For anyone looking to rejuvenate healthy for 2023, my advice is simple: avoid starting with a detox.
This time of year you’ll see commercials all the time making claims to “cleanse” or detoxify your body with this or that particular tea, supplement, or juice diet.
Not only are these products unnecessary, but they can have the opposite effect, especially when it comes to losing weight.
I don’t want to discourage anyone who wants to be healthier – and I have suggestions to help with that that are proven to work. First, let me explain why detoxes don’t work.
To anyone looking to rejuvenate healthy for 2023, my advice is simple: avoid starting with a detox, writes Dr. Megan Rossi (pictured).
Our body regularly comes into contact with toxins – in our food, through pollutants, even in the form of medicines. But we have very sophisticated detoxification processes to deal with it.
Much of the load falls on the liver. It breaks down toxins like alcohol and drugs, as well as parts of “bad” bacteria known as endotoxins, and old cellular debris, turning them into harmless byproducts.
The kidneys also play a role, “sifting out” waste that is then excreted from the body in the urine.
Down in the colon, a community of microbes (our microbiota) also keeps toxins from moving beyond our gut and into our bloodstream.
Meanwhile, hair-like structures in the lungs remove physical particles, while other systems help remove any airborne toxins.
Then there’s backroom support from systems like the lymphatic network, which help drain waste and toxins from tissues. And so it goes on, 24/7, day in and day out.
This process does not need to be enhanced or assisted unless you have a serious medical condition such as kidney failure (when you would need dialysis).
Many of the detox programs can actually undermine these systems by depriving them of the good nutrition they need to function optimally.
Did you know already?
Are you planning to hit the gym in the new year? Add raw ginger to your post-workout smoothie. It contains gingerol and shogaol with anti-inflammatory properties — a 2010 study in the Journal of Pain found that 2g of raw ginger reduced exercise-related muscle pain by up to 25 percent for 24 hours compared to a placebo.
Take the juicing detox where you only have fruit or vegetable juices. While juice contains water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C, it doesn’t provide enough fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin E, which is vital for fighting off infection and muscle function.
And your gut bugs will also lack the fiber they need to thrive (and as a reminder, these bugs protect against infection and break down food, releasing nutrients).
Juice diets are also low in protein, which can lead to muscle wasting — which in turn lowers the rate at which you burn calories through digestion and respiration (your basal metabolic rate). So this could lead to weight gain over the long term, not weight loss.
Other liquid diets — for example, where you only consume broth — are no better. Again, like the juice diets, they lack fiber and protein. And while you might hope to shed pounds quickly with these approaches, each repeated rapid weight loss and gain affects your gut microbes in ways that make you more prone to weight gain.
We first saw this in animal studies, including a 2016 study published in Nature that found that mice were more likely to gain weight after receiving fecal transplants from mice that had undergone multiple cycles of weight loss and gain . This is believed to explain the finding of human studies, such as one by the University of Helsinki in 2011 of 4,000 identical twins, which found that twins were more likely to have a higher body weight the more they fed.
But it’s not just detox diets: “colon cleanses” and “detox teas” are bad news, too. They stimulate your gut muscles and help move waste along the colon. But the gut can become dependent on this effect and without it you can develop constipation – meaning you are tempted to use these products again, setting a vicious cycle in motion.
If you want to help your body, there are things you can do to make a positive difference.
One obvious step is to reduce the amount of toxins your body has to process. So if you overdid it this Christmas, give your liver a week’s rest so it can recover.
And ask your pharmacist or GP to review your medications to see if you can stop medications that aren’t helping. A lot of people end up taking pills they don’t need for years and letting their liver clean up the unnecessary leftovers – so it’s worth checking out.
Another thing to consider is your pollution levels – walk and bike on quieter, less-travelled routes.
However, at the top of my list for a healthier 2023 is making an effort to base as many of your meals and snacks as possible on natural foods and avoid those that sound like their ingredients were made in a chemistry lab.
Ultra-processed foods (which are made primarily from extracts from other foods and are high in fat, salt, sugar, and additives) encourage inflammation among our gut microbes, which in turn is said to encourage overeating. Increasingly, research is linking additives such as emulsifiers to actual damage to the microbiota. A 2020 study found that just 48 hours of exposure to emulsifiers “majorly” affected microbes in fecal samples. Our team at King’s College London is investigating this further in a clinical study.
So fill your meals with fruits and vegetables, whole grains (e.g. oats and barley), legumes (e.g. butter beans) and herbs and spices – all of which will munch on your gut microbes (for a treat your gut bugs will enjoy too). , try my Baked Cheesecake recipe above).
And feeding your gut microbes could lead to weight loss. A 2015 review of 15 studies in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that eating more plants, our gut bacteria’s favorite food, resulted in significant weight loss (5kg on average) without reducing portions or diet Calories had to be restricted.
Not only will this benefit your well-being, let’s face it, it’s a lot more enjoyable than drinking green juice for a week.
Try this: Raspberry Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake
I love cheesecake, but store-bought versions are notoriously high in saturated fat and added sugar. This recipe is a treat for the palate with juicy berries, fermented milk products and a high-fiber, nutty base.
For the base:
- 100g cooked quinoa
- 200 grams of walnuts
- 6 Medjool dates, pitted
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
For the cheesecake:
- 500 grams of ricotta
- 200 g live thick yoghurt
- 2 eggs plus 1 yolk
- 3 tablespoons honey or sweetener of your choice
- 3 tbsp regular flour
- Juice of 1 lemon plus zest
- 150 g frozen raspberries
Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/gas mark 5 and line the bottom and sides of a 20cm springform pan.
In a food processor, process the quinoa, walnuts, dates, and ginger until combined, leaving some texture in the crumb.
Stir in the egg. Place in a cake pan lined with baking paper and press evenly. Bake 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the Blitz Cheesecake ingredients except the berries. Scrape sides and flash for another minute.
Remove the base from the oven and pour the cheesecake mixture over it and add the frozen berries.
Turn the oven down to 180°C/160°C/Gas mark 4 and bake the cheesecake for 40 minutes or until the center is just set.
Turn off the oven, open the door a crack and let the cake cool in the oven. Take out and chill in the fridge overnight.
I know we’re supposed to be taking vitamin D supplements in the winter, but what’s the best way to take them — and does the type of vitamin D matter?
More than 20 per cent of UK adults are vitamin D deficient, according to the most recent (government-funded) National Diet and Nutrition Survey.
This is because there is not enough sunlight to stimulate our skin to produce vitamin D, specifically D3 (also called cholecalciferol).
The other type of vitamin D, D2 (also called ergocalciferol), is produced by certain plants, such as fungi.
Studies suggest that D3 is more effective at raising your vitamin D levels, making it the preferred type for supplements.
Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, timing-wise, it’s best to take it with a fatty meal — like nuts, seeds, yogurt, milk, avocado, olive oil, or salmon — to maximize absorption.
The key, however, is to remember to take your supplement – perhaps the best way to do that is to get used to eating it with your first meal of the day.
Contact dr. Megan Rossi
Email [email protected] or write to Good Health, Chron, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY – please include your contact details. dr Megan Rossi cannot maintain personal correspondence. The answers should be viewed in a general context; Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns.
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