Detox Diets: Myth vs. Reality

May 01, 2013

Fitness Forum

Your review of detox diets [“Detox Diets: Myths vs. Reality,” February] overlooked potential benefits of detox and cleansing diets.



Last year I was curious—and skeptical—when I heard about detoxing from clients and read about it in practically every women’s magazine. I got a referral and embarked on a custom 21-day detox with a fully credentialed nutrition consultant. I hoped to learn if any foods might be contributing to my chronic sinus pain and nasal congestion. I achieved my goal—no more dairy for me—but I learned so much more. Now, a year later, I am still free of sinus pain; I no longer carry a box of tissue around wherever I go; I sleep better; I have good energy all day; and I have reversed a trend toward postmenopausal weight gain. Had I read your mostly negative review, I might have skipped what turned out to be a valuable and rewarding experience.



Certainly not all detoxes are created equal, and some may not be safe. But I think you “threw the baby out with the bath water” when you lumped all detox diets together. You certainly could have provided more guidance for practitioners like me who often work with clients already sold on detoxing. Whether or not there is concrete evidence of exactly what happens in the liver, it would be useful to know which detox plans are likely to do more good than harm.
Laurie Leiber, MPH
Oakland, California



The author responds: That’s great that you had a positive experience with a detox diet. That is often the case with alternative treatments that have no apparent scientific evidence to prove that they “work.” There are some people who find benefits. But there are also people who don’t benefit at all and may even find that their condition worsens or they get side effects.



I’m personally not against alternative treatments and have tried many myself. We always want to believe that something “natural” or “easy” will cure us. I can’t say that I’ve experienced any real “cures” from anything alternative I’ve tried. So while I’m open-minded, [I think] it’s also important to look for evidence-based approaches. The danger is that I have seen claims made about so many treatments that are simply outlandish and contradict themselves. The problem with many fad dieting trends is that there often isn’t scientific evidence that they work nor that they do what they claim to do. As detailed in the article, the word “detox” is a nebulous term that means absolutely nothing, yet alternative practitioners and beauty products use it to mean whatever they want—without proof that their treatment or product is “detoxing” anything at all.



Of course, if choosing one of these regimens helps people get more focused on making healthier eating choices, that’s a good thing. But as I showed from the examples quoting real-life folks in my article, that’s not always the case: Some people think a 2-week “cleanse” can make up for the other 50 weeks of the year when they eat [poorly]!
Martica Heaner, PhD

Group Exercise for Active Older Adults

I am writing in appreciation of the article “Older-Adult Fitness: Gauging the Limits of Your Fit Clients” [Senior Fitness, February]. While the article focused on a personal training approach, I would like to address the importance of group exercise for “fit seniors.”

My work in this area began in 1997 and grew as I made my own way into the “senior fold.” Programs like SilverSneakers®, Silver&Fit® and Enhance® Fitness, which I am certified to instruct, have been great openings for many inactive seniors. These programs are rather narrow and safe, in large part due to their medical/insurance coverage. I believe “safe” is not only good but imperative to all group exercise classes. What I have found exciting are the groups who are open to keeping their physical and emotional lives large! We negotiate the up and down from the floor and the range of motion to reach for all they desire. We “older folks” do step, cycling, low impact, kickboxing and circuits, and we play basketball. We use every tool available, including stability balls, weights, tubes and fitness equipment—all in 1 week. We rock!

I create an environment of “options” in my group classes. I ask for the best effort from all, yet allow any issue of limitation to be the guide. Reminders to be attentive to form and to the risk-benefit ratio of each exercise empower individuals to make choices, yet be part of a group that feels inclusive. The [importance of the] social component should not be overlooked for those who may have lost their partners, who have children living far away or who enjoy the company of others.

Being all that you can be in an active-older-adult group exercise class is what I encourage!
Karen Beck
Mercer Island, Washington

Challenged by Nutrition Scope of Practice

I read your article “Elusive Boundaries for Nutrition Scope of Practice” [March]. Clients often ask me to write them out meal plans. While I explain that I cannot do so (since I am a personal trainer only—not a nutritionist or dietitian), I think the most frustrating part is knowing that so many other trainers do write meal plans for their clients. I’m seeing it more and more, and it drives me nuts! It makes it even harder that I live in a small town and am one of just two trainers. The other one (you guessed it) writes out meal plans for her clients. [Although I keep asking around], there is not a local dietitian or a nutritionist for me to recommend to clients. I’m afraid I will lose business to other trainers who write out meal plans.
Karen Mueller
Woodward, Oklahoma

Welcoming Clients With Chronic Conditions to Exercise

I just [completed] a continuing education credit on the IDEA website. [I was offered] a free education product and I picked “Training Strategies for Clients With Chronic Conditions.” This was so good! Quite often people who have had cancer present with diabetes and heart disease, etc. This was such a great overview with suggested ways of dealing with these clients.

I think it is so important that as fitness professionals we do as the instructor in the video suggests: Reduce the barriers to exercise as much as possible for vulnerable populations by not emphasizing anything too prescribed, structured or complicated from the outset. We must encourage and simplify, making it as easy as it can be to hook people into any sort of activity plan. I am going to take more of these courses online now.
Vanessa Reid
Certified Personal Trainer and Breast Cancer Specialist
Nice, France

IDEA Members Sharing the Wellness Message

Editor’s note: In the Mind-Body-Spirit News section of our February issue, we asked you to tell us about the wellness programming you are promoting in your facilities. Thanks to all for sharing these great ideas!

