Do Detox Diets and Cleanses Really Work?

GwynethPaltrow-detox-dietDetoxification (detox) diets are extremely popular among celebrities, natural food enthusiasts, and everyday dieters.

They claim to be able to eliminate harmful toxins while cleaning the blood in the body.

The problem is, this is a very vague claim and studies generally find no proof they are effective (1).

Also, there is a great variety of ingredients in detox products  and some can have negative side effects (2).

This is a detailed review for detox diets to help explain the possible health effects these diets have on the body.

What Exactly Is Detox Diet

juice-detox-diet
The short answer is, mostly fasting, water, and juice

They prescribe a short period of fasting followed by a period of a few days taking only  water, fruit juices, vegetables and fruit.

Most detox diets are short-term dietary interventions intended to eliminate various toxins that can be found in the human body.

Depending on the diet, it might call for enemas, colon cleanses, supplements, teas and herbs.

WHY would you need a detox diet

why-detox-diet

More than ever, we are exposed to toxic chemicals through our diets and the environment.  Detox therapies are used frequently to combat the effects of environmental pollution.

Some of these toxins are heavy metals, synthetic chemicals, pollutants and other dangerous compounds.

A strict detox diet (as opposed to a basic cleanse) plan is supposed to:

  • Improve circulation within the body.
  • Use fasting to give bodily organs a rest.
  • Provide the body with healthy nutrients.
  • Encourage the elimination of toxins through sweat, urine and feces.
  • Cause liver stimulation that helps to get rid of toxins.

There are many claims that detoxification diets can help to soothe different health issues, such as chronic fatigue, bloating, allergies, inflammation, autoimmune diseases, digestive issues and obesity (3).

The problem is that there is a lack of human research for detox diets, and the few studies that have been released don’t offer conclusive evidence (45).

Detox diets are used to rid the body of toxins, and they can be viewed as short-term tools. According to various claims, they can help soothe a wide range of health issues.

Most Common Detox Strategies

no sugar alcohol cigarettesBesides the basics of fasting and a lot of juice, there are some different strategies, but
almost all detox diets have one or more of the following in common (6):

  • Regular exercise.
  • Drinking tea, water, smoothies, vegetable juices and fresh fruit.
  • Fasting for a period of one to three days.
  • The use of enemas, colon cleanses or laxatives.
  • Consuming herbs or supplements.
  • The elimination of foods that contain large amounts of allergens, contaminants and heavy metals.
  • The total elimination of refined sugar, cigarettes, coffee and alcohol.
  • Avoidance of allergenic foods and gradual reintroduction of these foods.
  • Drinking only lemon juice, salted water or other specific liquids.

The duration and intensity of various detox diets can vary wildly.

There are countless detox diets to choose from, and some of them involve eating certain foods, avoiding dangerous ingredients, taking supplements and fasting.

Do Detox Diets help remove Toxins?

detox-diet-work

The reality is that the human body is quite capable of ridding itself of toxins. The body eliminates toxins through sweat, urine and feces(7,4).

Our bodies remove most toxins without help

The liver is the organ that takes the harm out of substances and releases them from the body (8, 9).

However, the body does have difficulty removing some chemicals, such as heavy metals, BPA, phthalates and organic pollutants. These compounds can accumulate in the blood or fat tissue, and the body can take years to remove them (10, 11).

The good news is that most modern products don’t contain these harmful compounds (12).

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of individuals who’ve reported feeling more energetic and focused after undergoing a detoxification diet.

However, these feelings could be attributed to the removal of alcohol, processed foods and other harmful compounds.

NO Evidence they help remove toxins

There is no real research that proves the effectiveness of detox diets for helping to remove toxins in humans.

There have been various animal studies that seem to show coriander, pectin and fruit acids can eliminate organic pollutants and toxic metals (13).

You-May-Have-Even-15-Kilograms-Of-Toxins-In-Your-Intestines-Well-It’s-Time-To-Solve-That-Problem

Detox Diet plans may use some scary images like the one at right showing “toxins” taking over your body, but for the most part, there isn’t any evidence that our bodies ARE filled with toxins and need to be cleansed.

