The truth about detox drinks
Plus, four expert-recommended remedies for constipation, bloating, acidity and yeast infections
There’s always one enthu-cutlet Ekta in the friend’s group who hops from one diet and fitness trend to another faster than I can tuck my love handles into high-waisted pants. By the end, it always comes down to the same five words. Not ‘I love you, aloo parathas’, but ‘Let’s try detox drinks, guys’.
The amount of confusion around the legitimacy of detox drinks and diets is enough to make your head spin like a cartoon. There are the staunch supporters of the bi-monthly juice cleanse, while other experts call BS on detox drinks and colon cleansing powders as nothing but a marketing ploy. Actor and activist Jameela Jamil has publicly campaigned against celebrity promoted tea-tox drinks on social media which only end up damaging your body.
But the global market of detox products is worth $51 billion and is said to only keep growing. There has to be something to it, right?
The idea of drinking only vegetable juices for five days and losing three inches on your hips is alluring. I’ve been drawn into the black hole of teas and pills touting multiple benefits like liver cleansing and fat burning to wash away the sins of stress-eating wafers at midnight. Replacing all meals with a sweet and spicy nimbu pani rather than getting my lazy bum out of bed and into exercise mode — no matter how fun the workout may be.
What if there really was a drink that could solve my acidity problems?
Instead of spiralling on the internet and trying to come up with my own theories, I spoke to nutritionist Divija Mittal to cut through the puffery and see if there’s any science behind various detoxes.
Does a detox actually work?
Mittal explains that the basic concept of a detox and cleanse is the same — to rid the body of accumulated toxins and chemicals for better health overall, sometimes targeting a specific organ like the liver or colon. That seems safe enough, so why are people suspicious of the concepts like nosey neighbours contemplating whether you and your flatmate are really “just friends”?
“See, our body is very complex and smart. We don’t need marketed detox and cleansing products because if you have a liver and kidneys, the job is getting done on its own,” says Mittal. Our organs and immune system are naturally capable of ridding our body of unwanted toxins.
But our current lifestyle and food habits can cause certain bodily processes to slow down, or make these vital organs work harder than they need to.
“Instead of spending money on packaged products for a detox or cleanse, focus your time and energy on making some temporary dietary changes which will boost your body’s ability to detox itself,” she adds.
An efficient detox for her is one that focuses on ailments and then works to tweak your diet to protect and supercharge organ health. This can involve cutting out or down on ‘toxins’ like refined sugar, tobacco, packaged foods, and copious amounts of alcohol and caffeine that can derail our natural detoxing. And replacing those guilty pleasures with some temporary diet restrictions, spoonfuls of herbal concoctions and green juices that might taste like you’re munching on a bush.
So whether you’re feeling bloated, heartburn or even constipated from all those midnight ice cream and Chindian food runs, there are doctor-approved (DIY) detox drinks and dietary changes that can help cleanse your body to help it function more efficiently.
Effective detox drinks and cleanses for common ailments
A 10-day cleanse for controlling hyperacidity
The stomach needs its natural acids to digest your MSG-laden chilly chicken. We start getting acidity or heartburn when there’s an overproduction of stomach acid, which then leaks back into the oesophagus and starts coming up to our throat. Mittal says a little acidity now and then is nothing to worry about. But if you, like everyone in my family, can’t leave the house without a strip of Digene, then you may want to get to the root of this disruption.
It can result from eating too much acid-forming fast food and fried food, overeating, enzyme deficiency or even as side effects of prescription medication. It could also be the result of a hiatal hernia and gastrointestinal diseases.
Severe cases should always be taken to a professional, especially if accompanied by chest or stomach discomfort and nausea.
Mittal suggests trying a 10-day detox to help neutralise the acidity. This involves removing some ingredients from your diet temporarily. “You can do this for a week to 10 days. If you’re still in discomfort, then there can be other underlying health issues leading to hyperacidity which need a doctor’s investigation.”
What you should avoid: Fried, processed foods, fatty meats and lots of dairy products. “Chocolate and mints (even in your chewing gum) can relax the base of the oesophagus which makes the stomach acids come up more easily,” says Mittal.
That morning coffee is going to have to be put on hold. Mittal suggests replacing it with less caffeinated alternatives like herbal or green teas, and chamomile. Give alcohol and cigarettes a miss. Some people find tomatoes and onions also triggering for their acidity along with spicy food.
What you should eat: Load up on plant proteins and fresh vegetables like all-rounder spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber and mushroom. If you’re craving that milkiness in your tea, try a non-dairy replacement like almond or soy milk. Snack on nuts, eat smaller, more frequent meals through the day and try taking a 10-minute walk after dinner.
“Stay upright for two hours after your meal and try sleeping on your left to reduce acidity at night. Because of the shape of the stomach and gravity, sleeping on the right can lead to stomach acid rising more easily,” says Mittal.
Give Ranveer Singh’s favourite breakfast bowl a try and start the day with porridge.
A 3-day cleanse for fighting constipation
There’s no better way to start the day than with a smooth motion. That feeling of being backed up can be a dampener on your day and mood. If you’re unable to or find it difficult to poop regularly then that can lead to other health issues.
“After the body metabolises food, it enters the large intestine (bowel/colon) where waste is eliminated through the rectum. In the case of constipation, the waste collects in the body and causes toxicity and inflammation, which are the root causes of other diseases,” says Bengaluru-based nutritionist, Anupama Menon.
