Are fad health plans all they are cracked up to be?
By Kelsey DeClue
Detox diets claim to clean the blood and eliminate harmful toxins from the body. These diets are generally short-term interventions that involve a period of fasting, followed by a strict diet of fruit, vegetables, fruit juices and water. Sometimes a detox diet also includes herbs, teas, supplements and colon cleanses or enemas. Doing all of these claims to allow the body’s digestive system to rest by fasting, stimulate the liver to get rid of toxins, promote toxin elimination through feces, urine and sweat, improve circulation and provide the body with healthy nutrients.
“Although there is substantial research supporting the presence of environmental toxins in the human body and the negative health effects of these substances, there is no evidence that popular detox diets have any effect on toxin elimination,” says registered dietician and nutritionist Amanda Brown. “The human body serves its own detoxification, with the liver, kidneys, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems all working together each day to rid the body of toxins.”
Brown says consumers should be wary of any diet that encourages you to eliminate a certain food group. For someone to be healthy they need to eat from all of
the food groups to best meet their nutritional needs. Eliminating certain food groups for an extended period of time and cause you to be deficient in various nutrients. Anything you can’t follow long term, is likely not a good plan. For example a low-carb diet works in the short term, but what happens when you start to introduce those carbs back into your diet?
“Honestly, all of us are on a diet. The term diet should not have a negative connotation; it just means the sum of food that is consumed by a person or organism,” says Brown. One of the best ideas to follow is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. You should pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, lean proteins and seafood, and then dairy. “There are a few “center isles” exceptions, such as legumes, rice and oats, etc., but avoid the bakery and deli,” she says.
Is gluten-free all it’s hyped up to be?
First, it was fat. Then sugar. Now, gluten also claims a top spot on the list of dietary villains.
People with a condition called celiac disease can’t digest this protein, found in wheat, barley and rye. For them, doctors order a gluten-free diet. For everyone else, cutting gluten may actually hurt your diet.
“Many people put themselves on the plan without visiting a doctor,” says
Dr. Kristen Swanson with Community Health Network. “But, only about 1 percent of the population has celiac disease, with about 1.6 million Americans follow a gluten-free diet.” The reasons are many: some hope to ease irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, diabetes, and other conditions. Others simply aim to lose weight.
“However, no evidence links forgoing gluten to weight loss,” says Swanson. “Plus, eliminating such a common ingredient may deprive you of nutrients.” About 20 to 38 percent of people with celiac disease are deficient in folate, vitamin A, calcium and other vitamins and minerals. Such shortfalls put many people — especially children — at risk for health problems.
If you have symptoms of celiac disease — such as gas or abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, skin rash and tingling hands and feet — see your doctor. And keep eating gluten in the meantime. Tests can detect celiac disease only if you have gluten in your system.
If your doctor advises a gluten-free diet, a dietitian can help you develop a nutritious, balanced plan.
Regardless of what’s popular, or what your motivation is, experts advise before starting any diet, do your research and speak with a dietitian or other knowledgeable healthcare professional. Detox and exclusionary diets can be useful in the short term, but the best thing to do is to eliminate the junk and start eating more whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Couple this with daily exercise and physical activity, adequate sleep, smaller portion sizes and plenty of water throughout each day.
Limit junk, fast and highly processed foods and enriched grains and you’ll have found a stable, lasting diet for a healthy lifestyle.