Most detox diets don’t disclose specific toxins that they’re able to remove, and there isn’t much evidence that shows they’re capable of eliminating toxins. The human body is very efficient at using sweat, urine and feces to remove toxins all by itself

Weight Loss and Detox Diets

green smoothie detoxIt is believed that the weight loss experienced from detox diets can mostly be attributed to a loss of carb stores and fluids.

There are few scientific studies that show detox diets help with weight loss, and no known randomized trials comparing detox diets vs other diets with the same caloric restrictions. (14).

One of the most popular recently is the “lemon detox diet,” which studied overweight Korean women.

The women consumed mostly organic maple or palm syrups and lemon juice for 7 days.

They showed significant reduction in  body weight, waist size, body fat, body mass index, body fat percentage and waist to hip ratio  (15).

They also showed beneficial effect on reducing the key fat hormone leptin and lowering  insulin resistance .

If a detox diet involves severe calorie restriction, then it will most certainly cause weight loss and improvements in metabolic health, the same as any other diet.

However, this type of “crash” dieting probably won’t lead to long-term results unless you change your lifestyle at the same time.

There are no known studies showing increased weight loss from detox diets. Some studies show detox diets can deliver a short-term reduction in body weight due to the severe calorie restrictions

Stress, Short-Term Fasting and Detox Diets

Some detox diets could have effects that are similar to what intermittent fasting can provide. Short-term fasting might improve disease markers and improve insulin and leptin sensitivity (16, 17).

These effects don’t work for everyone. The problem with crash diets is that they can be stressful (18, 19).

There are detox diets that can deliver effects that are similar to intermittent fasting regimes and can improve health biomarkers.

The Benefits of Detox Diets

Some aspects of detox diets have been shown to be beneficial (20).

Some of these are:

• Getter better sleep and limiting stress.
• Drinking more green tea and water.
• Sweating and getting regular exercise.
• Avoiding organic pollutants and heavy metals.
• Eating whole foods.
• Avoiding foods that have been excessively processed.

Many of the aspects of detoxification diets have been linked to better health. A few of these aspects are relaxing, reducing stress, drinking more water and exercising.

Side Effects and Diet Safety

Before starting any type of detox diet, the potential side effects need to be considered.

Calorie Restriction

Many detox diets recommend severe calorie restriction, which can cause bad breath, irritability and fatigue. Some potential side effects of long-term fasting are electrolyte imbalance, mineral deficiencies and death (21).

Colon cleansing strategies can cause nausea, bloating, vomiting, cramping and dehydration (22).

Overdosing

Believe it or not, some detox diets can actually lead to overdosing on water, diuretics, laxatives or supplements.

The detox industry isn’t moderated very well, so some products don’t match what’s on the labels (23).

When to Avoid Detoxification Diets

Certain people should avoid detox diets. Some examples are individuals who’re pregnant or malnourished, and children, elderly individuals and adolescents.

Detox dieting should also be avoided by people who have medical conditions or blood sugar issues.

Detox diets can cause severe restriction of nutrient and energy intake. Some detox plans can include harmful supplements and approaches, and some people should avoid all types of detox diets.

Final Thought: Don’t Fill Your Body with Junk

Except for extreme circumstances your body doesn’t need any help removing toxins you encounter from the environment.

If you have been overindulging in alcohol, cigarettes, and other unhealthy habits, the cleansing and fasting phases of a Detox Diet can be beneficial to give your liver and other organs a break and help you get back on track.

If you are mainly interested in weight loss, a Low Carb High protein, or Ketogenic Diet is much more effective and better for long term health.

10 ways to control your cravings for junk foods

ChocolateFoodCravingsWhen we are trying to lose weight, our worst enemy can be food cravings.

Cravings are different than normal hunger. They are uncontrollable and intense desires for certain foods and very hard to resist.

While cravings for certain foods can vary person to person, they are usually highly processed “junk foods” that contain a lot of sugar.

