[Image Credit: Suzette – www.suzette.nu]
This is part of the “What we should really be eating?” series. I’ve already covered why we should do our own research when it comes to food, and whether eating synthetic or artificial foods is actually safe or not.
You’re about to spend $10, $50, or $400 to get on a detox diet plan. Before you open your wallet though, you should know that this detox diet plan you’re considering is a scam.
Even though I don’t know which plan you’re considering, I can still confidently say, it is a scam. In this article I detail why.
This is a long article, so quickly jump to each section by clicking on one of the links below:
- A. How detox diets mislead you into believing you actually need them
- B. Why detox diets don’t work in any way other than emptying your wallet
- C. Why people are often feeling well when on a detox diet
- D. When detox diets become dangerous
- E. The most common detox diet red flags
- F. The fail-proof way to optimal health and sexy results
Ready? Let’s start with the latest detox diet plan gimmick a quick Google search uncovered.
Introducing: The Toxicity Quiz directly from Dr Oz’s website.
In this quiz, you answer a handful of questions about your symptoms in the last 30 days – any symptoms:
- Do you have enough energy?
- Stuffy nose?
- Chronic coughing?
- Mood swings?
After a few pages of answering questions, you calculate your total “toxicity score.” If it’s less than 10, then that’s optimal. Above 10 though, you get into mild or moderate toxicity levels. If it’s more than 100 then you’re in trouble: severe toxicity!
It’s Doctor Oz approved – toxins are responsible for pretty much any illness. And should you find yourself with any symptom, then that’s a hint you have a toxicity problem.
I didn’t do the quiz, but judging from the fact I was recently diagnosed with bronchitis, not to mention the ear pain from riding 6 miles with my bike with the cold wind literally freezing my ears, I’d definitely not get “optimal” at the toxicity quiz. So what should I do?
So what if you find yourself with a toxicity problem?
Do the 10-Day Detox Diet Plan! Complete the detox diet plan, and then take the Toxicity Quiz again. Compare with “before.” Feel good about yourself.
So what is the 10-Day Detox Diet Plan?
Dr. Mark Hyman, the creator of the diet, writes:
“What if I told you that you could change your life in JUST 10 Days? That I could teach you how to reset your metabolism, break free from your cravings, and lose weight?
And that’s exactly why I created the 10-Day Detox Diet – I wanted to teach you how easy, fast and delicious it can be to lose weight and create health. Just follow this proven program, and in 10 days not only can you lose up to 10 pounds, but you may also turn the tide on chronic health problems including type 2 diabetes, asthma, joint pain, digestive problems, autoimmune disease, headaches, brain fog, allergies, acne, eczema and even sexual dysfunction.”
This diet seems like miracle. In just 10 days you may cure all sort of different diseases! If your toxicity score was not optimal, then you MUST try it.
So you remove grains, dairy, sugar, anything in a package, cookies, beans, starches, coffee and alcohol, among others. You add:
- 7-8 hours of sleep at night
- Walking for 30 minutes a day
- Drink water
- Daily deep breathing and or/journaling
And just watch yourself shed the pounds, getting a clearer skin, and then ending the diet with a lower score on the Toxicity Quiz!
At first the theory sounds reasonable. Toxins don’t sound like a good thing. And we know that toxic substances are linked to diseases.
We also know how important food is for our health.
Hey, even LiveStrong supports detox. (And yes, I used to respect their site, until I discovered they’re supporting the detox scam.) Let’s dive in.
Just like we store fat, isn’t it possible that we also store toxins? And that then those toxins make us sick? And that if we then eat the right food, toxins will go away?
Well, here’s what on the Harvard Medical School’s website:
“We tend to forget that the body is equipped with a detoxification system of its own, which includes the following:
- The skin. The main function of the body’s largest organ is to provide a barrier against harmful substances, from bacteria and viruses to heavy metals and chemical toxins.
- The respiratory system. Fine hairs inside the nose trap dirt and other large particles that may be inhaled. Smaller particles that make it to the lungs are expelled from the airways in mucus.
