Gwyneth Paltrow and Dr. Junger Clean Up on Detox Diets

Academy award winning actress of Shakespeare in Love and Ironman fame, Gwyneth Paltrow revealed that she has just completed a three week-long ‘Clean’ detox program. The program, designed by detox specialist, Dr. Alejandro Junger, consists of two liquid, and one solid meal a day. The solid meal must be without processed foods, dairy and sugar. Paltrow claims that “I feel pure and happy and much lighter. I dropped the extra pounds that I had gained…over the last month.” Paltrow is no stranger to detox, having used the “Clean” program earlier in the year,as well as going through a Master Cleanse’s detox diet of lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper last year.

Detox diets claim that they can help chronic conditions that occur when the body become victim to a build up of “toxins.” As Dr. Junger puts it:: “When our systems are overtaxed, they begin to break down in a multitude of ways. Allergies, headaches, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, weight gain and insomnia are just a few of the symptoms that can result. The majority of these common ailments are the direct result of toxin build-up in our systems that has accumulated during the course of our daily lives.” Dr. Junger’s book currently is number 13 in Amazon sales rankings.

Do Detox diets work? Is there any scientific evidence to recommend them?

Detox (short for detoxification) diets usually consist of a variable period of altered diet. This diet is high in fluids, high in fruits and vegetables, and eliminates alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods. Colonic cleansing (enemas to remove fecal material from the colon) are frequently included as well. Some diets also include special herbs or supplements which are supposed to enhance toxin removal.

“But the science behind the detox theory is deeply flawed“, says Peter Pressman, MD, an internal medicine specialist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “The body already has multiple systems in place — including the liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract — that do a perfectly good job of eliminating toxins from the body within hours of consumption.”

Detox dieters often report a variety of benefits, but most of these improvements may be due to changes in the diet unrelated to any change in “toxin levels.” For instance, a decrease in headaches could be related to elimination of caffeine or alcohol in the diet. Decreased bloating just from eating less. Clearer skin may be related to better hydration.

Many individuals will have weight loss from these diets (mostly because they are low in calories), but it is usually due to a loss of fluids and some muscle, and not fat loss, and therefore the weight loss is temporary. Colonic cleansing, in general, is unnecessary except in preparation for colonoscopy. Colonic enemas can tamper with the body’s normal fluid and electrolyte balance and can lead to infection, irregularity, and dehydration. A high fiber diet works better for improving bowel irregularity.

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Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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