One of the most common pitfalls for people trying to lose weight are these cravings.

Here are 10 simple ways to avoid these cravings that will help you lose unwanted weight and keep it off.

1. Eat Foods Rich in Protein protein
Eating protein-rich foods reduces appetite and allows you to eat less while still feeling full. Studies have shown that eating a high-protein breakfast significantly reduced cravings (1).

Another study proved that increasing protein to 25% of overall calories consumed actually decreased unhealthy cravings by 60%. This same study showed that nighttime snacking was reduced by 50% (2).

Including more protein in your diet can reduce cravings by up to 60% as well as reduce the desire for nighttime snacking by 50%.

2. Drink More Waterdrink more water
It is easy to confuse being thirsty with being ravenously hungry.

When you feel a strong urge to give into a craving, drink a large glass of water and wait about five minutes.

Chances are you will find the craving disappears because what your body actually wanted was water.

Additionally, drinking enough water has several health benefits. For dieters of any age group, drinking a glass of water before meals can reduce hunger pains and greatly aid in weight loss (4, 5, 6).

Drinking a glass of water before a meal can reduce appetite as well as cravings, resulting in faster and more permanent weight loss.

3. Plan Meals in AdvanceWeekly-Meal-Plan-Handout
Planning your meals a week in advance eliminates the temptation to give in to cravings.

Planning ahead means you don’t have to think about what to eat – it’s already planned. Stick with your plan and you will be less likely to experience cravings.

Planning ahead for each meal eliminates uncertainty and last minute eating, both of which can cause cravings.

4. Reduce or Avoid Stressavoid stress

Being stressed can definitely influence eating behaviors and induce cravings, especially for women (7, 8, 9).

Non-stressed women eat significantly fewer calories than women under stress (10).

Stress has been proven to raise cortisol levels in the blood, which leads to weight gain especially around the waist (11, 12).

Minimize stress in your environment by planning your meals in advance, practicing meditation and getting regular exercise such as walking.

Stress increases eating, cravings and weight gain, especially in women.

5. Don’t Get Too Hungry
too hungry
Eating regular, planned meals and keeping healthy snacks on hand will help you avoid getting extremely hungry.

By eating smaller, more frequent and healthy meals you may be able to avoid cravings altogether.

Hunger is a leading cause for cravings. Avoid extreme hunger by always having a healthy snack ready.

6. Try Spinach ExtractPopeye spinach
Spinach extract is a nutrition supplement made from spinach leaves.

Spinach extract slows fat digestion and increases the release of hormones responsible for appetite control such as GLP-1.

Ingesting 3.7–5 grams of spinach extract before meals can reduce appetite and cravings for several hours (13, 14, 15).

One study proved that adding 5 grams of spinach extract daily reduced cravings for chocolate and high-sugar foods by an amazing 87–95% (16).

Spinach extract slows the digestion of fat and enhances the hormones responsible for controlling appetite and cravings.

7. Eating Mindfully
mindfulness-cartoon
By practicing mindfulness in relation to foods and eating increases your awareness of true hunger vs. cravings and overeating.

Mindfulness teaches you to control eating habits, emotional eating, cravings and hunger (17, 18). It helps you choose and control your response instead of acting impulsively (21).

One study of binge eaters found that mindful eating reduced uncontrolled eating episodes by 75%. It also reduced the intensity of each binging episode (19).

Mindful eating is about choosing how you respond to cravings vs. actual hunger.

8. Importance of SleepWhy-Is-Good-Sleep-So-Important
Sleep deprivation greatly affects the hormones that regulate hunger during waking hours.

Sleep deprivation disrupts these hormones, leading to weakened appetite regulation and increased cravings (20, 21).

People who are sleep-deprived are 55% more likely to suffer from obesity, compared to people who get enough sleep (22).

Sleep deprivation disrupts healthy fluctuations in appetite-related hormones, leading to poor appetite control and increased cravings.

9. Eat Properlyyoucantout-exerciseabaddiet
A diet lacking in the proper nutrients can cause certain cravings. It is also important to eat at regular mealtimes.

