Go with your gut: Maybe you should think twice about that detox
Celebrities have boosted its popularity, but experts remain divided over its efficacy
Even if you’re not part of the Veganuary or Dry January mob, chances are that festive-season excesses and new-year resolutions have left you feeling you should start 2019 on a healthier footing.
Wellness coach Vatiswa Mavume, from Melkbosstrand in Cape Town, admitted that after looking after their health throughout 2018, she and some of her clients ate more sugary and fatty foods in the past few weeks.
That’s why they are embarking on a 21-day challenge during which they will down a protein shake twice a day, drink lots of aloe water and green tea, and eat mainly low-carb salads and lean meats.
This is the diet, said Mavume, that has helped her to lose more than 30kg in the past three years.
Not only did she lose weight but her metabolic health improved and she regained energy. This stay-at-home mom was so inspired by her healthy lifestyle that she decided to become a wellness coach to help others “eat clean” and lose weight.
“I weighed 86kg when I started, but now I weigh about 55kg,” she said. “I don’t like to refer to this way of eating as a detox programme or diet, as there is negative connotation associated with such diets, but essentially it cleanses your body of all the bad stuff that your body doesn’t need.
“It’s not an easy thing to drink water or take a shake when you are used to eating a heavy breakfast, but it’s doable as long as you are mentally strong and willing to stick to your goals.”
But experts have warned that so-called detox diets may sometimes do more harm than good.
Retha Booyens, a registered dietitian and a spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in SA (Adsa), said fad diets could cause unpleasant side-effects such as cramping, bloating, nausea, vomiting and dizziness.
And they also interfered with healthy bacteria in the colon and could result in dehydration, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and damage to the kidneys and heart.
“There is no scientific evidence proving the efficacy of detoxes on long-term weight loss. Detoxification is a continuous process that the body performs naturally … not just a quick phase,” said Booyens.
She cautioned that people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and liver disease, and pregnant and breastfeeding women, should steer clear of “cleansing diets” because they may lack proper nutrients.
Detox diets recently came under fire from British TV star and actress Jameela Jamil, who criticised rapper Cardi B for promoting “nonsense detox tea”.
The rapper had posted a video praising a tea company that apparently helped curb her appetite and lose weight after she gave birth to her daughter, Kulture.
Jameela, who has used diet supplements and diuretics that left her with digestive and metabolic problems, lambasted the celebrity in a tweet: “They got Cardi B on the laxative nonsense ‘detox’ tea. GOD I hope all these celebrities all s*** their pants in public, the way the poor women who buy this nonsense upon their recommendation do.”
Many celebrities, including Beyoncé, have promoted quick-fix diets such as going vegan for a few weeks or eating raw foods only to lose weight for a role or a show.
Dietitian Elienne Horwitz said there was no need to detox our bodies: “Detoxing is another fad. There is no research to indicate that we need to detox our bodies. Our kidneys, livers and gut do that all day, every day.”
Annelie Smith, a Cape Town dietitian, said detoxification was beneficial to the body and could result in weight loss if done correctly. However, there were dangers.
“Many people do things like enemas, long-term juicing and water fasts, which can be dangerous if not done under supervision of qualified practitioners,” she said.
“People often think that taking herbal remedies is harmless, but it can be harmful for certain people and is not advisable if not done under proper supervision.
“The digestion of food and stomach acid production is very important for the gut, and using digestive aids such as digestive enzymes or lemon water in the morning may be beneficial. “Ensuring adequate intake of fibre such as oats, nuts, celery and seeds is important for proper elimination, while foods such as sprouts, broccoli and cabbage enhance function of the liver enzymes. This is one of the reasons I am not a fan of long-term juicing programmes.”