Detoxification (or detox) continues to gain the attention of health professionals and individuals who are open to alternative therapies outside conventional healthcare. They recognize detoxification as a form of self-care that can help to restore the internal balance of an otherwise toxic body. While the jury is still out when it comes to conclusive scientific evidence of the safety and effectiveness of all types of detoxification, many people around the world practice some form or another of detoxification and/or cleansing and they report a range of benefits in the way they look and/or feel afterwards.
Our body naturally detoxifies through sweat, tears, acne breakouts, urine and poop. But there are other ways to support the body to do so and that I will discuss further below. Timeframes and methods of detoxification vary. Some detoxes are limited to just a few days while others can go as long as 28 days (Peter Bennett and Stephen Barry, 1999; Don Colbert, 2006). For lasting results, detoxes require dietary and lifestyle changes that need to be maintained so that short-term detox gains are not lost afterwards. Let's look into how detoxing can support weight and fat loss in this blog, and then discuss the two main approaches to detoxification along with how specific diets can enhance detoxification and activate weight and fat loss. I also share general and specific gains associated with detoxification.
Can detoxification trigger weight and fat loss?
Targeted detoxing using foods, specific supplements, and lifestyle practices that are known to enhance the body's natural balance can be a useful strategy for activating the "body's natural ability to burn fat ..." (Mark Hyman, 2014).
Several studies published by the National Institutes of Health offer interesting insights into how food-based detoxes can help you lose weight.
In one study, “[e]ighty-four premenopausal overweight Korean women were randomly divided into 3 groups: a control group without diet restriction (Normal-C), a pair-fed placebo diet group (Positive-C), and a lemon detox diet group (Lemon-D). The intervention period was 11 days total: 7 days with the lemon detox juice or the placebo juice, and then 4 days with transitioning food.” The researchers concluded that “…the lemon detox program reduces body fat and insulin resistance through caloric restriction and might have a potential beneficial effect on risk factors for cardiovascular disease” (Kim et al., 2015).
There are other studies that focus on the specific detoxification properties of particular foods, making the case for including them when you detox, and integrating them into your regular diet as well. “There is preliminary evidence to suggest that certain foods such as coriander, nori and olestra have detoxification properties, although the majority of these studies have been performed in animals" (Klein, 2015).
The book by Donna Gates with Linda Schatz, The Body Ecology Diet, includes seven principles of the diet they recommend, with cleansing presented as the most important principle. “If you forget the other six principles on the Diet but begin to master this one, you will still be on your way to becoming well" (Donna Gates, 2011). According to the authors, cleansing benefits include:
Enhancing the body's natural ability to get rid of waste or toxins.
Restoring the balance of the body's vital organs so that they can eliminate toxins much more effectively;
Building the immune system to fight disease; and
Reaching an ideal weight (as a result of cleansing and applying other key principles of the Diet, in particular one of proper food combining) (Donna Gates, 2011).
Cleansing the body of these toxins will take time, depending on each person’s unique level of imbalance, but “as stored toxins exit the body’s cells”, weight loss will follow, something that should not worry those who are naturally slim. "In time, when your body starts rebuilding, you will regain to your ideal weight, the weight at which your body functions best" (2011).
There are other books and resources that present comprehensive diet plans anchored by detoxing. The Blood Sugar Solution: 10-Day Detox Diet by Mark Hyman specifically targets those who are looking for strategies "to activate your body's natural ability to burn fat and lose weight fast". The Living Beauty Detox Program by Ann Louise Gittleman (2000) includes a diet plan specifically for women who want to cleanse their bodies of toxins as a strategy to balance hormones, including fat-regulating hormones such as estrogen that drops in menopause leading to greater fat storage in the abdominal cavity. Ellen Landes (1999) and L.M. Brown and D.J. Clegg (2009) also discuss the benefits of detoxification and hormonal balance for weight loss and fat-burning.
Understanding the properties of detoxing can help to make an informed decision regarding whether a detox can serve one's needs to achieve weight and fat loss.
Approaches to detoxification
There are two general approaches to detoxing that are often applied: A product-based approach and a food-based one. They both promise results. Whether these results are lasting and sustainable is a question for a different post. What is distinct about each?
