To go on a detoxifying, colon-cleansing diet, or not to go on a detoxifying, colon-cleansing diet ... that is the question.
With apologies to Shakespeare, I am letting that question stew in my mind as I hear from friends and relatives about their successes with such cleanses.
I like to weigh pros and cons, and to start, here are a few pros I have come up with:
- The potential to feel less bloated and constipated, even if only temporarily.
- The idea of releasing toxins from my body, if that’s what really happens.
- The thought of losing a pound or two and possibly increasing my energy level.
- The adventure of selecting a colon-cleansing product from my neighborhood natural foods store, which has a ton to choose from.
- Knowing that some of these detoxifying diets involve juice, and I like juice.
- Realizing that I could make my own detox cocktail from ingredients such as lemon juice, water, cayenne pepper and maple syrup.
Before I employ my usual “What can it hurt to try it?” philosophy, however, here are a few cons:
- Detoxification diets are not scientifically proven to have any health benefits, say the Mayo Clinic and other medical websites.
- Colon cleansing can rob the body of needed nutrients, such as iron and potassium, and cause fatigue, irritability and dehydration if a lot of fasting is involved.
- The weight loss might actually occur with lean body mass, not fat.
- It's probable that naturally occurring digestive processes are engaged in the “cleansing” task just fine, without need for an over-the-counter product or herbal supplements.
A recent article on dietary cleanses in the Los Angeles Times spoke to that point in an interview with Dr. Adrienne Youdim, medical director of the Weight Loss Center at LA’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
“The body actually has a very intricate way of detoxing on its own,” Youdim said, adding that various organs rid the body of harmful bacteria, chemicals and viruses.
Further complicating my detox-or-not decision was Youdim’s statement:
"The weight loss is often not the kind of weight that you want to lose. You may be losing lean mass, and when that comes back it comes back as fat. If these (cleanses) are done recurrently, the long term would be changing your body composition for a higher percent of body fat."
A column on the Mayo Clinic website also pointed out that the kidneys and liver effectively filter and eliminate most toxins. It added, though, that “the benefits from a detox diet may actually come from avoiding highly processed foods that have solid fats and added sugar.”
In the end -- as long as there’s not a digestive wellness factor such as irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease or inflammatory bowel -- then it really becomes an individual decision.
I am undecided for now, but I do know that “to detox, or not to detox” is a great question to pose to my doctor at my next well-woman checkup.
I hope he likes Shakespeare.
“Do detox diets offer any health benefits?” MayoClinic.com, Question and Answer with Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. Web. 13 August 2012.
“Is colon cleansing a good way to eliminate toxins from your body?” MayoClinic.com, Question and Answer with Michael F. Picco, M.D. Web. 13 August 2012.
Ogilvie, Jessica P. “Dietary cleanses rise in popularity, but there are risks.” LATimes.com. Web. 13 August 2012.
Reviewed August 13, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith