Why I'd ditch the detox tonics and stock up on water, fruit and veg
Published 14/01/2010 | 05:00
Headaches, increased perspiration, increased breath odour, spots, increased urination and bowel movements and mild fatigue.
These symptoms do not sound like the ideal way to kick-start the New Year. But if you want to purge the excesses of Christmas, these are the sort of side effects you might experience, according to some detox products available.
Of course these symptoms should quickly disappear and the idea is that by taking the tonic, herbs or vitamins, while also cutting back on red meat and increasing your fruit, veg and fluid intake, you'll feel and look a lot better afterwards.
There are plenty of products on the market that offer detoxifying solutions. Boots sell a Detox 35-Day Plan (€20), which contains a "unique formula to rebalance, purify and energise your system, leaving you looking and feeling revitalised", while the Boots Detox 5-Day Plan (€19.85), consists of an apple or strawberry flavoured antioxidant vitamin and mineral food supplement, which claims the same thing.
At time when money is short, detox products are costly, so are they worth it?
"In short, no," states Margot Brennan, spokeswoman for the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute.
"I can't comment on individual products but in general you do not need tonics to take toxins from your body."
Boots say "the word 'detox' is a popular, commonly used phrase, recognised by customers as a short-term action plan to kick start a healthier lifestyle".
They claim that "the Boots Detox Plans help people to commit to changing their eating habits by encouraging sensible eating through the guidance on pack, advising people to drink plenty of water and providing important antioxidant nutrients to supplement the diet".
Brennan explains that the body "has its own natural detox programme that works through the skin, lungs, liver, kidneys and bowel".
And she adds: "The body does the job extremely well." And it costs nothing. She says that these tonics, tablets and herbs shouldn't do you any harm but they do promise a lot so warns people to be careful. Brennan is also concerned about the idea of replacing meals with detoxing drinks for example.
This is a concern echoed by Aveen Bannon, Consultant Dietician at the Dublin Nutrition Centre.
"Be very careful if you plan to take an entire food group from your diet," Bannon warns. "If you cut out all fibre or all carbohydrates, as some plans might suggest, you will be tired and constipated."
Bannon believes that short-term detox plans have nothing to teach us about a good eating regimen.
"A lot of people's motivation for detoxing is actually weight loss, but short-term detoxing is not a long-term plan," she states.
"In fact," she continues, "it's all about a sensible approach to eating and having a balanced diet. Fill half of your plate with vegetables and make sure there is a lot of colour. You can buy frozen vegetables cheaply in the supermarket and these are arguably better than fresh vegetables sometimes as they picked and frozen while at their freshest."
But what about the fact that our systems may just need a little help after the eating and drinking festival of Christmas?
"To give your body a boost just increase your fruit and veg intake, eat fibre and wholemeal and drink plenty of water and fluids," advises Brennan, "and cut back on processed foods and alcohol."
"Hydration is the key," agrees Bannon, "and don't forget to exercise as well. You can also take a multivitamin if you want but if you take too many it won't make any difference at all -- in fact they'll just go straight through you."
If you really can't be bothered to eat more vegetables and drink more water, you might opt for Chi Detox Patches (€59.99 for 30). Unlike most other detox products that generally advise a positive change in eating habits, these say that "no diet changes are necessary".
In fact all you have to do is stick a patch on the sole of your foot and go to sleep. The product claims that toxins are removed by "a blend of herbs and minerals used in Chinese medicine".
"I'd like to see the data behind this type of product," exclaims Brennan.
"Where are the published articles in medical journals, where are the peer reviews? Huge claims should not be made without being substantiated."
It's New Year and you may want to start being healthier. Fruit and vegetables are not expensive. Going for a walk or a run in the park is free.
"People shouldn't bother with these products," claims Brennan, put your energy and money into changing eating habits instead. That's all your body needs to be efficient."