Product-based detoxes: These detoxes rely on specific products that are prepared with the goal of supporting users to remove toxins and restore balance where it was lost. Some target specifically weight and/or fat loss. They come with instructions on how to use them to make them effective. These pre-packaged powders and/or drinks are meant to replace one or more regular meals. They are supposed to work by reaching deep inside the body, perhaps even inside fat cells, while also providing the nutrients the body may need to be in balance and remove toxins from the body. Some claim that they are easier on the digestive system, and if they allow to cut calories without leaving one feeling hungry and deprived, they can support weight or fat loss.
Food-based detoxes: This approach relies, generally on a specific diet with guidelines on how to best support the body to detoxify. When the diet relies on balanced meals that meet individual nutritional needs and body chemistry, they can help to restore the body back to a healthy balance, including a healthy weight and waistline.
Below are eight types of diets that are meant to benefit the body to lower toxins and/or lose weight and unwanted body fat. I have tried most of these, some for a few days, while others have become a way of life for me.
1. Juicing: Based on drinking freshly made vegetable and fruit juices for one, two or all three meals of the day. Juices are easier on the digestive system and nutrients are much easier to access and supply to the different cells in the body. When made with the right combinations of fruits and vegetables, as well as supplementing with plant-based protein powders, they can be health-transforming, filling nutritional gaps quite effectively. And the less efforts the body makes to digest the food, the faster the healing and restoration of balance. Weight loss then follows naturally. One of my favorite juices is made with fresh beetroots.
2. Intermittent fasting: This entails fitting all meals in a timeframe not to exceed 8 hours each day. There are many types of intermittent fasting, the most extreme being a 24 hour-fast with others that last anywhere between 12 and 20 hours. If the goal is to lose belly fat, knowing the root of the fat gain can serve as a cue for enrolling in targeted fast to help address the imbalance. Fasting is done by increasing the amount of time between the last meal of the day in the evening and the first meal of the day, the following day. The longer the gap between the two meals, the greater the effectiveness of the fast, especially during the first week of the fast. The goal is also to reduce the amount of time and energy the body invests in digesting food. An effective fast can lower inflammation and facilitate weight loss. I have tried this approach and it has worked for me.
3. Elimination diets: An elimination diet is one of the most popular method of detoxification. A study published by the National Institutes of Health offers interesting insights into how a comprehensive elimination diet can enhance detoxification. In the study, “[t]he author identifies the comprehensive elimination diet as a useful therapeutic tool for clinicians and patients to use to achieve detoxification. Using this diet, the patient removes the most common allergenic foods and beverages from the diet and replaces them with nonallergenic choices for a period of 4 wk, gradually adding back the eliminated foods and observing their effects. Another effective clinical tool that the author discusses is the detox-focused core food plan, which identifies the variety of foods required to supply key nutrients that can maximize the effectiveness of detoxification” (Cline, 2015). Toxic waste removal naturally lowers body weight. I am still working on this approach but there are foods that I no longer eat including dairy, soy, and gluten.
4. Low-carb diet: This entails cutting back on all starchy foods, significantly limiting or avoiding processed carbs. This can support blood sugar balance and insulin levels. As insulin is a known fat-storage hormone, the less it is triggered, usually by high-carb foods, the more the diet supports weight and fat loss as well. This is a way of life for me, as a way to keep blood sugar stable. It works for me.
5. No grain diet: Food products, whether processed or not, that have grains are not allowed in this diet. Whole grains can support weight loss when consumed in the right amounts. However, they can trigger inflammation and weight gain in some people. They are also high in carb content and therefore can be detrimental to efforts to lose weight. Giving up grains for even a week at a time can make a difference in those people with carb-induced weight gain weight. By giving up grains, one is able to remove gluten, a known allergen as well, that can increase inflammation in the body and get in the way of weight loss. I try this off and on, especially when my body starts shifting away from my ideal weight.
6. Sugar detox: This detox aims to limit or avoid nearly all sources of sugar, in some cases, even sweet fruits. Exceptions include lemons, limes, and cranberries. The less sugary fruits have little to no impact on blood sugar. The sweet fruits, like table sugar when consumed in excess (there are individual thresholds), turn on insulin a hormone triggers fat-storage. A sugar detox can help to rebalance blood sugar and insulin levels. Limiting sugar consumption is a way of life for me. It has helped to control blood sugar and conquer yeast inflections.
