Holly Jay, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Cass County, University of Missouri Extension
A deep body cleanse sounds healthy but, according to Tufts University, you need to get the facts before you try this trend.
What exactly is a cleanse? It is the ever-popular fad of ridding the body of unwanted toxins.
There are a variety of detox diets and cleansing methods. One of the more popular methods recently has been juicing, which entails drinking a lot of juice and little else, pushing everything else out of your system. While drinking juices made from fruits and vegetables is a great way to increase your intake of these nutrient-dense foods, it may not be necessary for ridding your body of toxins.
“First, your body already has a highly effective system for removing toxins, principally the liver and kidneys,” explains Irwin H. Rosenberg, professor of medicine and nutrition at Tufts. “Second, diets and products that claim to detox the body do not identify what supposed toxins are being targeted.”
Your liver works to remove wastes and poisons as well as drugs and alcohol from your system while the kidneys filter toxins from your blood. Your colon excretes the waste from your body. Participating in a cleansing or irrigation of your colon can actually harm the bowel and damage colon membranes.
So how do you help your body rid itself of toxins naturally? The answer is quite simple — eat a nutritionally balanced diet, exercise regularly and drink more water.
Eating a nutritionally balanced diet involves consuming foods that are naturally high in fiber to help the colon move foods through the digestive track and out of the body. Eating foods that are in their original state, such as fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, and eating lean protein and whole grains will help your body get the nutrients it needs while getting rid of toxins.
Too much fat in your diet increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. It can also lead to weight gain. Limit fat intake by selecting lean proteins, eating less fried foods and selecting low- or no-fat foods such as skim or 1% milk.
Too much sugar can lead to diabetes, weight gain and tooth decay. Aim to eat foods low in sugar such as fresh fruit instead of fruit canned in syrup. Eating fewer sweets, which have little to no nutritional value, will help reduce your risk for diabetes and reduce weight gain. The easiest way to reduce sugar intake is to eliminate sugary drinks such as soda, sports drinks, energy drinks and other beverages with sugar added. Drink water instead — it is free and has no calories.
Too much sodium may lead to increased blood pressure and risk for heart disease. Decreasing your sodium intake involves more than just using less salt. You have to watch what you eat — pay close attention to nutrition labels — as you may be surprised by some of the foods that are high in salt. Limiting condiments is one way to reduce salt intake. Most sodium comes from processed and fast food sources. Purchasing low- or no-salt foods and preparing meals at home is an easy way to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet.
And, last but not least, exercise. We should get 150 minutes of exercise every week. This can be done in time allotments as small as 10 minutes. Increasing your heart rate and engaging in aerobic activity is great, but just taking a nice walk is also beneficial to your overall health.
Fad detox remedies may help you lose weight and feel better for a short time, but overdoing it could actually damage your body due to nutrient loss and a lack of balanced nutrient intake. A freshly juiced drink is enjoyable and can be nutritious, but it should not take the place of a well-balanced diet. In the long run, having a good nutritionally balanced diet and exercise regimen is the best way to help your body get rid of toxins.