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Have you felt crappy lately?
Have you had low energy or problems sleeping?
Do you ever consider trying a body cleanse or detox program for weight loss?
Body cleansing and detox have become very popular in recent years. Some people use these for health reasons and others for weight loss. Cleansing and detoxes are meant for short term use only and are used to eliminate toxins from the body.
Due to global industrialization, we are all subjected to harmful chemicals daily. These chemicals include pesticides, phthalates, bisphenol A, and many others. Adverse health conditions can be caused or exacerbated by these chemicals, including various cancers,1
reproductive effects, 2
and cardiovascular disease.3
There are more than 80,000 chemicals registered for use in the US. Each year, 2000 new ones are added. A large percentage of these have not been adequately studied for detrimental health effects.4
Naturopathic doctors study methods of detoxification during their schooling. We know that medical nutrition can treat and prevent several ailments, including allergies, asthma, and inflammation. It can also be useful in treating and averting toxic environmental exposures.
The purpose of this article is to present cleanses and detoxes available to help in weight loss. Some of these may also help rid the body of toxins.
It is essential to be aware of the harmful effects some of these detoxes and cleanses may have on our bodies.
Most of these methods consist of fasting, following a specific diet, and drinking plenty of water.
What are the best choices?
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) promotes a healthy digestive tract by creating an environment more conducive to “good” bacteria. This can lead to improved absorption of nutrients, which increase energy, metabolism, and aids in cholesterol removal.
It has also been associated with improving insulin sensitivity. Some report ACV can diminish appetite leading to weight loss.
APV can lead to stomach upset and may remove the enamel from teeth when consumed as a liquid.
If you plan to incorporate ACV into your weight loss program, I suggest using capsules that will protect your teeth. You may also consider making a salad dressing using it in a diluted form. Below is a simple recipe for ACV salad dressing:
Apple Cider Vinegar Salad Dressing
¼ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/3 Cup high quality extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sweet mustard (I like Beaver brand sweet hot mustard)
3-4 teaspoons real honey (add to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Use an immersion blender to mix or make in a salad dressing shaker.
The whole 30 was started ten years ago by Melissa Hartwig Urban. This is an outstanding program that I am starting myself.
If you sign up at her website, you will receive the Whole 30 starter kit. She includes a few recipes and simple rules for success. I am not going to suggest this will be easy! Here are the foods and substances you must avoid for 30 days:
Added sugar, real or artificial
Alcohol of any kind
Carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites
Baked goods, junk foods, or treats with “approved” ingredients
No weighing yourself or taking body measurements for 30 days!
This is a way to change the way you eat and learn how your body feels without preservatives and high calorie, unhealthy foods. The complete rules of this plan can be found at:
Juice Detox Diets
There are many juice diets available on the internet for purchase. These usually promise weight loss and removal of toxins from your body. Most of these products are very expensive and may or may not include supplements.
I am very wary of any detox or cleanse that starves the body, especially over a long period. As explained in last week’s post, when our body goes into starvation mode, metabolism slows, and it becomes harder to lose weight.
Some Juice diets only allow consumption of 400 calories per day. This will lead to weight loss but also increases cortisol levels. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone found in our bodies. These levels can remain elevated even after a 21-day caloric restriction of 1200 kcal/day.
This increase in cortisol can lead to binge eating due to appetite stimulation.
Most juice diets are similar to the lemon detox described below but are probably more healthy because they contain more nutrients.
The Lemon Detox Diet
The Lemon detox program, also known as the Master Cleanse or Lemonade Diet, was developed by Stanley Burroughs in the 1940s. It is a very low calorie diet (VLCD) providing 800-1000 kcal/day. This method substitutes meals with:
· two tablespoons of lemon juice
· two tablespoons of maple syrup
· cayenne pepper
A research study was conducted in 2015 using the lemon detox diet. In this study, lemon juice was mixed with organic maple and palm syrups. Overweight Korean women were divided into three groups. The period of the detox was seven days.
This study found that the lemon detox diet can reduce body fat, improve insulin resistance, and may have a positive effect on cardiovascular disease risk factors.
There were some unexpected changes in homocysteine levels and serum lipid profiles of the subjects in the Lemon-D group, which questions its positive cardiovascular effects.
Obesity is a significant problem in the United States. The National Center for Health Statistics estimates 39.8% of adults over 20 years old were obese, and another 31.8% were overweight in 2015-2016. The rates of obesity have increased for all population categories during the last several decades.
It is not surprising than many are looking for a quick fix for this problem. Unfortunately, we don’t become obese overnight, and we can’t remedy the problem quickly. My research into cleanses and detox programs have led me to the following recommendations.
Start with the Whole 30 plan. I am now on day #9 of this diet and at the present time, feel outstanding. There have been periods where I have felt low on energy. This was especially evident during the evening of day six. I am hoping I have passed the sluggish stage.
I recommend this plan first because you are still eating plenty of calories. You are detoxing your body by drinking a lot of water and consuming only whole foods. It is not easy to eliminate all added sugar, sugar substitutes, dairy, and grain from your diet, but I feel really good and have learned a lot from this program in the last two weeks.
The Whole 30 teaches you how your body can feel in the absence of chemicals and processed foods. It does take more time to prepare meals, but I have been able to cook dinner each night, and my kids have enjoyed every meal so far! Look for my post on my experience with the Whole 30 in the next month.
I recommend avoiding juice detoxes. The weight loss will likely not last after the detox ends. There is a good chance your cortisol level will increase, making you hungry. Your body needs a certain number of daily calories to function correctly. These programs are expensive and have limited data to support their use.
Experimenting with apple cider vinegar or a colon cleanse supplement such as Psyllium Husk Plus is also an option and will allow you to maintain your current eating habits. Just remember to use these products in moderation. There is no reason to take Psyllium Husk Plus capsules daily.
I hope I have answered your questions regarding cleanses and detoxes for weight loss. If you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. If you believe juice detoxes have helped, I want to hear from you. My ultimate goal is to make this blog as informative and as useful as possible for my readers.
Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP
Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.
Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.
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Kim MJ, Hwang JH, Ko HJ, Na HB, Kim JH. Lemon detox diet reduced body fat, insulin resistance, and serum hs-CRP level without hematological changes in overweight Korean women. Nutr Res. 2015 May;35(5):409-20. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2015.04.001. Epub 2015 Apr 10. PubMed PMID: 25912765.