Recently a reader asked me what my thoughts on fasting and detoxing were. The lemon detox diet, a juice fast, a no food at all fast…they are all out there claiming to kick start the body, rid toxins, remove fat, drop kilograms, produce glowing skin….
People automatically expect that as a nutritionist, I would be into fasting and detoxing but I am not. At all. If we eat well and exercise each day then the body has no reason to have to fast nor detox.
Now I love anything that promoted healthy eating and a general detox as in ‘I’m going to eat more fresh fruit and veges and limit the processed food’ is all good, but it’s the 3 day juice cleanses and the lemon detox, no real food diets that are frightening.
When we fast we are putting our body in starvation mode.
It’s basic physiology and this is how it works:
- During a fast our primal instinct kicks in and thinks that seen it hasn’t received any food, we must be lost in the dessert with no food in sight. When you fast, your body doesn’t just know that in 1, 2 days (the miraculous figure you have decided upon) you will be feeding it again. It instinctively believes it won’t be eating food for who knows how much longer (we know it will only be a 24 hour, or 3 day fast… but our body doesn’t know that!).
- Hormones that weren’t meant to get released get released, blood sugar levels go all over the place and the body basically STRESSES out!
- Our metabolism (our little inner engine) slows down and holds onto any food we did have in there. So when people fast to kick-start their system, it is in fact slowing everything down making it harder to shift weight.
- Our metabolism switches to break down our fat stores in order to fuel our body. Great, wonderful, awesome you say? Well so to do the ‘pro fasters’ that don’t understand biochemistry. Our body produces nasty ketones as a byproduct of fasting, acidic harmful waste products which can actually cause coma and death ( they can also make you cranky and confused). These ketones disrupt the finely tuned processes of our body, making our blood acidic, something our blood is never supposed to be.
- There’s also a risk that when the fast has finished, we may binge eat as soon as we allow our body access to food.
Our body can detox itself every second of the day
Our body is the most intricate, most miraculous little machine that continuously ‘cleanses’ itself every single second of the day. It constantly gets rid of toxins through the wonder that is urine! Urine is the waste product produced by our body removing gunk from our cells. The gunk gets taken to our blood, which gets taken to our kidney, which gets filtered through a million little filters called ‘nephrons’ which extract all the gunk, put it in a liquid called urine and we get rid of it…you know how.
Now, that’s just one example, without going into sweat (yes it’s to cool us down but also a way of to get gunk from the inside to the outside), the liver, the spleen…..
Fasting places stress on the body. Stress causes damage to cells. Life is stressful enough and we produce enough free radicals by factors we can’t control such as ageing, pollution, illness without putting our body through a fast as well.
Not to mention our mind. Ever tried to go without food for the day? I have never heard of any single human being that doesn’t get the cranks, the grumps, the shocking memory or the absolute and utter stress that fasting or restricting of food places upon our brain and mood.
Life throws so many things at us every single day for our brains to have to decipher and think about, as well as moods that we have to try to control. The brain needs food to keep thinking and processing and sending messages to every single cell in our body to work. Every time you lift your finger, it’s your brain that has sent a message to your finger. Every time you need to have patience with someone (friends, hubby, kids), it’s your brain that’s given you the patience. Every time you have a loving thought towards someone close to you, it’s your brain cells that have done that. Amazing isn’t it!
In a nutshell fasting is no quick fix for unhealthy eating or living such as smoking, binge drinking of binge eating. Had a big weekend of doughnuts, lemon pie, and margaritas? Sorry, a fast won’t fix it.
Give your body and particularly your brain as much nutritious fuel as you can so that it can keep on doing all of those things it was designed to do, and let it do those things well. This, is healthy living.
Put your body under less stress and eat good healthy food, lots of water, green tea, fresh fruit and vegetable juices,sleep well, limit alcohol, don’t go overboard on meat, cut back on caffeine and limit added table sugar…stress less, exercise and that is the most powerful and effective cleanse and detox every single day of the week for a healthy and happy body and mind.
Stay happy and healthy,
The Nutrition Guru