Temporary constipation can be caused by an inactive lifestyle, too many greasy samosas, stress, dehydration and even improper sleep, which can all weaken the cut and digestion. Before you go load up on high fibre foods and leafy vegetables, just wait a second.
Too much of it can also be counterproductive in this case. “Eating excessive raw foods and too much fibre can be difficult for the body to digest and in turn, lead to constipation and weight gain,” says Menon.
A laxative can provide temporary relief but treating constipation is all about balancing your diet and lifestyle.
“Incorporate sufficient fibre in your diet through fruits and vegetables. Soaked prunes, munakka raisins, apples, dark leafy green veggies, figs, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, soaked chia seeds and flaxseeds are all great remedies for a backed-up tract.” Another great home remedy is to mix lemon juice with a spoon of virgin olive oil before bed.
If you need more of an instant relief, Mittal suggests trying detox drinks in the form of healthy homemade smoothies. This mix of fibre, nutrients and mild laxative ingredients can help ease motions. This should not be had for longer than three days in a row.
- 2 cups raw spinach
- 1/3 cup prune juice (can substitute with 1/2 tbsp isabgol)
- 1/2 cucumber chopped
- 1/2 apple with skin
- Wash and chop up the ingredients individually and blend into a mixer one by one.
- You can top it off with some honey for taste, but remember you’re drinking this as medicine. So, just pinch your nose and down it.
Detox drinks for bloating
Bloating makes it hard to tell if you’re carrying a food baby, extra weight or are just bloated after a weekend binge of carbs, jalebis and wine. Nutritionist and founder of SelfCare, Suman Agarwal lists several triggers she’s noticed in her patients. “It depends on the menstrual cycle, everyone gets bloated in the run-up to, and during, your period. Certain foods cause bloating — topmost on the list is dairy. If you’re lactose intolerant, you will feel your stomach get really tight. A low protein-high carb diet is another trigger.”
Too much fermented and probiotic food can add fuel to the fire because your body isn’t used to it, says Mittal. So don’t jump on to the kombucha express just yet. Chhole, hummus, rajma, pani puri and corn also go on the no-fly list or at least should be cut to a minimum, especially if you have an important occasion coming up for which you want your stomach to appear as flat as possible. Another sneaky and painful cause of chronic bloating is constipation — Agarwal suggests a fibre-rich diet, which includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.
A balanced diet and regular exercise will ease the strain that chronic bloating puts on your life long-term. But as a temporary measure, you can try Agarwal’s elixir of life — the detox drink that will help you banish the bloat.
- 1ltr water
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp ajwain
- 1 tbsp fennel
- Add all ingredients to the same pan and allow to boil — let it simmer for five minutes, strain and start drinking. You can even sip on this throughout the day.
The Candida cleanse for yeast infections
Candida sounds like bubblegum-flavoured toothpaste, but it’s actually a yeast commonly found in our body. Sorry for putting that image in your head. Different types of candida are harmless in their usual small amounts. It chills on your skin, inside the body in cavities like the mouth, throat, gut and vagina without kicking up much of a fuss. But an overgrowth can cause an imbalance with the good bacteria that live in our gut, skin and vagina — leading to infections. The most common being vaginal yeast infections for women, nail fungus and facial yeast infections.
A diet full of sugary, processed junk can boost the candida growth since they feed on high sugar, leading to inflammation, poor gut health and other health ailments. Infections require medical diagnoses and anti-fungal treatments but a change in diet is incredibly beneficial in speeding up the process and combating the candida overgrowth.
I saw this first-hand a few years ago when a former colleague was given the news that her neglect of vaginal health (from a fear of judgement from gynaecologists) led to her having to give up her favourite treats. During Christmas time. “I live two doors down from a bakery and we take Christmas very seriously in our family. This was one of the most challenging things I have ever done in my life,” laughs Tara D’Souza*.
“Most gynaecologists will recommend a diet change if you have such an infection. We call it a candida cleanse,” says Mittal.
It works hand-in-hand with antifungals in a three-pronged attack on the yeast. This involves the medical treatment, starving the yeast and replacing the good gut bacteria.
Adopt a low-sugar and anti-inflammatory diet that includes fruits like oranges, strawberries, peaches and kiwi. Keep caffeinated drinks to a minimum and fill your plate with non-starchy vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cucumber, aubergine and spinach, along with nuts, seeds, fermented foods and grains like millet and quinoa.
Have plain yoghurt instead of flavoured, proteins like eggs and chicken are also fine to eat. Add anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric, black pepper and ginger to your food.
Your doctor may advise a probiotic supplement in this time to replenish the good bacteria in your gut. Yoghurt is probably the best natural source of probiotics. You can have a side of pickles, kimchi and sauerkraut if you’re venturing out to the store and find them in stock.
The duration of the candida cleanse would be determined by your doctor depending on the extent of the overgrowth and what caused it.
Very Coconut Smoothie by Lisa Richards
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (canned)
- ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk ice cubes (about 4 cubes)
- 2 tbsp almond butter
- 1 tsp chia seeds
- 1 tsp alcohol-free coconut extract
- 4 drops liquid stevia or ⅛ tsp powdered stevia
- Coconut flakes
- Place coconut milk, coconut milk ice cubes, almond butter, chia seeds, alcohol-free coconut extract and stevia in a blender.
- Process until smooth and serve with flaked coconut garnish.
Recipe: The Candidadiet.com