4 Detox Myths, Debunked
FORGET WHAT YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW ABOUT CLEANSES—YOU CAN RESET YOUR BODY WITHOUT EXTREME DIETS, SKETCHY SUPPLEMENTS, OR BOTTLE AFTER BOTTLE OF JUICE
The desire to detox usually hits one of two times: before a body-conscious event, like a beach vacation or wedding, or after a period of indulgence. The prospect of having professional photos taken or the bloated lethargy that follows a bacchanalian weekend can be enough to send you seeking a weight-loss quick fix—no matter how extreme, how obviously unhealthy, or how clearly unsustainable it may be. Before you fall into the crash-diet trap, consider an approach that is kinder on the body and that delivers results you can actually maintain.
What follows are four of the most common myths related to crash diets and extreme detoxes, along with practical tips for hitting your internal reset button the right way: guided by the wisdom of nutrition science and time-honored plant medicine.
Myth #1: Detoxing Means a Liquids-Only Diet
Juice cleanses had their moment in the mid-2000s—let’s leave them there, shall we? If you want to shed unwanted weight and bring balance back to your system, it’s crucial to give your body the nutrients it needs to do so. A liquids-only regimen like the dreaded Master Cleanse may give your body a break from the stress of digesting heavy foods, but that’s about all it gives you. And a break is only half the battle; you have to replace the foods you’re eliminating with foods that work for you by keeping your hormones in check, your metabolism fired up, and your gut microbiome in equilibrium.
When you cut out processed foods that scramble your body’s internal signaling, it should actually leave you feeling more satisfied.
In her book, The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution, Dr. Aviva Romm (who Sakara worked with to develop Level II: Detox, our whole-food elimination cleanse) discusses the importance of repairing the body with real food during a detox, because what "calories and nutrients [in food] are really doing is providing information to your cells, which in turn informs your mood, brain function, hormonal balance, and energy.” For a detox to work, you need to cleanse the body of foods that cause inflammation, not starve it of all nutrition entirely. “What you put into your body literally forms the building blocks of your life,” she explains. While a juice cleanse may seem virtuous, those pounds of spinach, beets, and carrots you’re sipping are stripped of their fiber and other nutrients, which sends the body into what Dr. Romm calls an “SOS state.” After just a few days, she explains, "your hunger hormones have a little chat and decide it’s time for you to pack on some weight and hold on to it. Your metabolic thermostat—your thyroid—gets dialed down in the process to make sure you’re not burning too much fuel.” It’s easy to be wooed by the initial results, like a flatter belly or more defined cheekbones, but these extreme deprivation cleanses are actually doing more harm in the long run, and keeping you further from your goals.
Surviving on nothing but lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper sounds like a recipe for hunger-induced delirium. But a well-designed detox shouldn’t leave you starving. When you cut out processed foods that scramble your body’s internal signaling, it should actually leave you feeling more satisfied. Refined sugar spike your blood sugar, throwing your glucose levels off and putting your body into a confused state where it thinks it’s hungry but actually isn’t. When you nurture your gut (which has a direct line to your brain) with whole, plant foods and nourishing fats instead, you shouldn’t be exceptionally hungry. And as an added benefit, you’ll be able to hone in on your body intelligence, decode the messages your body is sending you through its feelings of craving and satiety, and learn the difference between physical and emotional or mental hunger.
Myth #2: You’re Going to Feel Awful
If your detox program is calibrated properly—a perfect equation of nutrition, hydration, supplementation, and timing—there’s no reason you should feel like you were hit with a flu bug. You may even feel a burst of energy; this is because when you start burning stored fat instead of glucose, and your blood sugar and hormone levels begin to stabilize, leading to better-quality sleep and waking up brighter and more energized.
That said, a little sluggishness is to be expected during a detox, especially if you’re eating a lot less than you’re used to, or if you normally consume a lot of sugar or caffeine. (In fact, those symptoms can provide useful information to you about your habits.) Staying hydrated—and optimizing your drinking water with ionic minerals—goes a long way, as does eating enough fat (more on that later). Certain supplements can work wonders to ease symptoms during a detox program, like B complex vitamins, which improve mental clarity, NAC, which supports the liver (your body’s major cleansing organ), and probiotics and l-glutamine, both of which maintain gut health. Plant medicine, in the form of herbs and mushrooms, can also support the body during a cleanse by relieving stress, stimulating digestive enzymes, and helping the gut lining to heal itself.
The saying “an ounce of preparation is better than a pound of cure” applies here. How you feel on a detox is largely dependent on what you do before it even starts. The healthiest detoxes include an on- and off-ramp, so that the cleanse regimen isn’t such a shock to your system. Ease into any elimination program by cutting back on certain foods; taper your caffeine, sugar, and alcohol use; and keep up your supplement routine after the program is done.
you have to replace the foods you’re eliminating with foods that work for you by keeping your hormones in check, your metabolism fired up, and your gut microbiome in equilibrium.
Myth #3: Cut the Fat to Shed Fat
This is not just a detox and dieting myth, but an overall nutrition myth. Eating fat does not equal gaining fat. High-quality, unsaturated fats are what fuel your body, keep you satiated, enhance your concentration...and help you burn existing fat.
By now surely you’ve heard of the keto diet, which involves forcing the body into a metabolic state that uses stored fat for energy—called ketosis, hence the name—instead of its preferred energy source, a type of sugar called glucose. The diet severely reduces carbohydrates and loads the body with fats, with the goal of resetting the metabolism. Results include less bloat (because carbohydrates retain water), blood sugar stabilization, and of course, weight loss. Restriction of carbohydrates is nothing new in the diet world; perhaps you remember Atkins or the South Beach Diet? But while the long-term sustainability of the keto diet is controversial, you can borrow some keto principles to your benefit during a detox. Foods like unsweetened, fermented coconut kefir and MCT oil provide the body with a high-quality energy source during a cleanse that keeps you satisfied and recharges your metabolic state.
Myth #4: Detoxing is a Quick Fix
The pre-wedding or vacation crash diet is basically like hitting the weight loss panic button. The healthier outlook on detoxing is as a form of body maintenance. Think of it this way: you brush and floss your teeth every day, but you see the dentist twice a year for a deep clean, for x-rays to check out what’s happening below the surface, and to make sure everything is functioning properly. Detoxes work best when they punctuate an otherwise healthy lifestyle, anywhere from quarterly to monthly depending on your needs. (If you haven’t been brushing and flossing every day, that twice-yearly dentist visit can get painful and expensive.) That’s also the secret to maintaining your results, and making all that hard work worthwhile.
Though a detox can definitely help you look lean in a cocktail dress or feel confident in a bikini, those results are the tip of the iceberg. In doing a detox, you’re removing distractions, looking inward, listening closely to your body, and treating it to a little extra TLC. A detox isn’t only about taking things away. It’s about giving your body what it needs to regenerate and heal. And it should be a go-to tactic in your long-term healthy lifestyle strategy.
Detoxes may have gotten a bad reputation as a form of self-punishment for overindulgence or barbaric method of rapid weight loss. But done well, they can actually be a loving ritual of self-care, a means of slowing down and checking in with yourself, and a way of making your health a top priority, so that you can feel vibrant, energized, and fully dialed-in to life.
Learn More About Level II: Detox