7. Vegan diet: This diet relies on plant-based foods only and avoids all animal food products. It is often referred to as a “cleaner diet” that can naturally cleanse the body of excess waste and can result in weight loss. There are many benefits to a vegan diet, provided one is well-educated to ensure one is not missing out on specific nutrients that are often found in animal food sources. Vegans can suffer from deficiency of certain B vitamins, especially B-12. I have tried vegan diets off and on, and it does help lower inflammation and is one of the best choices that I have tried for a clear skin.
8. Calorie restriction diet: This is a diet that entails lowering calorie intake so that the body is able to dip into stored body fat instead of always relying on regular food consumption for energy. As long as the detox plan is whole foods-based and is not too calorie-restrictive, it can be beneficial. “If a detox diet involves severe calorie restriction, it will most certainly cause weight loss and improvements in metabolic health — but it’s unlikely to help you keep weight off in the long term” (Bjarnadottir, 2019).
Many people who have tried to detox have applied a combination of dietary approaches to achieve intended detoxification results, which often includes weight and fat loss.
Paying attention to your unique medical profile and consulting with your healthcare provider before starting a detox program or making other major dietary or lifestyle changes is an important first step. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health summarizes this point well: “Take charge of your health—talk with your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use, including any ‘detoxes’ or ‘cleanses’” (2019). While it's best to be in the driver's seat regarding your health, the guidance of a trained health professional can protect you from the potential side effects of making the wrong turns along the way in your journey to better health and losing weight.
Nutritious, whole food-based detoxes are likely to be more beneficial than harmful. The key is to follow a realistic and sustainable plan that can take one on a journey to better health and balance. This can result in a healthier weight and fat loss as well.
If you are interested in laying the foundation for a healthy weight and waistline, check out my book here.
And if you want to go deeper and equip yourself with strategies that will help you reach a healthy waistline, while restoring balance in your body, enroll in my upcoming Program, Detox and Nourish and Trim Belly Fat. This food-based approach will show you the most effective ways to reduce toxic load and activate fat-burning, while also reaping many other benefits that you will want to maintain. Ready to take charge of your health and start eating right to shrink stubborn belly fat? Sign up today and join the winning team! We're in this journey together and we are set to succeed!
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“The Evidence on Detox Diets’” by Evidence-Based Living, Cornell University. https://evidencebasedliving.human.cornell.edu/2021/03/26/the-evidence-on-detox-diets/
“Herbal Detoxes: Myths, Facts, and What to Know,” by Katey Davidson. August 7, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/herbal-detox. Accessed November 10, 2022.
“A Caution Against Detoxes: Breaking Down the 4 Most Popular Types,” by Deanna Debara. January 15, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/detox-cleanses-do-diets-work. Accessed November 10, 2022.
“What’s being cleansed in a detox cleanse?”, by Robert H. Shmerling. March 25, 2020.
“Lemon detox diet reduced body fat, insulin resistance, and serum hs-CRP level without hematological changes in overweight Korean women,” by Mi Joung Kim, et al. Nutr Res. May 2015. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25912765/. Accessed November 10, 2022.
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“’Detoxes’ and ‘Cleanses’: What You Need To Know”, by National Center for Complentary and Integrative Health, National Institutes of Health. September 2019. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/detoxes-and-cleanses-what-you-need-to-know. Accessed November 10, 2022.
Cleanse Your Body, Cleanse Your Mind, by Jeffrey A. Morrison. Penguin Group, 2012.
10-Day Detox Diet, by Mark Hyman. Little, Brown and Company, 2014.
The Living Beauty Detox Program, by Ann Louise Gittleman. Harper San Francisco, 2000.
"9 Hormones that Affect Your Weight - And How to Improve Them" by Ellen Landes, medically reviewed by Jerlyn Jones. January 26, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-fixes-for-weight-hormones. Accessed November 26, 2022.
"Central Effects of Estradiol in the Regulation of Adiposity" by LM Brown and DJ Clegg. December 24, 2009 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2889220/. Accessed November 26, 2022.