If you do need a snack between meals, choose something healthy. Eat only whole foods, such as nuts, fruits, veggies or seeds.

Eating regular, nutritious meals can help prevent hunger and cravings.

10. Don’t Grocery Shop Hungry
shopping while hungry
Grocery stores and food markets are the worst places to be when you are having cravings.

At the supermarket you have easy access to virtually any food you are craving, making it likely you will NOT make the healthy food choices

Also, supermarkets purposefully place the unhealthiest foods right at eye level.

Eat before you go food shopping to reduce the risk of unwanted cravings and impulsive food purchases.

FINAL WORDS

Cravings are common, especially when trying to lose weight. Greater than 50% of people experience cravings on a daily basis (26).

Cravings play a key role in food addictions, weight gain and binge eating (23).

Being mindful of what triggers your cravings makes them much easier to control. It also makes it a lot easier to eat healthy while losing weight at the same time.

Mindful eating to control your cravings is the key to changing your habits so any progress you make can be permanent!

 

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss

fasting-monksThere are many different diets and plans that are popular for weight loss.

One that has recently been getting a lot of attention and I am personally using is called intermittent fasting

When you fast for short periods of time, it helps you to cut down the total calories you eat in a day.

And as an added bonus, it helps optimize the way some hormones work to signal your body for fat storage.

You can read about 6 Ways to do Intermittent Fasting, but the three most popular ones are:

  1. The 16/8 Method: Skip your breakfast throughout the week and eat only during an 8-hour feeding window, like from 12 noon to 8 pm.
  2. Eat-Stop-Eat: Do your fast once (or twice) every week for a 24-hour period. An example would be not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
  3. The 5:2 Diet: Eat just 500-600 calories for two days of the week, but eat regularly the other 5 days.

With any of these methods, it is important that you don’t compensate by overeating during the non-fasting periods.

Adhering to sensible calorie consumption during the non-fasting periods will lead to a reduction in your total caloric intake, which will allow you to lose weight and fat around your belly (2, 3).

How Intermittent Fasting Influences Your Hormones for Fat Storage

fat storage hormones
Body fat is actually the result of how the body stores energy (calories).

When you haven’t had anything to eat for awhile, the body makes several hormonal adjustments so  the energy it’s already stored as fat is more  readily available.

Below are some of the things that happen to your metabolism when you are undergoing a fast:

  • Insulin: Insulin goes up when we digest food. When we fast, insulin in the body falls sharply. Fat burning is made easier with low levels of insulin.
  • Human growth hormone (HGH): Levels of growth hormone shoot up in the body during a period of fasting. This increase can be by as much as  5 x higher.  Growth hormone helps you to lose fat while also gaining muscle, along with other positive benefits (5, 6).Growth hormone  can aid fat loss and muscle gain, among other things (7, 8, 9).
  • Norepinephrine (noradrenaline): Your nervous system delivers norepinephrine to your fat cells. This makes them break down your body fat into free fatty acids that can then be burned for energy(10, 11).

Incredibly, despite what you may have heard  from proponents of the traditional 5-6 meal diet, short-term fasting appears to actually stimulate fat burning.

Of note, two studies have shown that fasting for about 48 hours or so boosts metabolism up to 14%(12, 13). However, fasting periods that are longer can suppress metabolism (14).

Short term fasting can be an excellent tool – it induces many changes including reduced insulin, more growth hormone and increased metabolism

Intermittent Fasting Helps You Reduce Your Calorie Intake

reducing-calorie-intake

The primary reason that intermittent fasting assists with weight loss is that it helps you to consume fewer calories.

While calorie counting is normally not necessary with intermittent fasting, it is true that the weight loss is mostly due to the overall decrease in calorie intake.

Each of the protocols involves missing meals during the fasting periods. Unless you offset this deficit by eating a lot more during the eating periods, you will be taking in less calories.

According to this recent study, intermittent fasting can lead to an astounding amount of weight loss. In this 24 week long study, it was shown to reduce body weight up to 8% (2).

