Gwyneth’s 2017 Detox

Once again, it’s that time of year when actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s fancy turns to thoughts of detox diets. As posted on her website, GOOP:

“December’s many indulgences (champagne! cheese! pie!) make January an ideal time to detox, but the fact that it’s a busy time of year, cold as f*%k outside, and dark most of the day can make a diet of smoothies and kale salad pretty unappealing and almost untenable. So this year, our five-day detox is soothing and cozy–hot breakfasts, warm and filling dinners, and quick and simple lunches that are anything but a #saddesklunch.”

As in the past, Gwyneth depends on her detox guru, Dr. Alejandro Junger, and his Clean program, for basic elimination-diet rules: “No caffeine, alcohol, gluten, added sugar, processed oils and butters (e.g. margarine), vegetable oils (e.g. canola and corn), nightshades (we use a little fresh chili here and there, but skip it if you’re sensitive to nightshades like tomatoes and eggplant), corn, shellfish, red meat, soy, and dairy—but we did include eggs to bulk up some dishes and provide a little extra protein.”

And to be extra helpful, Gwyneth put together a detailed schedule and shopping list. She also insists that food preparation is “extremely manageable:”

“You’ll need to do one big shop and some meal prep the Sunday before you start, and plan for another quick mid-week run to the market to grab Wednesday-Friday’s proteins. Factor in about 20 minutes every morning to make breakfast and lunch for the day, and 20 minutes at night for dinner, then enjoy the fruits of your labor—delicious, healthy meals for a whole week and a lighter, happier, refreshed you.”

Overall, the diet seems much more reasonable that some of the previous detox diets Paltrow has touted. There is actually some healthy food in it. However, look closely at  the supplemental ingredients in the recipes:  the Sun Potion astragalus will set you back $55 for 2.8 oz, Sun Potion reishi ($50 for 3.5 oz ), and  Sun Potion tocos ($20 for 7 oz.). Of course, all of these are available for sale on the GOOP website.

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.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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