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Health & Nutrition
Dimitar Marinov
Senior Product Researcher MD, PhD, Assistant Professor

The connection between detoxification & weight loss

 

Your body is exposed to toxins all the time. And your liver, kidneys, skin, lungs, and digestive system work all the time to detox and cleanse you of these toxins.

Unfortunately, factors such as weight gain, unhealthy diet, and alcohol consumption can impede your body's natural detox ability, so you may need extra help.

But before you dive into the restrictive cleanse & detox plan, there is something important to consider.

A typical detoxification may result in quick weight loss but deprives your body of key nutrients and causes muscle loss. This can do you more harm than good in the long run. Not to mention that most people regain weight quickly after the cleanse.

In such cases, employing a healthy detox diet that is much simpler and more sustainable may be a good idea. One that will help you lose weight, avoid unhealthy foods and ultimately improve the function of your organs.

Keep reading to find out more about how healthy detoxification diets work and how one can help you shed extra pounds to improve your health.

 

 

Where did the idea of detox diets come from?

 

Most people get it all wrong when it comes to detoxification and weight loss. There is a common belief that it is the accumulation of toxins in your body that prevents you from losing weight 

Hence, the idea is that you need to detox to get rid of the toxins and kick-start your weight loss. The purported solution is to simply do a juice cleanse with various detox drinks such as green tea or detox water with lemon juice and flush out toxins while cutting on all other foods. 

This strategy does work for weight loss, simply because drinking only juices reduces your energy intake, and your body has to use your body fat reserves.

In fact, it works very quickly because consuming no solid foods for several days creates a huge energy deficit leading to fast weight loss.

But unfortunately, you can't maintain such a regime for long, or your body will start developing deficiencies. And once the detoxification is over, going back to your old diet will revert your progress, and you may regain your weight.

The compromised sustainability of this approach makes it a recipe for yo-yo dieting.

Moreover, an aggressive detox may make you lose muscle. Studies show that this may slow down your metabolism and make weight regain even worse than before [1].

 

 

What does detoxification have to do with weight loss?

 

 

If you are overweight or obese, then detoxification and weight loss should go hand in hand. But not that the accumulation of toxins prevents you from shedding those extra pounds.

The relationship between detoxification and weight loss is actually the other way around. It is having excess weight and body fat that prevents your body from detoxing normally and creates a serious health risk.

For example, studies show that obesity can negatively affect your liver's function and even induce a spectrum of liver disorders such as fatty liver disease (NAFLD) [2].

Furthermore, obesity increases the risk of kidney disease because of higher blood pressure and increased metabolic demands [3]

On the other hand, researchers reveal that weight loss can help improve the function of your liver, including its natural ability to detox and cleanse [4]. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can even revert some liver conditions such as NAFLD. 

But to do so, you need a weight loss approach that leads to lasting weight reduction and allows you to control your weight in the long run.

Therefore, an effective detoxification diet should help achieve steady and sustainable weight loss, leading to long-term health benefits rather than short-term changes.

 

 

Why is it important to detox your body for weight loss?

 

By improving the function of your liver and other internal organs, detoxification can also promote metabolic health benefits, which is important for weight loss.

That's because detoxification can help lower the fat that accumulates around your organs, also known as visceral fat.

If you have too much visceral fat, scientists report that you may be at an increased risk of high cholesterol levels, elevated triglycerides, hypertension, insulin resistance, and chronic inflammation [5].

In the long term, these health problems can progress into heart disease and type 2 diabetes and may even increase cancer risk.

Due to its location around and inside your organs, visceral fat is also known as hidden fat, and it is more difficult to measure compared to your subcutaneous fat.

According to experts, measuring your waist circumference is one of the most reliable methods to access it. That's because visceral fat is usually proportional to your abdominal and total subcutaneous fat [6].

Waist circumference higher than 102 cm in men and 88 cm in women is a reliable indicator of visceral obesity [7]

Your waist-to-hip ratio is another valuable parameter, and it should be lower than .85 for women and .90 for men [8]

A detox diet that helps you lose weight can also aid in abdominal fat loss as well as a reduction in visceral obesity.

 

 

What is a detox diet for weight loss?

