today is spring!: stick to spring cleaning, not spring cleansing

i don't know how many times i have been asked lately, "what do you think about detoxing?"  i am passionate about people having adequate knowledge, especially in my own field of nutrition, so i thought i would post my thoughts and the (lack of) research to support the detoxing fad and hope you choose the right thing when it comes to your own body. although detox diets have little scientific evidence supporting their efficacy, in the united states, detoxing is gaining in popularity.  the detoxing practice stems from the belief that the food you consume conatins a range of harmful substances that accumulate in your body causing fatigue, headaches, nausea, and even disease.  a detox diet can vary, but the premise is defined as a dietary regimen (typically consisiting of a multiple day juice fast) involving a temporary change of intake in an attempt to remove toxins from the body. 

one of the most popular detox diets is the Master Cleanse (or the Lemonade Diet), which consists of drinking a strict diet of lemon juice, maple sytrup, water, and cayenne pepper along with laxative teas and salt water for 10 days.  people report side effects such as cravings, fatigue, irritability, and headaches, but proponents claim these are symptoms of the body's detoxification process.

another detox diet is the juice diet that involves drinking between 32 and 64 ounces of freshly juiced fruits and vegetables along with water.    arden's garden (a place in atlanta where we love to go for smoothies) promotes several detox juice diets with optional cleansing classes for $375.  their philospohy is based upon the follwoing quote by Dr. Norman W. Walker:

"Supreme cleanliness is the first step towards a healthy body. Any accumulation or retention of morbid matter, or waste of any kind within us, will retard our progress towards recovery. The retention of such body waste has a much more insidious effect on our health than is generally suspected, and its elimination is one of the first steps toward perceptible progress."

arden's garden offers a two-day detox consisting of citrus juices and distilled water with the directions drink 8 ounces of the detox mixture "til the total 128 oz. have been consumed- and that's it! No food."  they claim on their website that their two-day juice program is a tested diet that "cleanses, detoxifies, and rejuvenates the body while allowing you to perhaps lose a few pounds."  additionally, they have a 3-day liver cleanse program that is "recommened twice a year- spring and fall, when sunlight and natural vitamin D offer the body a natural boost". 

proponents of detox diets claim benefits ranging from improved health, energy, and digestion to decreased inflammation and weight loss.   some people report they feel "lighter" and more focused, which is likely due to their belief that they are doing something good for their bodies or it could be the fact that they are eating very little.  calorie restiction can lead to heightened feelings of psychological well-being (and it can also lead to temporary weight loss, weight that will likely be gained back once the person starts eating again).

there is very limited evidence about the effectiveness of detox diets.  what is known is that humans have been endowed with extraordinary systems for eliminating waste and regulating body chemistry. our lungs, kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract, and immune system are effective in removing or neutralizing toxic substances within hours of consumption by excreting them in our urine and stool. 

if you are healthy (which most americans are), detox regimens simply are not necessary to help our body's own "detoxing" mechanisms.  if you are interested in making dietary changes to improve your health, consider increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables and adding regular exercise to your daily routine, instead of cleanising your body through detoxing.