Spring has come around again (all too quickly) and suddenly we are bombarded with body detoxes, cleanses and spring cleans flooding the media… So do you really need to restart/kickstart/reset your body?

Alkaline diets that propose to detox or cleanse your body of all ‘toxins’ appear to be one of the newest crazes among the fad-dieting world. They promise weight loss, increased metabolism, more energy, clearer skin, improved digestion, increased alertness and even to cure diseases such as diabetes and cancer. But does the evidence actually support their use?

The hypothesis behind detoxes and cleanse diets is that certain ‘toxic’ foods result in excess acid production and changes in blood pH, which if not neutralized (by ‘alkaline’ foods or expensive supplements), can lead to certain diseases and weight gain. On a detox or cleanse diet, intake of dairy, meat, alcohol, sugar and coffee is restricted, and these foods are replaced with plant foods and wholegrains. So, safe to say your variety and intake of food is quite restricted while on a detox or cleanse. Any weight loss achieved is more a consequence of the restrictions applied by this type of diet, rather than the elimination of ‘toxins’ or ‘acid producing foods’.

While the rationale behind maintaining the body’s pH is actually correct – if the pH were to fall outside of a normal range, the body’s cells would stop working and eventually die, leading to serious illness and potentially death – the food we eat cannot affect the pH of our blood, which is where detoxes, cleanses and alkaline diets are wrong. Healthy adults have extraordinary systems within the body capable of removing any toxins. Our lungs, kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal and immune systems are all highly evolved to remove and neutralise any ‘toxic’ foods within hours after we eat them. As a result, foods, whether acidic or alkaline, cannot change the pH of our blood. This has been confirmed by numerous scientific studies.

The studies conducted have also shown that detoxes, cleanses and alkaline diets neither prevent nor cure cancer, diabetes or cardiovascular disease. They also limit our intake of certain nutrients, increasing the risk of nutrient deficiencies. As well as increasing the risk of nutrient deficiencies, detoxes and cleanses enforce large energy deficits, which may result in weight loss in the short term, but any weight lost (plus possibly more) is generally regained quickly after ceasing the detox or cleanse.

Instead of a detox or cleanse, focus on a healthy, balanced eating pattern that incorporates plenty of vegetables, legumes and wholegrains, moderate amounts of red meat, chicken, fish, fruit and dairy, and small amounts (or none) of processed and nutritionally poor foods, such as cakes, biscuits, fried foods, chips, chocolate, soft drinks and alcohol. Your body will love you more for it, than if you were to go on a “health revitalizing” cleanse, detox or alkaline diet.

If you’re confused about nutrition, need help with developing a balanced diet, or need more information about making good food choices – call 1300 27 37 47 to secure an appointment with Katie Drury, leading Accredited Dietitian on the Coffs Coast.

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