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Having access to the internet has made everybody an expert on the latest health crazes and trends. With the plethora of information available on how to eat right and practise self-care, it’s hard to wade through it all and know for sure what is factual and what is plain hype.
When it comes to fasting, one of the latest weight-loss crazes making the rounds, knowing whether or not it’s worth the hunger pangs is important. Fasting may be used for a variety of different health conditions, specifically detoxing the body of harmful chemicals and toxins. But can fasting help you detox, really? And is fasting safe? Let’s find out.
What is detoxing?
Detoxing is a bodily process that helps clear out toxins and other ‘bad’ chemicals that may be causing harm. Detoxification is done naturally through the liver, and if the liver is functioning properly, detoxing by other means may not be necessary at all.
The best bet when it comes to detoxing is practising healthy habits that will boost the natural function of the liver and immune system. If these are functioning correctly, toxins in the body will be filtered out the good old-fashioned way. The majority of promises or health claims made by online articles or companies aren’t backed by science and can detract from real methods of encouraging the body to detox on its own.
Can fasting help you detox?
Fasting is abstinence from eating foods of any kind for an extended period of time. Generally, fasting only lasts eight to twelve hours following a meal. However, a lot of people who have hopped on the fasting train for weight loss purposes tend to refrain from eating for at least 16 hours a day. This particular type of fast is called intermittent fasting. During intermittent fasting, there are eating periods and no-eating periods. It has been speculated that this type of fast helps speed up the metabolic process and encourage a healthy weight.
Other cycles included in the intermittent fasting category include the 5:2 diet (or eat-stop-eat fast), which involves choosing two days of the week to eat little to no food at all while eating regularly for the other five days; and the Warrior Diet, which consists of one large meal per day.
Another type of fast that has become popular in the diet and fitness community is the macronutrient fast. This doesn’t involve abstaining from food altogether, but limiting or eating more of certain macronutrients. The macronutrients that are tweaked in this fast are proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
It’s important to remember that fasts are not for everyone, and one should always discuss the best course of action for their own diet and fitness goals with their doctor prior to starting on a new fasting course.
Is fasting safe when detoxing?
Some of the promises many companies make when marketing detox supplements and fasting can be downright harmful to people, especially if they suffer from a chronic illness. Studies have shown that detoxing the body through fasting can be effective, but these studies have been small with insignificant results, and the claims are not yet backed by scientific fact.
Unfortunately, with so little information to back up health claims that fasting can lead to detoxification, participating in intermittent fasting or juicing cleanses can be dangerous without proper medical supervision. Several detox products have even been shown to make patients’ health worse because of their harmful ingredients. Products that encourage the evacuation of the intestines and gastrointestinal tract can lead to severe dehydration caused by diarrhoea, and the limiting of calories can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Is fasting safe when you have a chronic illness?
Prior to starting any new diet or regime, patients should discuss their options, specific goals and current health issues with a medical care provider. Because no two bodies are alike, what works for one person may not work for another. This means that even if someone you know has had great success with fasting and detoxification, it does not mean it will have the same effect on you.
For those who suffer from chronic illnesses, proper immune function and the amount of nutrients consumed on any given day are incredibly important to overall health. Because of this, fasting may not be a good route towards detoxification, because it can actually exacerbate many symptoms including fatigue, headaches and gastrointestinal issues.
How to detox through fasting
Now that you’re aware of the risks and claimed health benefits, is fasting a good way to detox? Simply put, there is not enough information out there to claim that it is safe for everyone. The best way to detox is to improve liver function.
This can be done in a number of ways. Eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals while avoiding saturated fat and processed carbohydrates is the first step towards a healthy liver. Regular exercise will also encourage the healthy function of the body, along with the avoidance of alcohol. Alcohol damages the liver and can even lead to cirrhosis. Over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen have also been known to cause liver damage, so avoiding those unless completely necessary will help keep your liver healthy, happy and running at its best.