- The immune system. This exquisitely orchestrated network of cells and molecules is designed to recognize foreign substances and eliminate them from the body.
- The intestines. Peyer’s patches — lymph nodes in the small intestine — screen out parasites and other foreign substances before nutrients are absorbed into the blood from the colon.
- The liver. Acting as the body’s principal filter, the liver produces a family of proteins called metallothioneins. Metallothioneins neutralize harmful metals like lead, cadmium, and mercury to prepare for their elimination from the body. Liver cells also produce groups of enzymes that regulate the metabolism of drugs and are an important part of the body’s defense against harmful chemicals and other toxins.
- The kidneys. The fact that urine tests are used to screen for drugs and toxins is a testament to the kidneys’ remarkable efficiency in filtering out waste substances and moving them out of the body.”
Ok so our bodies detoxify on their own. But isn’t it possible, that by eating certain foods we can accelerate this process?
Dr. Oz agrees that indeed our body detoxifies on its own (but hey if he agrees, then why does he feature a “Toxicity Quiz” on his website?). Now what if we could boost this process? He adds on Oprah:
“When I say “cleanse,” I mean it in the sense of true cleaning—a strategy that helps your body rid itself of toxins. We’re exposed to harmful substances all the time; they’re in our diet (pesticides, microbes, and mercury, to name a few) and the very air we breathe (think disinfectants, deodorizers, and the gasses released by fresh paint). Fortunately, we have an excellent system in place to handle those toxins: Enzymes throughout the body are continuously breaking them down and helping to flush them out.
My 48-hour detox works by optimizing that system. It involves eating whole foods that are packed with nutrients believed to boost the activity of the enzymes and nourish the body’s most important detoxifying organs—the liver, the lungs, the kidneys, and the colon—so they can do their jobs better and more efficiently. “
Apparently if you follow this 48-hour detox diet plan, the nutrients are believed to boost the enzymes’ activity.
Morton Tavel, MD., Clinical Professor Emeritus of Medicine, responds:
Despite what is said by Dr. Oz, the concept of detoxification lacks scientific validity. He is simply fantasizing for the benefit of his TV audience.
And he’s not the only one. Rene Ficek, a Registered Dietitian from Seattle, commented:
To this day, there has yet to be a scientific article published showing how some foods make this process better or faster.
You consume more fruits and vegetables. And who here consumes the recommended vegetable portion every day?
Most detox diets include veggies. According to the US government’s “My plate” I should be eating 2.5 cups of vegetables every day. Who’s scoring that every day?
Most detox diets force you to get the recommended serving – plus some more.
You eat less and feel lighter. Esp. if you’ve been eating like a pig. Who hasn’t felt this before?
Raise your hand if you often finish a holiday season and feel like you need to “detox.” I feel this almost every year after consecutive days of eating a lot of food – a common practice in the holiday season. In the past, I’d have even used the “detox” term myself.
But this is no detox. This is no attempt to “remove toxins.” This is just listening to my body. Isn’t it normal to feel like eating less after a few days of eating a lot?
You don’t get the lethargic feeling you get after a big portion of carbs. Higher energy – just like that!
It’s no secret that consuming a big bowl of pasta or any big carb-based meal is highly likely to make you feel sleepy. It’s known as the “carb crash.” Most detox diets prohibit the foods that could cause a carb crash if consumed in big quantities. So if you were they type of person who ate a lot of pizza, bread or pasta, you’re suddenly living on veggies.
Suddenly you don’t feel sleepy after lunch and go back to work feeling light. This detox thing must be working!
You do some of the extra stuff often recommended with detox diets like – sleeping, taking multivitamins, or exercising.
The 10-day Detox Diet Plan recommends sleeping well at night, exercising, etc. Wouldn’t you feel better if you went from zero exercise to 30 minute of exercise a day?
Wouldn’t you feel better if you improved your sleep patterns?
You get the point.
Now all this is no proof that you’re detoxing. Eating differently and living differently? Yes. Removing toxins from the body because you changed how you eat? No.
But what about weight loss?
