I’m sure we’ve all heard of dietary cleanses and detoxes.
They’re supposed to help flush out our systems to release toxins and prevent negative health problems. Many people also use them to lose weight.
But do they actually work?
After hearing a lot about cleansing in the past couple of years and observing from the sidelines, I’ve decided to do some research myself.
Consequently, this article will explain how dietary cleanses actually affect your body. I will also discuss the most beneficial (and safe) ways to really rid your body of toxins and prevent certain health issues naturally via fasting.
“You see, a detox or dietary cleanse is not the same thing as fasting, which is what has been proven to actually help improve and prevent health issues in humans.”
The Truth About Detoxes and Dietary Cleansing
Want to know the truth? Detoxes, including juice detoxes and detox kits from your local pharmacy, have not been scientifically proven to do much of anything for your body.
That’s right; there is no hard evidence out there solidifying what supposed “health professionals” have been claiming their detox products do for the body, which is to rid it of “toxins.” You can even search for yourself.
If you look for the truth about dietary cleanses, you too will find that they are a fictional diet craze made up by clever entrepreneurs wanting to sell you their product.
To add to the madness, instead of working hard to prove their products really do the job, detox supporters and entrepreneurs are selling you their products based on, well, lies. Let me prove it.
The Difference Between a Detox/Cleanse and Fasting
You see, a detox or dietary cleanse is not the same thing as fasting, which is what has been proven to actually help improve and prevent health issues in humans. Here’s the difference.
Fasting is the act of ingesting “no or minimal amounts of food and caloric beverages for periods that typically range from 12 hours to three weeks,” according to Valter D. Longo and Mark P. Mattson, Fasting: Molecular Mechanisms and Clinical Applications.
For example, you’ve probably heard of religious groups fasting, such as Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists. Religious groups fast for mental and spiritual benefits, not physical.
In recent years, however, it has been brought to light that fasting has the potential to delay aging, help prevent and treat diseases, and minimize symptoms caused by chronic dietary interventions (Longo, Mattson).
Intermittent Fasting is when you consistently cycle between fasting and not fasting. Instead of a diet that tells you which foods to stay away from, this is an eating pattern based on what times you should eat. For example, you could choose to do an intermittent fast that involved fasting for one day each week or you could fast for one meal three times every week. It all depends on your individual circumstances.
Detox or Dietary Cleanse
A detox or dietary cleanse, on the other hand, is often referred to as the act of ridding the body of toxic substances via controlled caloric intake and ingestion of supposed “detoxifying” substances. Many entrepreneurs claim this can be done with their product, which usually includes things like laxatives, juices, and teas to “flush out your system,” so they say.
The only thing is, they are never able to specify which toxins their products can eliminate from your body. Additionally, there is absolutely no scientific proof that ingesting juices, laxatives, and teas have any positive effect on the body or the number of toxins we have within us.
In fact, according to Scott Gavura from Science-Based Medicine, the body is self-cleansing. Instead of needing a detoxifying agent to cleanse, the liver and organs naturally identify any toxic substances and send them out of our bodies through urine and bile. This process is called autophagy and is naturally induced by simple fasting, according to Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy on NCBI.gov.
Detoxifying Agents or Products
Conclusively, the only time you might need a detoxifying agent is if you have taken a large or deadly amount of drugs or alcohol. In this case, doctors use activated charcoal, not to induce the process of autophagy, but to make sure the excess of toxic substances does not get completely absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream, according to The National Poison Control Center.
How Fasting Affects the Body
When you eat, your liver stores glucose as glycogen. That glycogen then takes roughly 10-12 hours to be used up, according to Joe Sugarman at John Hopkins Health Review.
Once your body has used all of the glycogen, it starts burning fat instead. The fats are then converted to ketone bodies. Ketone bodies are acidic chemicals that neurons use as energy; they “promote positive changes in the structure of synapses important for learning, memory, and overall brain health,” according to Sugarman’s article.
When you eat three meals a day and snack in between, your body doesn’t have enough time to use up its glycogen. As a result, the production of ketones doesn’t occur. This is where fasting comes in.