Each year we aim to have at least four to five wellness programs. We invite and host several health and wellness professionals to pass on their message of a healthy and positive lifestyle. Our most recent, and most successful, workshops have come from Laura Bowman, MA, registered mental-health intern and life coach, and Jeff Sochar of Janus Labs® and the Human Performance® Institute.

Laura’s workshop was an enlightening presentation that focused on believing in yourself and shaking off the negativity in [your] life. It emphasized taking on the challenges of life one step at a time and listening to what your body is trying to tell you. We’ve received tremendous feedback from individuals who have learned [skills] from this program, whether it’s journaling their daily routines or eliminating pessimism and finding the positivity in every circumstance.

“Energy for Performance,” our most recent seminar, was an interactive presentation. We have already witnessed participants implementing its values and ideals in their everyday activities. Focusing on training in four dimensions—spiritual, mental, emotional and physical—this workshop aimed to help [each participant’s] body run as smoothly as possible in order to maximize energy performance on a daily basis. We’ve had participants praise this workshop and [tell us] that they have taken what they learned and immediately placed it into their lives. They focus on one task at a time, rather than multitasking, in order to give the highest effort on the objective at hand, or they simply take breaks at work in order to move around and keep the body fluid and loose.
Judi Isaacson and Diane Warren
Owners, Workout 32789
Winter Park, Florida

I work primarily with mature and older adults [aged 36–92], with the majority aged 66–89. Our diabetes intervention and prevention program (18 participants, 12 weeks) meets twice a week and incorporates nutrition information and a monthly blood sugar self-management class by a certified diabetes educator. Many older adults have multiple problems and various levels of cognitive limitations. Managing blood sugar and enhancing functional health for independence are the focus of this program.

“Workout for Weight Loss, Better Health and Sport Performance” is for the same population but has a different focus. Each person’s program is individualized, and the participants have a wide range of abilities—from older-adult athletes to those with mobility and balance problems.

I also do a series of educational lecture sessions for older adults on the benefits of exercise in the prevention, management and treatment of several common medical conditions.
Jacqueline Sinke
Health and Fitness Specialist
Portland, Oregon

I own a small fitness facility that promotes community wellness. Every month we have a nutrition class in which participants sample a recipe and then take home the ingredients to make it. Another [program showcases] a local business [organic food, acupuncture, meditation instruction, for example] devoted to healthy choices. My goal for my business is to own a facility that will house practitioners of many alternative health avenues so my clients can get what they need in one place.
Terri Fox
Owner, Terri Fox Fitness
Overland Park, Kansas

A Thoughtful Approach to GMOs

I always look forward to IDEA Fitness Journal articles, and I appreciate how you reach out to subscribers for our thoughts and opinions.

My awareness of genetically modified organisms began in January, when I received several catalogs that sell primarily heirloom seeds and plants for fruits and vegetables. All of the catalogs had references or articles on the threat of GMOs to the viability of heirloom varieties. It is amazing and exciting to see the immense variety of choices available to the home gardener. For my raised beds this year, I am forgoing the usual plant choices that dominate at the big-box stores for some little-known or old-fashioned hybrid varieties.

We are losing tried-and-true plants for a number of reasons, GMOs being just one of them. Before GMO, plants, fruits and vegetables bred for their shipping and refrigerating qualities crowded out those with better taste and higher nutrient value. GMO labeling in itself may not be a problem. GMO foods are developed for different reasons, so we should be careful about assuming that every GMO food is harmful or will diminish the gene pool. Genetic work that is plant-to-plant may not be such a big deal. Isn’t that what hybrids are all about? My greatest concerns have to do with, for example, the splicing of animal genes (such as a fish antifreeze gene) into plants, or the splicing of an herbicide gene into seed stock, and the long-term, untested consequences on our health.

For some plant species, including corn, canola and soybeans, there are some unintended consequences. Corn pollen travels so far on the wind that it is extremely difficult for the grower of heirloom corn to keep his crop untainted from the GMO corn that is grown miles away. It also creates legal consequences for the heirloom farmer if he saves his seed and grows a crop that has been pollinated with a patented GMO variety. A farmer who grows Roundup Ready soybeans [a genetically modified type of soybean manufactured by Monsanto®] can spray the weeds without killing the soybeans. Because the seed is patented and the crops carry the Roundup Ready gene, a farmer cannot save seed to replant the next year but must buy [the seed] new every year and pay the asking price. There are court cases in progress on the corporation’s right to protect its research and patent; but there has to be a way for heirloom growers to prosper in this scenario.

When GMO crops are grown overseas, there may be benefits in terms of crop yield, but it may threaten the existence of tried-and-true species that have been grown for hundreds of years. Thankfully, there are people in many countries who are striving to preserve plant gene diversity with their gardening efforts.

This is not simply a “GMO labeling is good” or “GMO labeling is bad” kind of thing.
Gwynn Lindler, ACE-CPT, AHFS
Personal Trainer, Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist
Cornelius, North Carolina

IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 10, Issue 5

© 2013 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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