When looking at the actual rates of weight loss, people dropped about 0.55 pounds per week using intermittent fasting, but dropped up to 1.65 pounds per week using alternate-day fasting (2).

Participants lost up to 7% of their total waist circumference, which clearly shows that they lost fat around their belly.

These are fairly dramatic results that prove intermittent fasting can be very effective for weight loss.

More than just weight loss, the rewards of intermittent fasting are are also numerous positives for metabolic health such as lowered blood pressure.

These benefits may even include the prevention of chronic disease and a increase lifespan
(15, 16).

Bottom Line: Intermittent fasting is a simple way to restrict the amount of calories that many people find is easier to follow. Studies indicate that it can help you shed weight and belly fat.

How Intermittent Fasting can help you retain muscle mass

ripped girl
A nasty side effect of crash dieting is often a significant loss of muscle mass(17).

It is interesting that studies indicate less muscle loss from weight loss with Intermittent Fasting as opposed to other methods (18).

Another study showed a standard calorie restriction diet resulted in 25% of the weight loss to be muscle, vs only 10% of weight loss of those using intermittent fasting(18).

A third study had participants eat the same number of calories as usual, but have them all in a huge dinner and nothing else. Surprisingly, they lost body fat and increased muscle mass as well as many other positive changes in total health. (19).

Research indicates that Intermittent Fasting may result in less muscle loss for each pound of fat loss, as compared to non fasting diet plans

It is easier to eat healthy meals with Intermittent Fasting diet

healthy foods

For many people, the simplicity of meal planning is a huge benefit with Intermittent Fasting.

For example, with the 16/8 plan, you only have to plan 2 meals instead of 3 So there is less preparation, and you are more flexible when and where you have to be.

With the 5:2 plan, you only need to plan 500 calories for 2 days. the other 5 days you eat your normal diet, without having to plan for reduced calories.

No matter how well a diet works on paper, REAL people have to stick to it, and the simpler it is, the more likely you will be able to.

Intermittent Fasting is often much simpler than other diets, so is easier to stick to.

Final Thoughts

When it’s all said and done, intermittent fasting can be a helpful tool for weight loss.

In addition to making it easier to lose pounds, it often results in less loss of muscle mass and other improvements in body chemistry.

Its not for everyone, but many people are finding it beneficial. You can read more about Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting here.

 

How many Carbs should YOU eat for Weight Loss

diets_lowcarb
Cutting down on carbohydrates can help you lose weight fast.

It can be easier than the strict portion control and counting calories, which many people find hard to maintain.

Reducing the amount of carbs in your diet can reduce your cravings for food and automatically help you lose weight.

What is a Low-Carb Diet?

There are lots of diet fads out there. For decades, so-called health authorities have suggested that you eat a low-fat, low-calorie diet in order to lose weight. That might sound like a great diet plan, but people rarely stick to it. (1, 2, 3)

A more effective solution is the low carbohydrate diet. If you cut down on sugary foods and starches such as breads, rice and pastas, and replace them with veggies, meats and fats, then you will see lasting results.

low-carb-diet

Researchers for Duke University Medical found that a low-carb diet stimulates your body’s urge to stop eating. When you feel full, you consume less calories and shed more weight.(4)

When compared to low-fat diets, low-carb diets tend to be more effective without the need to actively restrict caloric intake.(5, 6).

Low carbohydrate diets aren’t just for weight loss either. Some auxiliary benefits include a rise in good cholesterol (HDL) and lower blood sugar, triglycerides, lower blood pressure and lower levels of bad cholesterol, so-called LDH. (7, 8, 9, 10).

The science is clear. Low-carb diets improve overall health and stimulate weight loss. This is superior to calorie-restricted, low-fat and low-protein diets that are so popular in the mainstream media. (11, 12, 13).

Conclusion: Scientific studies support the value of low-carb diets over trendy, low-fat diets.

