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The Truth about Detox Diets

Proponents of detox diets and other "cleanses" believe that our bodies need a little help flushing out all the toxins we pick up from our food and environment.

Some of these detox diets involve drinking only liquids, while others require invasive procedures like colonic irrigation. Most require you to stop eating most or all solid foods.

The problem with detox diets is that their benefits might not outweigh their possible danger. Still, some people swear by them. Here are five facts about detox diets. Read them, and then decide for yourself if a detox is something you want to do.

They can leave you severely dehydrated.

Detox diets typically restrict your food intake. Since we get a significant amount of hydration from the foods we eat, this can keep you from reaching optimal hydration.

Of greater concern, many detox plans involve the use of laxative teas and diuretics. Laxative teas take fluid from your body and force it into the large intestine, where it produces a loose bowel movement.

Diuretics flush fluid from your system, causing frequent urination. When combined with laxatives, diuretics can lead to serious dehydration.

You may have heard about celebrities using the Master Cleanse to lose 20 pounds in 10 days, but those same celebrities acknowledge that they simply lost water weight - and gained it right back once the detox was over.

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They can be addictive.

Your body can develop a physical dependency on laxatives. After a while, some dieters lose the ability to produce a bowel movement without the aid of a laxative. Recovering from this condition can take a while, and it's never pleasant.

If you are susceptible to eating disorders, you can become psychologically dependant on a very restrictive eating plan. This can wreck your metabolism, causing you to gain weight when you eat a normal amount of calories.

Certain groups should avoid them altogether.

A young, healthy adult might be able to follow a cleanse for a few days, but there are some groups of people who can really harm themselves with detox diets. These groups are especially vulnerable to malnutrition and dehydration.

This includes children under 18, pregnant or nursing mothers, individuals with heart disease or diabetes, or anyone with an auto-immune disorder should stick to a more mundane, nutritious diet plan.

Also, anyone with kidney or liver problems should avoid detox diets altogether. These individuals would do better on a doctor-recommended diet plan and plenty of pure drinking water.

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Their "benefits" can be the result of other things.

So what about the tales of clearer skin, more energy, and less bloating that detox fans sometimes tell? As it turns out, those benefits could be the result of other changes.

All of those side effects could result from proper hydration. Dieters who go on water fasts or other liquid-based diets might be well-hydrated for the first time in their adult lives. They attribute their clean skin and weight loss to the detox diet, when plain drinking water would have been enough.

After a few days, starvation causes a spike in energy and a feeling of euphoria. We think this is a throwback to the days when our ancestors needed energy to avoid predators and forage for food in times of famine.

While detox diets can produce a weight loss, it's important to remember that this is temporary water weight, not permanent fat loss. Some detox dieters lose several pounds, but only due to starvation and dehydration.

Their necessity is questionable.

Experts insist that detox diets aren't necessary at all. Our bodies were designed to filter out toxins, and our kidneys, liver, and gastrointestinal systems are hard at work around the clock.

Subsisting on a liquid diet and laxative tea can actually impair your body's ability to heal and cleanse itself. A healthier way to detox is to cut out sugary sodas and fast food from your diet. Replace them with pure water, green tea, and whole, natural foods. You will see lasting results.

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