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Can a detox diet help me lose weight?

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Updated February 15, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: Can a detox diet help me lose weight?

A detox diet typically begins with a time-limited fast and encourages drinking plenty of water and eating natural foods such as vegetables. Though they often sound healthy and safe, detox diets, like fad diets, can have potentially harmful side effects, and do not lead to permanent weight loss.

Answer:

What are Toxins?

Toxins are chemicals known to have unfavorable effects on the human body. They can be found in food (or substances used in growing food), water and even in the air. Toxins are processed through organs like the liver and kidneys and are eliminated through perspiration, urination and bowel movements.

 

What does a Detox Diet do to Toxins?

Proponents of detox diets believe that toxins don't completely leave our bodies through these natural processes and instead they linger in the digestive or lymph systems, and can cause harmful effects such as headaches or fatigue. Detox diets require giving up specific foods that may contain toxins in order to purge the body of them. Some people claim that these diets can do anything, from increasing energy levels to preventing -- or even curing -- health conditions.

 

What is a Detox Diet?

Detox diets initially involve a fast -- you are required to completely go without food for two days and then you gradually introduce specified foods back into your diet. Most detox diets also encourage some sort of "cleansing" process via a colonic irrigation or by the use of enemas. Some detox plans may also recommend the use of supplements or laxatives to aid in the purification process.

 

Do Detox Diets Work?

Eating a diet that is low in fat, high in fiber and full of healthful, natural foods is healthy for anyone, and improved nutrition can increase health and well-being. However, there is no substantial scientific proof that detox diets rid the body of toxins any more effectively than the body's natural processes, or that the diets improve overall health or cure any medical conditions.

 

Can a Detox Diet Help Me Lose Weight?

Many people believe they can lose weight with detox diets, but these plans are not the best method for healthful, permanent weight-loss results. Diets that involve fasting or restriction of entire food groups are not ideal for anyone.

While people who fast do seem to lose weight, this weight is actually water loss rather than fat loss (which is what you need to achieve in order to permanently reduce your weight). This type of crash dieting can also lead to muscle loss. Most people gain back all the weight they lose during a fast or detox.

Lastly, fasting or "detoxing" on a regular basis can actually cause the metabolism to slow down, making it harder to lose or maintain weight in the future.

 

Who Should Avoid Detox Diets?

Children, teenagers, diabetics, pregnant women, those with heart disease, or anyone suffering from medical conditions should not follow a detox diet. Anyone with an eating disorder should not follow a detox diet.

Additionally, detox diets are not appropriate for people who are very active, have physically demanding jobs or participate in sports, because they do not provide sufficient energy or nutrition.

The use of laxative-type supplements can be especially problematic, as they can cause dehydration or mineral imbalances, as well as digestive problems.

Please do not start a fast or detox plan, or eliminate food groups from your diet, without talking to your health care provider.

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