Fasting allows your body the time necessary to deplete glycogen, burn fat, and gain access to the positive effects of ketone bodies. It also induces the process of autophagy to naturally cleanse the body of any toxic substances.
Which Health Issues can Fasting help or prevent?
The misconception is that fasting is a good way to jumpstart weight loss; however, this is not necessarily the case. According to WebMD, fasting actually slows down your metabolic rate, which means that your normal diet will become more fattening once you start eating again. In other words, weight loss from fasting usually doesn’t last. Although it is not the best weight loss tool, fasting can help:
- reduce chances of obesity
- reduce hypertension
- reduce asthma
- reduce chances of rheumatoid arthritis
- protect against diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Knowing this doesn’t necessarily mean you should jump into fasting right away. You should always take your individual health and limitations into account before you commit to fasting, whether it’s for one day or five days. This may mean asking your doctor first and thinking ahead of time about what you have to do the day or week you decide to fast.
What to Consider Before Fasting
Unfortunately, fasting isn’t the right thing for everyone, especially if you have health issues. If you decide to fast, there are a couple things you should think about beforehand. If you have any questions about your specific situation, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor. Here’s what to consider.
1. Will fasting make your health matters better or worse?
You shouldn’t commit to fasting right away if you have a health issue, especially one with dietary restrictions like Diabetes. Fasting with Diabetes can have serious health risks; therefore, you should do your research and ask your doctor before you begin fasting with such an illness.
Fasting with Diabetes
You have to be extremely careful when fasting with a health issue like Diabetes. If you’re taking insulin, not eating could significantly higher your risk for hypoglycemia(a.k.a. low blood glucose) according to Erika Gebel Berg from Diabetes Forecast. You may have to lower the amount of medication you take during fasting, but make sure with you doctor.
If you have talked to your doctor and want to try an intermittent fasting diet, you should monitor your blood glucose levels consistently and make sure they never dip below 70 mg/dl (Gebel Berg).
Fasting to Determine Dietary Restrictions
If you think you have a disease with a dietary restriction like Celiac disease but you’re not sure, fasting can help. You can fast for a day or so and then reintroduce specific foods into your diet to see how your body reacts. The combination of fasting and reintroducing foods can help you isolate the problem so you can alter your diet as necessary, according to Amy Shah from Greatist.
2. Is it the right time?
Although fasting can be beneficial for your health, there is no doubt that you will have less energy while fasting, at least at first. As a result, you shouldn’t commit to fasting when you know you have a task coming up that requires ample physical or mental strength to complete, like a soccer game or a big project at work.
How To Fast The Right Way
The right way to begin a fast is simple: ease into it. Just like you shouldn’t eat too much after being starved (Refeeding Syndrome, Medscape), you should not force yourself to go from eating three big meals every day to eating nothing right away. Your body would much rather you ease into the fasting process, according to Neuroscientist Mark Mattson.
Try intermittent fasting, at least at first. Instead of starting out eating nothing, skip one meal each day. Remember, the goal here is to give your body enough time to induce autophagy and produce ketone bodies, which takes 10-12 hours.
So, maybe you commit to not eating breakfast two days every week. If you go to bed around 11:00 p.m. and wake up around 7 or 8 p.m., you’ve already given your body about 8-12 hours of ketone body production time.
If you skip breakfast a couple days a week and then eat normally for lunch and dinner, you will have given your body even more time to produce Ketone bodies without having to starve yourself all day long. You can also skip dinner if you’d prefer to eat breakfast. Your fasting plan should depend on your likes, dislikes, schedule, and any health issues you may have.
Additionally, you should drink lots of pure water during fasting. Water actually helps the body deal with fasting by reducing hunger and keeping you hydrated, according to How to Fast. You can also drink tea or coffee if you’d like.
How To Cleanse the Right Way – Recap
Now that you’re an expert on fasting vs. detoxes and cleansing, you should be able to use fasting to stay healthy and prevent certain health problems. You should also be able to avoid spending money on products that don’t actually help. If you have ever tried a cleanse or a fasting pattern, leave me a reply in the comments and let me know how it went. I’d love to hear about your experience.
Keep in mind, I am not a doctor. I recommend you ask your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your body’s reaction to fasting before you decide to do it.
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