Taking a 28-day break from bad dietary habits like caffeine and alcohol or too much refined sugar and flour may help you establish healthier patterns. Base your detox diet on fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Your doctor or a nutritionist can help you develop a long-term plan.
All sugars are not created equal. Carbohydrates, which are necessary for human health, are sugars. Cutting out all sugars would mean cutting out fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Your body needs the nutrients and fiber found in these foods. Refined sugars – processed or “white” sugars added to many foods and drinks – are less healthy and can lead to obesity, tooth decay and high triglyceride levels. You’ll have to be vigilant to avoid added sugar, since it appears in countless foods, recipes and snacks. Fortunately, sugar content and type are available on most food labels.
Wheat and Gluten
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains. People with celiac disease or gluten intolerance must completely avoid all types of gluten. A no-gluten diet is extremely restrictive, since most grains and many packaged foods, condiments and sauces contain gluten. If you have such a condition, your doctor can recommend the right diet to meet your needs. If you are not gluten-intolerant but hope to establish healthier eating habits, try cutting out the empty calories of refined, or white, flour for 28 days. Choose whole wheat and other whole grains instead.
Although moderate alcohol consumption – no more than one drink per day for women and two per day for men – is probably not harmful for most people, staying away from it can be a good break for your system. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, taxes your liver and kidneys and can be addictive. It can also interact dangerously with other medications you may be taking, impair your judgment and cause dehydration or weight gain. If you have trouble quitting drinking for 28 days, ask your doctor or a counselor for help.
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate, soft drinks and some medicines. In moderate amounts, caffeine is not harmful for most healthy adults. Larger doses can lead to anxiety, irritability and insomnia. It can even interfere with your heart’s natural rhythm. If you are used to consuming caffeine every day, you may experience withdrawal symptoms like headaches when you stop. It may be a good idea to taper off slowly in the days before you begin your detox.
Lucy Burns has been writing and editing professionally for more than 15 years. She earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in American literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she teaches writing. Burns is a certified yoga teacher and is also licensed to teach the Gyrokinesis movement system.