If you’re hoping to lose a few pounds as well as achieve radiant skin and an abundance of energy, you may be drawn to the idea of a 7-Day Detox. Proponents claim it will help you achieve all of the above, but are there any side effects you should be aware of?
We speak to a medical expert about the facts, to find out whether a 7-Day detox is all it’s cracked up to be:
What is a 7-Day Detox?
While the clue is in the name (you follow a ‘detoxifying’ diet for a whole week), there are many different variations of the 7-Day Detox, depending on the particular plan you follow and which dietary restrictions it imposes.
Lauded as a far less extreme detox than other versions, 7-Day Detox normally involves ‘clean eating’
Lauded as a far less extreme detox than other versions, such as the juice diet, a 7-Day Detox normally involves ‘clean eating’ – consuming an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, while eliminating alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, salt, red or processed meat, dairy, wheat, crisps, sauces and fizzy drinks from your diet.
Depending on the plan you choose to follow, many 7-Day detoxes will also allow beans and lentils, oats, tofu, unsalted nuts, seeds, fish and dairy-free milk alternatives, such as almond milk. You are also encouraged to drink herbal teas and lots of water.
The main aim of any detoxifying diet is to help rid your body of toxins, by allegedly stimulating the liver and encouraging toxin elimination via waste products – faeces, urine and sweat. Other supposed benefits include weight loss, improved circulation and radiant skin. Sounds good, yes?
While detox diets remain popular, concrete scientific research into their effectiveness is lacking.
However, while detox diets remain popular, concrete scientific research into their effectiveness is lacking. No randomised, controlled trials have been conducted to assess the effectiveness of these types of diets in humans, and the studies that have been done are hampered by small sample sizes and flawed methodologies.
However, it goes without saying that by following a detox diet and eating ‘clean’, you will be increasing your intake of fresh fruit and veg, thereby upping your vitamin and mineral intake, which is a definite positive.
Anecdotally, some people do report feeling healthier and more energised following a detox. However, this could be due to the lack of alcohol and processed foods in their diet, rather than being a sign of detoxification.
While the New Year is likely to prove popular once more for the 7-Day Detox, health professionals do have concerns over these types of diets, which severely limit calorie intake and cut out major food groups.
If you cut out specific food groups, you could be depriving yourself of essential nutrients.
‘If your detox requires you to cut out specific food groups, you could be depriving yourself of essential nutrients,’ reveals Dr Julianne Barry, general practitioner at London Doctors Clinic . ‘This can weaken your immune system, making it easier for you to become ill. In addition, if you cut out all fatty foods, absorbing fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E and K, may prove problematic. These vitamins are necessary, as they help to support your immune system, so lacking them could cause future issues.’
Potential detox side effects
Dr Barry also warns that cutting out carbs altogether can lead to a variety of unpleasant side effects. ‘If the diet is very low on carbohydrates, your body may start to break down fatty acids to produce ketones, which can lead to various issues including nausea, bad breath, and liver and kidney problems.’
A sudden change in diet could play havoc for your bowels, resulting in tummy pain and upset.
Dr Barry also warns that a sudden change in diet could play havoc for your bowels, resulting in tummy pain and upset, and that the lack of calories can alter your metabolic rate (the number of calories you burn while at rest), which can ultimately result in you quickly regaining weight, once you revert to a normal eating pattern.
But the concerns aren’t just physical. ‘Your mental health may also be affected,’ warns Dr Barry. ‘If you’re not eating enough of the right nutrients, you may experience heightened stress levels, leading to irritability, increased risk of depression, poor concentration and disturbed sleep, which can lead to mental fatigue.’
7-Day Detox: the verdict
While there are clearly some benefits to upping your fruit and veg intake, and decreasing the amount of processed foods and alcohol you ingest, without any clear scientific backing it’s hard to say for sure whether a detoxifying diet is of benefit.
If you are intent on trying a 7-Day Detox, check out your options first. While some are highly restrictive, others put the focus very much on healthy eating, allowing you to eat a variety of whole grains and protein sources, which will be better for your overall health.