 

 

A successful detox diet for weight loss is any diet that helps you lose weight sustainably and improve the function of your liver and digestive system. To do so, it must comply with the following recommendations:

  • make sure that at least half of every meal is fruits or vegetables (or both)
  • drink plenty of water - at least 2 liters for women and 3 liters for men per day
  • choose whole grains over refined grains
  • avoid sugary foods and drinks
  • avoid processed foods
  • choose fat-free dairy instead of full-fat

A cleanse, and detox diet should also involve healthy dietary habits which help improve the function of your digestive system and lowers the risk of diseases

Some of the best tips you include to improve your digestion are:

  • Eat smaller portions
  • Consume enough fiber (at least 35g per day)
  • Plan your daily meals ahead of time
  • Chew slowly, and do not distract yourself while eating
  • Keep in mind that even some healthy foods, such as olive oil, can lead to weight gain when over-consumed.

 

 

What to avoid while detoxing?

 

 

Don't starve yourself

A "juice cleanse" can help you lose weight quickly. This is quite motivating but highly unsustainable. 

Being on a highly restrictive juice cleanse can last only a few days before your body starts losing muscle and developing deficiencies.

On the other hand, returning to your previous diet will also bring back any weight you have lost and maybe even some extra on top of that.

To prevent that, you should avoid starving yourself and instead aim for a more sustainable diet, such as one that is based on unprocessed foods.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are a great option to focus on as they are unprocessed, low in calories, and quite rich in nutrients.

In fact, fruits and vegetables are an important part of any detox diet. But, instead of turning them into juice or a smoothie, try to consume them whole or cut them into a salad, as chewing them also helps increase satiation [9].

Another thing to consider adding to your meal plan is sulfur-containing foods such as eggs, onions, broccoli, and garlic. They are also great unprocessed options, and studies show they are effective in improving your ability to excrete toxins [10]

Sulfur-containing foods support the normal function of glutathione, which is one of your body's main natural detox and cleanse mechanisms.

 

 

Avoid alcohol

Avoiding any alcohol is one of the best ways to detox and cleanse your liver. That's because any amount of alcohol acts as a poison for your liver and damages its structures.

Studies show that it is the metabolites of alcohol that damage the liver, cause inflammation and exert direct toxicity [11].

Thanks to the large regenerative capacity of the liver, it can manage the consumption of small amounts of alcohol over long periods of time before serious damage occurs.

Many people also believe that small amounts of alcohol are healthy, as certain drinks such as wine are rich in antioxidants which help fight oxidative stress.

However, the latest research shows that's not the case [12]. According to the researchers, the presence of ethanol in every alcoholic beverage significantly outweighs any potential benefit; and makes it unhealthy in any amount.

But before replacing any alcohol you consume with fruity and sugary juices, keep in mind that consuming whole fruit has much more health benefits. Turning your fruits into juice deprives them of their fiber and leaves just the sugar content.

So if you are looking for something to drink, remember that water is the best detox drink that is also good for weight loss. If plain water doesn't sound appealing enough to you, you can try adding pieces of fruit to it or lemon juice for extra flavor and nutrients.

 

 

Cut down on processed food

Avoiding processed foods should be the focus of any detoxification diet for weight loss. That's because processed foods are generally filled with calories but are deprived of essential vitamins and minerals that support your health.

The most common examples of processed foods are different convenience foods such as fast foods, fried foods, sugary foods, and soft drinks.

Even if frying was the only method of processing, this could dramatically reduce the levels of many vitamins and minerals in the food. According to research, many processed foods, such as processed meat, are also carcinogens [13], [14].

What is more, processed and junk foods pack a lot of calories in a relatively small size, and they are full of fat, making them quite palatable. Therefore, it becomes incredibly easy to overeat on them and gain weight.

Studies clearly show that higher consumption of processed food is associated with an increased risk of obesity and related chronic diseases such as heart problems [15].

Processed foods are also often stuffed with sodium and hidden sugars, which also adds to the palatability, making you eat even more empty calories.

To exclude processed foods completely, planning your meals in advance is a great strategy because it means you no longer have to look for last-minute meal options. Also, avoid buying and keeping any processed food at home as their palatability can be quite tempting.

Instead, focus on keeping healthy foods in your home and in close reach. A great tip is to keep a bowl full of fruits in a central place in your room, as it will make it easier for you to just grab a piece of healthy food on the go.

 

Note: This article is for informational purposes only and not intended for use as medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any dietary supplement.

Dimitar Marinov
Senior Product Researcher MD, PhD, Assistant Professor
Dr. Marinov is a licenced physician and scientist with years of experience in clinical and preventive medicine, medical research, nutrition and dietetics. His research is focused primarily on nutrition and physical activity as preventive measures to improve and preserve human health. He is passionate about creating evidence-based content about various medical topics and takes great care in referencing every statement with high-quality evidence.
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