With the days getting slightly longer (yes!), it feels like Spring is nearly on our doorstep. Traditionally, the time of the year for growth, renewal, spring cleaning, and detoxing, it's a time when many people aim to eliminate bad habits (for both the health and home) to make way for the summer months ahead.
Since detoxing and Spring go hand in hand, I thought I’d attempt to clarify some of the confusion surrounding this hyped up and controversial topic within the nutrition and wellbeing circles.
The many sides of the detox coin...
As many of us are aware, there are a million different detoxes to choose from. From juice fasts, to colon and liver cleanses, detox teas and a wealth of other detox products, the choice is seemingly endless. Alternatively, there is also the more sensible approach of refining your diet to eliminate various foods (e.g. shunning morning croissants and cappuccinos in favour of healthier choices). On the other side of the spectrum, there are plenty of “experts” saying not to bother with detoxes as they don't work.
What's detoxing and why should you go on one?
Well, the experts that say there’s no point in detoxing because you’re always detoxing anyways, are right to some degree. Yes, your body is always eliminating and neutralising toxins that it comes in contact with. Going on a detox does not change this process.
Furthermore, going on a detox may have certain benefits in the short term, but if you don’t develop healthy habits, then going on a detox will have very little lasting benefit if after your last day you end up having a big night on the booze (we’ve all done it!) and getting straight back into coffees, cakes or whatever your poison is.
This is because long-lasting health is about what you do most of the time. If your lifestyle is generally unhealthy, then a two week detox without any lasting changes, will have virtually no impact in the long run.
Take time out to nourish yourself...
An important point to note is that the “experts” who are saying there’s no point in going on a detox probably aren’t taking into consideration, that many people who decide to go on a detox are generally interested in their health and will quite often carry on with some healthier practices.
In my opinion, the term detoxing should actually be changed to what a detox should actually be about, which is taking time out to nourish yourself. To move away from unhealthy lifestyle practices and eating habits, and replenish the body with healthy foods, exercise and sleep.
The benefits associated with detoxing, which include increased energy, better mood, weight loss, improved hair and skin, are not because the body is getting rid of more toxins, but happen because you are putting in less toxins and giving the body more of what it needs.
Long-term health is the goal...
In terms of juicing and other types of strict detoxes, whether they are beneficial or not is difficult to generalise. Juicing and other strict detoxes have their place and may be beneficial, but it depends on the length and purpose of the detox, as well as how well it matches your lifestyle. Doing a juice fast during a few busy days is likely to be counter-intuitive and will leave you feeling depleted, grumpy and lacking in important nutrients.
What’s most important about detoxing, is that during this time you either completely eliminate or reduce those things you know aren't healthy (and we all know what those things are), and focus on eating healthy foods. Once you’ve completed your detox, you can enjoy a night out or a good roast and some sticky toffee pudding for dessert, but don't forget to balance these with the healthy eating habits you've developed.