Won’t you lose weight if you eat less? Yes, you will. However, beware of the big weight loss claims made in detox diets. Most of it is nothing more than water shed from the body. It’s not fat melted. Let’s take the 10-Day Detox Diet for example.
The claim is that you’ll lose up to 10 pounds in 10 days. That’s 1 pound a day. You need to consume 3500 calories less to lose 1 pound of fat. Can you consume 3500 calories less in one day? No, that’s absurd.
I need 1500 calories to maintain my weight, possibly 1800 on the days when I exercise.
Even if I were to eat nothing on that day, that’s 1800 calories at most.
However, 1 pound of water I can easily lose. Hey, my husband realizes he’s gained 4-5 pounds every time we come back home after 20+ hours of airplane flights. He loses those pounds in the next 2-3 days. But that’s no fat. It’s water.
Diets intentionally mislead you with their bold “bazillion” pounds lost in record time claims. They know you can’t lose that amount. But they don’t care to explain the truth about what you should really expect.
Morton Tavel, MD., says that yes they can be dangerous.
“Nutritional deficiencies and blood-sugar problems are serious drawbacks. Some plans that restrict solid foods often call for laxatives, resulting in frequent liquid bowel movements. If a fast lasts for several weeks, it may lead to muscle breakdown and a shortage of many basic nutrients, depriving the body of the vitamins and minerals obtained from food. Thus, in contrast to the claimed benefits, a fast can actually weaken the body’s ability to fight infections and inflammation.”
But there is more. Some detoxes won’t give you the necessary protein (buy buy muscle tissue), or nutrients that your body needs.
Don’t get me started with colon cleanses, another popular form of detoxes. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Family Practice concludes: “Patients may look to colon cleansing as a way to ‘enhance their well-being,’ but in reality they may be doing themselves harm.”
Also, if you have a history with disordered eating, do you really think going on a detox diet will help? Or will it get you back in the state of fear and non-normal eating?
Finally, even if you lose weight during a detox, how likely are you to gain it back as soon as you go back to your normal eating? I hate putting so much effort and then ending up with nothing. And following a detox to the letter is hard work – even if it’s just two, ten, or 21 days.
I’m not saying that people who create detox diets are bad people who intentionally want to deceive you. Contrary I’ve met a lot of well-meaning people who actually believe that changing your diet can help you remove toxins. Sometimes the suggested diet might even be a “good diet.” It’s just that even when the diet is a good diet, it’s not a “detox diet.”
Because even good “detox” diets don’t have the abilities to change “toxicity.” So before you get into a detox diet plan, check out for these red flags first:
1. Toxins are never named.
Our body “stores toxins” but they are never named. Nobody knows what they are, or where they are.
2. Huge results in little time.
Just like Dr. Oz’ 10-day diet, the results seem almost untrue.
3. Several diseases will be avoided (it’s not atypical to “avoid” 10 or more diseases) by following THIS detox diet plan.
Magical thinking. Do this ONE thing and your life will be transformed.
4. Detox Diet Plan is so calorie-restrictive, you’ll end up eating less than 1000 calories a day
Consuming less than 1000 calories a day is considered very, very unsafe.
5. The text speaks about scientific studies, but the studies are never specified.
“A 2006 study showed that…”, yet no reference. A red flag.
When Detox is Not a Fad
I’ll let Tracy from Fit is a Feminist Issue explain:
“[…] there are medical applications of the term “detox.” It refers to a pretty horrible process of withdrawal that people addicted to substances like alcohol or narcotics go through when they are attempting to quit, or people who have ingested poison have to go through to literally clean out their systems.”
Do you have an addiction? Alcohol- and drug- addicts do. And they need to detox. But their detoxing has absolutely no relation to the detox diets I’m addressing in this article. So yes, detox diets are scams. It’s just that the word detox does have meaning for addicts.
Sensible diet, exercise, water, good sleep.
I know – so unsexy. But it’s true. This is the secret to optimal health and sexy results.
Detox diets can be useless at best, dangerous at their worst. And quite often – expensive.