it’s natural to start thinking about healthing up your diet to shed excess winter pounds. For many, there’s no better way to kick start better-for-you eating habits than with a several-day diet detox. And, because of their popularity with health gurus, meal plans designed to release toxins and curb cravings abound. While we certainly support any diet that helps you feel your best, we can’t help but wonder, is detoxing right for everyone? How might someone determine between a full-blown regimented eating plan and just a few days cutting out meat and sugar? We did a little research to help you determine if detoxing is right for you.
What is a detox? It is a dietary (and sometimes lifestyle) plan specifically designed to rid the body of toxic chemicals and metals. These toxins naturally accumulate in the body due to our exposure to them in the environment and even in certain foods. Many detoxes focus on alleviating the kidneys and liver – the body’s first defense against these harmful substances – which can be taxed from overuse.
Who should detox? Nutritionists suggest detoxing if you experience regular fatigue, brain fog, achiness, digestive issues, allergies, and headaches. Another reason to consider a detox is to curb sugar or coffee cravings. Still, if you’ve never done a detox this may be the most straightforward reason to give it a try suggests Mark Hyman, MD, “Even if you think you are healthy and feel good, you may not realize that your normal state is not your optimal state. Think of it as a tune-up, a super-quick, super-easy way to supercharge your health.”
How long should you detox? They can last anywhere from one day to several weeks. If you’re new to detoxing, it’s best to consider a gentle detox for a longer duration than an intense program for a day or two. Writes Hyman for the Huffington Post, “I usually have my patients do a cleanse for seven days to six weeks, or even longer, depending on their particular needs. Work with a trained medical provider to help determine what length of time is right for you.” Shorter programs are often more intense sometimes allowing only for a liquid diet, which does not supply the body with the nutrients it needs to function and can exacerbate symptoms rather than alleviate them.
Which detox is right for me? From the ever-popular Master Cleanse to juice fasts to popular to Ayurvedic diets, options abound. How do you know which is right for you? Slow and gentle is best for most – unless you’re a detoxing regular or have been advised differently by your doctor. That means choosing a plan that incorporates whole foods – preferably designed by a nutritionist or doctor. You can also create your own detox by following a few simple rules:
- Consume only whole, organic foods
- Drink 8 8-ounce glasses of water a day
- Ditch meat, sugar and coffee
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep
- Incorporate gentle exercise such as a long walk or yin yoga
Such gentle shifts can be sustained for the duration of your detox or become a permanent part of a new healthier lifestyle.