Precluding Weight Loss via Detox

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Detoxing via herbs, diet and fiber before embarking on a weight loss program can help increase energy levels and prep the body for improved nutritional input.

The rationale for detoxification in association with weight loss is simply that if an individual has poor digestion and sluggish elimination, food will remain for a longer period of time in the digestive tract, allowing the maximum amount of calories to be absorbed. In addition, more toxins will be readily generated, and may interfere with normal metabolism. Consider Rachel Carson’s words in her 1962 groundbreaking book “Silent Spring”: “For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.” Of course, humans have always been exposed to potentially harmful chemicals from plants and other sources, but Carson’s point is well taken. Modern living exposes all of us to an unprecedented number of chemicals on a daily basis.

While the body was designed to detoxify and excrete chemicals, it may not always be equipped to handle the volume of modern, environmental pollutants and toxic substances. This problem may be exacerbated because the refining of many foodstuffs has caused them to provide considerably less of the nutrients that are essential to the detoxification process.1,2 Possible ramifications of toxic overload include fatigue and even difficulty with weight loss. For these reasons, it makes good sense to detoxify the body in preparation for a weight-loss program.




To start, a diet high in fruit and vegetables is an absolute must. Such a diet is universally understood to assist in an effective detoxification program. In addition, anyone detoxing should drink plenty of water—about a gallon a day. During a detox program, a minimum of animal fats should be consumed, including dairy products. Following these dietary guidelines is a prerequisite to the use of dietary supplements and other substances for detox.

According to Kate Hanley, Ayurvedic medicine advocates drinking water with lemon in the morning. In her article, Hanley quoted Shubhra Krishan, author of Essential Ayurveda, as saying, “Water works like a broom in sweeping toxins out of the body,” and “Lemon, being acidic, also promotes salivation, which is the first step in digestion.”3

Currently, the concept of using lemons to support detoxification was popularized by the late naturopath Stanley Burroughs and is commonly referred to as the “lemonade diet.” The stated purpose of the lemonade diet includes dissolving and eliminating toxins and congestion, cleansing the kidneys and digestive system, and enhancing weight loss.4 In addition to lemons and water, the lemonade includes maple syrup or molasses as sweeteners, but also for the nutrients they provide and to help maintain blood sugar levels.


Detoxification Nutrients


Senna may be useful to address sluggish elimination. This herb is used extensively as a natural laxative, and has been shown in research to be effective for this purpose and for reducing constipation.5,6,7,8 Furthermore, when used appropriately on a short-term basis, senna has been shown to have a good safety profile.9,10 In some instances, senna can cause abdominal pain and discomfort, cramps and diarrhea,11,12 so it is important not to exceed recommended doses. As an FDA-approved laxative, the effective dose of senna is measured based upon its natural content of sennosides, the active constituents. Specifically, 20 to 30 mg of sennosides, measured as sennoside B, is considered effective.

Diuretic herbs may help assist the detox process by promoting the flow of urine and the excretion of toxins through the kidneys. Parsley (Petroselinum crispus) was recognized for its diuretic properties well over a century ago.13 In animal research, rats fed water with parsley extract had significantly higher 24-hour urine outputs compared to when they drank regular water.14 Furthermore, Germany’s Commission E has approved parsley for reducing water retention.15 Two recent reviews on botanicals for urinary tract health recognize parsley’s diuretic properties.16,17 Traditional use typically involved 2 g (2,000 mg) of parsley daily; but, the use of a concentrated parsley extract would allow for smaller doses. For example, using a 10:1 extract, 200 mg should yield similar results.

Asparagus was used in ancient Greece and Rome as a natural agent to flush the kidneys.18 The fact that it is a good source of potassium combined with the naturally occurring amino acid asparagine gives asparagus this effect of promoting urinary flow.19 Furthermore, Germany’s Commission E recognizes the diuretic properties of asparagus root, and recommends it for “Irrigation therapy for inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract”.20 In addition, research has demonstrated the combination of parsley and asparagus is effective as a diuretic and to promote weight loss.21,22

In addition to the aforementioned herbs, another important consideration is fiber. This is because fat-soluble toxins are processed in the liver, and then shuttled into the intestines via the bile duct.23,24,25 Once the toxins have been dumped into the intestines, they can be reabsorbed. Consequently, the use of fiber to speed up tract time and hold on to the toxins is recommended. Furthermore, if hydrolyzed guar gum is used as a source of fiber, research suggests there will be improvements in intestinal microflora balance—which is beneficial for healthy bowel function and elimination.26

A cleansing/detoxification program as a prelude to undertaking weight loss has several potential benefits. Such a program might include the use of a diet high in fruits and vegetables; lemonade; the herbs senna, parsley and asparagus; and the fiber hydrolyzed guar gum.


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