Figuring Out Your Optimum Carbohydrate Level

A person’s ideal caloric and carbohydrate level varies from person to person. Some influential factors include a person’s body type, age, gender and metabolism.
exercise-stretch

So it’s difficult to set a generalized benchmark of what makes up a low-carb diet.

Metabolic health is key. Obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and lack of exercise are the greatest determining factors of how much carbohydrate-rich foods are normal in a day.

Generally speaking, people who exercise more can tolerate more carbohydrates. People who live a more sedentary life will have a more difficult time processing carbohydrates.

Conclusion: The “perfect” carbohydrate level doesn’t exist. It depends on the person’s lifestyle, health conditions and body type.

Effective Plans for Different Activity Levels

Your first step to losing weight with a low-carb diet is to reduce or eliminate sugary foods and wheat (gluten). That’s just the beginning. Start slow and work your way up.

A good starting point for how many carbs you should try and stay under are:

100-150 Grams A Day
Active-family-lifestyle
If you lead an active lifestyle or just need moderate results, then reduce your intake to the range of 100-150 grams a day.

Your optimum diet consists of all types of veggies and several servings of fruit. You can also eat some healthy starches such as potatoes, oats and rice as long as you control the portions.

50-100 Grams A Day
maintain-weight-loss
This level is great for people who have already seen great weight loss and want to keep the weight off.

Your optimum diet consists of several servings of vegetables and fruits per day.

To maintain your weight loss goals reduce your starchy carbohydrates to a minimum.

20-50 Grams A DayCouch_potato

If your goal is to lose weight fast,  but you aren’t very active or exercising regularity, then this is the level for you.

Eating less than 50 grams of carbs a day triggers ketosis, a metabolic response that will reduce your appetite and help you automatically feel full.

Be sure to eat low-carb veggies and fruits such as carrots and berries. You can also supplement your carb intake with walnuts, pecans, and sunflower seeds.

Everybody is Different

Don’t forget that everybody is different. Try new foods and experiment with new recipes to find out what level is right for you. Be sure to drink plenty of water during this process and consult your doctor before starting any new diet or workout routine.

Conclusion: With regular exercise, a range of 100-150 grams a day works best for healthy individuals. For people who need to see faster results, drop your carbohydrate intake below 50 grams.

Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs

carbs - good and bad

Just because you choose a low-carb diet doesn’t mean all carbs are created equal. Be sure to choose healthy, unprocessed foods and stay away from low-carb junk food.

So what are good carbs? lean protein-rich meats like chicken and fish, eggs, nuts, and legumes are some good examples.

What are bad carbs? Refined grains like pizza crust, pretzels, and potato chips.

For more information on specific foods, check out this detailed low-carb meal plan and sample menu.

Conclusion: Be selective. Eat fiber-rich, whole foods whenever possible and avoid the junk food that is devoid of nutritional value.

You Can Be A Fat-Burning Machine

group of carbohydrate products
group of carbohydrate products

Insulin is an important component to your weight loss equation. It’s a hormone that stores fat in your body. One of the benefits of a low-carb diet is its ability to lower the levels of insulin in your blood, thereby reducing the fat.

Insulin also regulates the amount of sodium retained in the kidneys. A low-carb diet cuts back on the insulin your body produces and you can start to see lots of water weight reduction in the first week. (14, 15).

In a study that examined body composition, researchers found that low-carb dieting can slow the effects of aging as well as increase muscle mass and help dieters lose large amounts of body fat.(17)

When it comes to targeted weight loss, research shows that low-carb diets are especially effective at reducing that stubborn belly fat around the abdominal cavity that is so hard to get rid of.

Conclusion: Burning fat has more to do with body chemistry than exercise alone. Targeting specific hormones and problem areas will help you see results faster.

The Bottom Line

A low-carb diet is simple and effective. There are several tools to help you, as well, like this Free Carb Tracker App

Be sure to focus on net carbohydrates because grams of fiber don’t count toward your total carb intake.

You can start your low-carb diet by simply eating healthy proteins, fats, fruits and vegetables with every meal. Avoid processed foods and supplement your diet with walnuts, seeds and full-fat dairy products.