The truth about detoxing

Are detox diets actually good for us? Or are they an invention to make us feel like we are countering our overindulgence during the festive season?

The truth about detoxing

The Running Bug asked nutritionist Sarah West to debunk the myths about detoxing. She’s got plenty of practical suggestions to help you kick-start the new year in a healthy fashion.

Flush those toxins

The idea of cleansing your system and feeling pure again from the inside out is appealing to many of us. This is especially true when we’ve had a few too many mince pies and little too much to drink over the Christmas holidays.

However, if you give it half a chance, your body is very efficient at flushing toxins out – that’s exactly what your liver and kidneys are for!  Nutritionist Sarah West says “Strict diets might claim to rid your system of toxins, but in fact your body does that job for you; working to break down what goes in, absorb the good and excrete the not so good.  This is a constant process, meaning we’re all actually ‘detoxing’ all day long.”

The good, the bad and the fad

Detox diets tend to be vague about what they actually do. Many of them involve expensive subscriptions with boxes of raw cold pressed juices delivered daily to your doorstep. Some diets involve popping pills and glugging powdered extracts of all sorts of weird things to supplement the juices. Be wary of the power of marketing – that rare seaweed extract is not the only thing on Earth that will help your body get back to its healthy best!

Fasting dangers

By not eating for periods of several days, you’re actually depriving your body of the nutrients it needs to remain strong, healthy and able to detox efficiently.  Sarah says, “When you starve your body of calories in this way, you will ultimately start to build up chemicals called ketones. These chemicals can result in nausea, dehydration, weakness, light-headedness and irritability.”

Many of the juice fasts on the market are dangerously low in fats, protein and fibre, which the body needs in order to stay healthy. “A prolonged lack of protein can also cause your body to break down its own muscle stores, which will eventually compromise your immune system. Proof that whilst fruit and vegetables provide vital vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre, they are not so good for you in isolation.”  Fruit smoothies and juices are usually full of naturally occurring sugars which mean your blood sugar is likely to spike and then crash a short while later.

Fuel to keep you running

“If you are depriving your body of nutrients in this way, you won’t have adequate fuel available to help you carry out sustained exercise and activity – an important aspect of any health and wellbeing plan,” says Sarah. You should aim to do a little bit of exercise every day, such as running, walking or swimming, and you’ll need adequate fuel for this.

A sensible approach

By all means use your new year’s resolve to adopt a healthier diet: you’ll be helping your body process toxins more efficiently and getting yourself back on track to a healthy lifestyle. It’s no bad thing to remember what it feels like to be hungry every now and then. Snacking culture has become all too normal for most of us.

However, if you choose an extreme diet that’s really hard to stick to you are more likely to fall off the bandwagon.

A balanced diet is key

When it comes to your diet, choose whole grains, plenty of colourful veggies, and when it comes to protein opt for lean meat or fish, beans and pulses. Fill your shopping trolley with leafy green veggies such as broccoli, kale, bok choi, spinach and cabbage; these are full of vitamins that will help your organs operate more efficiently, naturally detoxing your system.

At lunchtime, make it easier to stick to healthy options by bringing lunch to work, or choosing salads and vegetable-based soups.

Hydration and rest

Avoid alcohol, ensure you’re drinking lots of water, at least 8 glasses a day, and cut back on caffeine: this will help your body stay hydrated and functioning at its best. Getting a good night’s sleep is key – the body needs this time to repair. Give yourself a good 8-9 hours and you’ll awake feeling refreshed and renewed.

Boost your metabolism

If you’re looking to lose weight, green tea has been found to boost metabolism and increase your fat burning rate. Drink fresh cups of green tea throughout the day, or if you prefer, make a big jug of green tea, let it cool down and add some slices of lemon, a handful of mint, and some ice cubes. Aim to drink 4 to 6 cups of this per day. This will help your body metabolise toxins more efficiently.

Sarah West is a Nutritional Therapist for For more information go to her website Sarah West or follow her on Twitter.

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