Detox diets are popular with celebrities and mere mortals too, but do they actually help your body detoxify? Proponents of detox diets believe restricting your dietary intake to a small range of healthy whole foods over a number of days or weeks, will allow your body to eliminate nutritional and environmental toxins.

What does a detoxification diet do for your body?
Believers claim that a detox diet, undertaken on a regular basis, will cleanse the body of toxins and improve the general health of body and mind. Benefits of detoxing your body can include:

  • Cleansing of the digestive system and colon for improved digestion, better absorption of nutrients and reduced bloating.
  • Fewer food sensitivities or allergic responses to foods such as wheat, dairy products and yeast.
  • Improved circulation and liver function for better elimination of toxins.
  • Increased energy levels, a feeling of vitality and improved quality of sleep.
  • Balanced pH levels in the body, with less acidity and greater alkalinity for greater overall health.
  • Weight loss and the beginning of a healthy attitude towards food and eating habits.
  • Reduced occurrence of chronic ailments and illnesses, such as eczema, headaches, nerve damage, insomnia and ulcers.

During the process of detoxification, it is common to suffer from headaches, skin breakouts and other side effects. This is normal: as your body releases unwanted substances, they will be expelled from your body. If side effects are severe, stop the diet and consult a doctor or other medical practitioner.

What detox diets are available?
There are a number of diets touted as detox miracles and made popular by Hollywood celebrities. Some are more extreme than others, but whatever detox diet you choose, remember - these are short-term diet solutions for better health. Always consult a certified medical practitioner before making any significant change in your diet.

While detox diets do not offer a long-term weight control solution, they can be useful in allowing you to regularly detoxify your body (on an annual or six-monthly basis). A period of conscious healthy eating is also great if you want to kickstart a new healthy eating regime and see a fast improvement in general wellbeing.

Lemon detox diet
The lemon detox diet plan is designed for short-term use only - between three and ten days. The diet requires that each day you consume only a cleansing drink made from:

  • 1.5 litres of water
  • 12 Tbsp pure maple syrup (no added sugar)
  • 12 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper

This sounds vile, but actually tastes quite good! A gentle laxative tea or sea salt water mix can also be drunk to help eliminate the build-up of toxins. This is essentially a low-calorie diet which will result in short-term weight loss and a cleansed digestive system.

Liver detox diet
Less extreme in nature, the classic liver detox diet program promotes the eating of healthy, easily digested foods. The premise is to give your liver - and your digestive system - a break for anywhere between five and thirty days. For this time:

  • Eliminate dairy products, meat, sugar and processed foods from your diet. Replace these with whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and sources of protein such as nuts and seeds.
  • Drink two to three litres of water each day.
  • Avoid foods that are high in saturated fat.

An average day’s meals might be:

  • Thirty minutes before breakfast: 2 glasses of warm water with freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  • Breakfast: Fresh fruit with 3 Tbsp of LSA (a mixture of ground linseed, sunflower seeds and almonds, in a ratio 3:2:1)
  • Lunch: Wholemeal bread with avocado, lettuce, tomato, bean sprouts and hummus.
  • Dinner: Steamed vegetables with tofu.

7 day detox diet
As when you follow the liver cleansing diet, the seven-day detox diet requires a change in eating habits - avoiding processed, sugary, fatty and salty foods and embracing foods in their natural state. This diet suggests:

  • Eat only unprocessed, preferably organic, foods with no added sugar, preservatives or salt. You can eat brown rice, grilled fish, steamed and raw vegetables, fruit and nuts. Olive oil, balsamic vinegar or lemon juice can be used for dressing and cooking of foods.
  • Avoid dairy foods and wheat. Use alternative grains, such as buckwheat, rice, millet and quinoa.
  • Drink two to three litres of water each day.
  • Do light exercise for 30 minutes a day.
  • Drink one to two glasses of freshly squeezed vegetable juice each day - use any combination of cabbage, celery, green beans, parsley, broccoli and other fresh green vegetables.

After the detox diet is over
Once you’ve made it through the detox diet phase - however long you choose to do it - you will feel rejuvenated and cleansed. Whether or not there is any scientific basis to the claims of internal cleansing and digestive system clean-out, detox diets can only be good for your body. Generally, the less extreme they are, the better your chances will be of ongoing success with healthy eating.

Following your detox, try to incorporate the principles of health and nutrition in your eating habits - but let yourself have a treat now and then, and don’t be too hard on yourself! Good health is about having a healthy attitude towards food, eating to satisfy your hunger and including a balanced range of good, nutritious foods.