Detox: The Path to Purity or Hot Air Hype?

Image courtesy of rawfairies.com

If you've ever wanted a quick-fix diet to help you look svelte before a holiday or an important event, felt tired and stressed and as though the food you eat is conspiring to make you feel even worse, or if you've simply had a few too many late nights and margaritas, I'll wager that you've considered a detox as your top solution.

Ask your friends about their detox experiences and you'll hear of it taking making forms. Two years ago, I managed two days on fruit, veg and water, got dreadful headaches and then fell headlong into a bag of bagels; my friend Maria had some strawberry flavoured powder that was to be consumed before meals, claiming to erradicate toxins and smelling a wee bit vile to me; plus, we both had colonics to mixed reviews (Maria: good. Me: not so good!) Maybe Maria and I are just suckers for the next big health hype, but given that we all want to look and feel our best, it's easy to see how we fall for these great promises.

Typing 'detox' into Google generates an incredible 10,200,000 returns. The process is defined as the body's natural means of eliminating toxins, some of which occur naturally (for example, the ammonia produced by your body when processing proteins), and others which are acquired from an external source (such as pollution and cigarette smoke). It's something which our bodies do every single day, with organs such as the kidneys, liver and skin playing a key role in eliminating nasties and keeping us healthy.

So, if part of our bodies' daily function is to eliminate toxins, how is it that a multi-million pound industry has formed, promising clear skin, weight loss and improved vitality and mental clarity? Is it possible that there are some toxins that our bodies can't eliminate? The medical community thinks not. In 2006, the Medical Health Care Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) investigated several companies who were deemed to provide products that made claims which could not be verified. In order to advertise medical benefits, a product has to undergo rigorous testing. A leading Toxicologist at London's Imperial College said of detox:

"The body’s own detoxification systems are remarkably sophisticated and versatile. They have to be, as the natural environment that we evolved in is hostile. It is remarkable that people are prepared to risk seriously disrupting these systems with unproven ‘detox’ diets, which could well do more harm than good."

However, Raw Fairies, one of London's most renowned food delivery companies, specialising in nutriotionally balanced raw food, explain the detox process as
something which "can be a critical element of your long term strategy for maintaining health, especially when living in a polluted, fast-paced city like London. Many clients cleanse regularly throughout the year as part of their toolkit for looking and feeling their best". No matter how often I hear medical contradictions about the benefits of detox, the meals prepared by the Raw Fairies look so deliciously healthy, that I can't imagine any negative benefits!

I was interested to read that Ruth of
A Model Recommends had recently tried the three day Nosh detox with some great results: she reported that she was more aware of what and how much she ate and felt lighter and trimmer afterwards, but the videos she made during the detox showed just how much it affected her ability to concentrate and recall information while she was on the programme.

Detox is a key component of Ayurveda, but undertaking a detox is recommended when you are able to take time out from your normal schedule and can rest and sleep as much as you feel your body needs. In 2008, Calgary Avansino of Vogue undertook the Raw Fairies
12 day Botanical Cleanse whilst still working and maintaining a social life, which sounded like quite a challenge, but ended with her feeling that she 'never wanted to contaminate (her) body again'. I have to confess to being very intrigued by the Raw Fairies approach, and have been an ardent viewer of their website since they started out, always wondering if now is the right time to try. Maybe now that I'm asking the questions, I should take the plunge!

In terms of colonics, from my experience, I don't think I could recommend them. Our colons are filled with 'friendly' bacteria - it keeps everything in our gut nice and healthy - and post-colonic you are prescribed a pre-biotic to help everything 'bloom' again. Why? Because it washes away a lot of that good bacteria and disrupts your natural chemical balance, leaving an environment primed for the bad bacteria to thrive. I had two weeks of feeling absolutely vile, and looked pale and tired while my body worked hard to get back to normal. Although they can help reduce bloating in some cases and almost always result in a few pounds 'weight' loss, there is no proven medical benefit to colonic irrigation ('weight' is in inverted commas as you aren't losing fat, you're just clearing out the waste. If you want the scales to temporarily read lower than normal, fine, but this isn't an effective or long term solution to weight loss and should not be viewed as such).

At the moment, I'm on the fence about detoxing, but will keep you posted if I decide to take the plunge with Raw Fairies. I'm also really curious to know about your detox experiences. Is it something you've tried with positive results or does the very thought of changing and restricting your diet make you want to reach for the biscuit tin?!

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Disclaimer: Please bear in mind that I am not a doctor or nutritionist, and any detox process that you undertake should take into account your individual health needs. If you are pregnant, taking any medication or have a health condition, please speak to you GP or family doctor before undertaking any restrictive eating programme.

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