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Detox Diets Are Not For Seniors

By , 1:01 am on

Cleanse. This seems to be the fad of the moment, and I don’t mean the annual January push to “de-clutter” your house.  Proceed with caution if you’re considering a “cleanse,” also know as, a detox diet.  Experts advise avoiding these entirely if you are elderly, have a medical condition, or are young or pregnant.  If you don’t fit into any of those broad categories, a great route is to take the attitude of Harvard Medical School professor, Dr. Anthony Komaroff, who says, “to be open-minded, yet skeptical about any proposed treatments until shown to be of value.”

Celebrities have recently touted the “Master Cleanse,” which is several days of a diet limited to a combination of spring water, maple syrup, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and cayenne pepper. For years, my sister-in-law has been a fan of a 24-hour cleanses wherein she drinks a certain herbal tea requiring a clothespin on her nose.  A co-worker from the mid-80’s practiced a weekly ritual of an “all fruit day,” for her cleanse. All these approaches are focused on removing potentially damaging chemicals from the body to improve our immunities, fight chronic disease, ignite a stagnant metabolism, and elevate energy levels.

Doctor Komaroff, in a recent article, said there is no evidence these diets work and they have many downsides: are often expensive and have unsavory side effects, such as decreased energy, headaches, lightheadedness, and nausea.  Dr. Komaroff, Dr. Mao* and others, such as “Canal House Cooks Every Day” cookbook authors, Christopher Hirscheimer and Melissa Hamilton, recommend eating simply and in moderationfor good health because our bodies have their own natural cleansing system.  In the human body, the liver has the primary function converting toxins into non-toxic substances, which are then excreted from the body.

These experts agree with the “cleansers”– what we eat matters. They recommend the following foods because they support the detoxification processes of our bodies:

  • Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, watercress, and Brussels sprouts
  • Aromatics, such as garlic, onions, leeks, turmeric, and citrus peel

Interestingly, these foods all seem to be “winter” foods, to be eaten just the time when we are more likely to also eat heavier, richer foods, and to consume alcohol in greater quantities.

Go ahead, eat in moderation, eat seasonal foods, such as winter vegetables, and leave the “cleanse” for celebrities.  Let your liver do its job!

Additional information sources: *Dr. Mao Shing Ni, Dr. Mao’s Secrets of Longevity, an article by Sarah Baker Hansen, and Dr. K’s regular column, Ask Doctor K.

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