What is the truth about the January detox?

All around the country, people are hitting the halfway mark in their January detoxes and getting to grips with their New Year’s resolutions.

Whether it was to get to the gym more, eat more fruit and vegetables, or cut back on alcohol, there may be a slump around the corner requiring a new flex of willpower.

But is there any point to a detox? What really happens to your body when you give up the booze? Should we all be trying to help our bodies cut out ‘toxins’?

Sky News spoke to experts to get the truth about the January detox.

Yes to a detox – it’s a great opportunity

Dr Sarah Brewer says a detox helps take opportunity to reset your diet

Image: Dr Sarah Brewer says a detox helps take opportunity to reset your diet

Dr Sarah Brewer, author of more than 60 self-help books, told Sky News: “I think a detox is a great opportunity to review and address your diet and change things that are wrong with it. Most people recognise that they don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables, or protein.

“It is an opportunity to ditch the crap, and focus on a healthy diet.

“Avoiding alcohol is always a good thing to give your liver a rest.

“There is a lot of research to show supplements can help. If you take one thing, I recommend globe artichoke, to help the liver.

“During a detox, you eat a restricted selection of healthy and nutritious foods. You can eat as much or as little of these foods as you like, and do not necessarily need to lose weight. In practice, however, most people aim to halve their usual calorie intake to help boost the Detox process and to lose a few excess pounds.

“I do not recommend patches or colonics, it’s all about focusing on your diet and cutting back.”

No to a detox – your liver does the job

Rhiannon Lambert says nothing detoxes like the liver

Image: Rhiannon Lambert says nothing detoxes like the liver

Leading Harley Street Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert said: “The good news is that that we all already have a detoxification system. It’s called the liver and no tea, juice cleanse or diet will do it’s job any better.

“Any suggestion that the human body can be detoxed with a tea, juice cleanse or patch is incorrect. We are naturally designed to remove toxins using our liver and kidneys – none of these perform such a detox. These items often prey on those individuals desperate for a quick fix or simply to feel healthier, when in reality just addressing their overall diet and lifestyle will work wonders and cost less.

“The idea that we kind do some kind of purge and purify our bodies is an attractive thought but the reality is you simply need to eat well most of the time. If you accept the marketing of any supposed detox, you’re abandoning proven science.

“Food isn’t strictly speaking medicine and encouraging people to see some food as toxic and others as pure is dangerous. In my experience, all detoxes do is push you into extreme calorie restriction. An obsession with a rule-driven way of eating like so-called detoxing is familiar to so many people with disordered eating.”

Dry January has side effects like losing weight and saving money

Image: Dry January has side effects like losing weight and saving money

She added: “There is no denying that alcohol should be limited as part of a healthy diet. All too often I see alcohol associated with weight gain and poor mental clarity. Any positive claims from alcohol stem largely from studies using quality red wine and often on males over the age of 50. There is a lot of research investigating the powerful plant compounds in red wine and their health benefits, including reduced inflammation, lower risk of heart disease and extended lifespan.

“Choose your alcohol wisely and remember that alcohol can be addictive and excessive consumption can cause a whole host of health issues.”

Dry January: What happens after you give up alcohol?

Many people may now be starting to see some differences in their appearance and their wellbeing as they make it to the second weekend in January without alcohol.

In general, those who give up alcohol for one to two weeks report better quality of sleep, and see improvements in their skin.

According to Drinkaware, drinking alcohol helps people to drop off to sleep quicker, but it prevents the body staying in deep sleep, and entering REM cycles (rapid eye movement). This means while the glass of red might send you to sleep, it’ll make you groggy the next day too.

Friends Ruari and Andy set up One Year No Beer

Image: Friends Ruari and Andy set up One Year No Beer

Reducing alcohol intake could also benefit your skin, as it’s a diuretic, meaning it makes you dehydrated. Cutting back will help your skin and eyes to sparkle.

Many people report weight loss, as the empty calories of alcohol are replaced with lower calories alternatives, and making up lbs with pounds when they don’t get tied into rounds at the pub.

Friends Andy Ramage and Ruari Fairburns gave up alcohol for a year after becoming fed up of late nights and hangovers entertaining clients in the City of London.

Now, they’ve written a book together, The 28 Day Alcohol Free Challenge, and run programmes encouraging people to knock the pints on the head for as long as they can, from 28 days to 365.

Mr Fairburns said: “We have worked with the University of Stirling and we’ve found that people who do our programme get an ‘epiphany’ moment somewhere between 20 and 60 days.

“This epiphany is ‘I feel amazing’. It happens to nearly everyone who regularly drinks more than 14 units a week, four large glasses of wine.

Andy's body changed dramatically when he stopped drinking

Image: Andy’s body changed dramatically when he stopped drinking

“They think ‘I feel limitless’. Many people who stick to our 28 days end up staying to do 90 days or longer without alcohol.”

He added that humans naturally want to fit into a tribe, and for some tribes, they can be defensive when one member stops drinking. But the key can be finding a tribe with a different common interest, or who can help keep you on the no alcohol path.

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Mr Fairburns said: “Something I always say is treat this like the challenge it is. It needs prep, think of what you’ll have in the house and what you’ll drink out, have it in place.

“When you do that and you get to that epiphany, then you feel like you are in control.”