Page last updated at 11:08 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 12:08 UK

Woman left brain damaged by detox

Dawn and Geoff Page (Pic: South West News)
Dawn says she can no longer work and relies heavily on husband Geoff

A woman has been awarded more than 800,000 after she suffered permanent brain damage while on a detox diet.

The High Court heard Dawn Page, 52, began vomiting uncontrollably after starting The Amazing Hydration Diet.

Mrs Page, from Oxfordshire, later had an epileptic seizure which damaged her memory, speech and concentration.

Her nutritionist Barbara Nash has denied any wrongdoing and the High Court ratified the settlement without mention of liability.

The court heard Mrs Page, from Faringdon, near Swindon, claimed Mrs Nash told her to drink large amounts of water and reduce her salt intake when she started the diet in October 2001.

She told the High Court that when she started vomiting Mrs Nash told her it was a normal part of the detoxification process.


Her life has been seriously affected, perhaps ruined, by this fad-type way of losing weight
Geoff Page

Less than a week into the regime, mother-of-two Mrs Page had to be taken to Princess Margaret Hospital in Swindon after suffering a severe epileptic seizure. Doctors diagnosed low salt levels in her body - known as hyponatraemia or water intoxication.

She has been left with "cognitive deficit" which she says has forced her to give up work as a conference organiser.

Her husband Geoff, 54, said: "Her life has been seriously affected, perhaps ruined, by this fad-type way of losing weight, which I can only say is a dangerous method of weight loss."

He said his wife had previously tried several other diets and had been told to drink four pints of water a day by Mrs Nash.

He said: "Just days after she started the Hydration Diet, she began to feel unwell and started vomiting.

'Bad to worse'

"Things went from bad to worse, and within another couple of days she collapsed with the fit."

Mr Page told BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme that his wife was now on anti-epilepsy medication and mood-stabilising drugs.

"Appreciating and learning new things is difficult for her," he said. "Her life is quite structured and to a large degree written down for her."

Mrs Nash's insurance company agreed to pay out 810,000 in an out-of-court settlement, but in a statement her lawyers denied any liability.

HYPONATRAEMIA
Drinking too much water lowers the level of salt in the blood
Water then moves from the diluted blood into cells and organs where there is less water
This causes the cells in the brain to swell, increasing the pressure inside the skull
As the brain is squeezed, vital regions are compressed and seizures can be triggered

Plexus Law said: "On behalf of our client we wish to make it clear that all allegations of substandard practice made on behalf of Mrs Page in the litigation have always been and continue to remain firmly denied.

"Equally, the information contained in the medical records suggesting that Mrs Page appeared to have drunk five litres of water on the day that she was admitted to hospital, and therefore disregarded advice given by our client, were also denied by Mrs Page.

"In our view as a recognition of this, the settlement amount agreed to be paid was less than half the total amount claimed and the compromise which was offered and accepted was on the basis of no admission of liability."

Hyponatraemia can result when a person drinks too much water. This dilutes their blood and causes water to flood their cells and organs.

Cells in the brain can then swell up, increasing pressure inside the skull. If vital regions of the brain are compressed this can cause symptoms ranging from headaches to problems with breathing or seizures.

'Nonsense'

Detox diets are based on the theory that toxins from "unhealthy" food and drink build up in the body and can lead to health problems.

Purging those toxins - through restricted diets, lots of water or using particular supplements - is meant to leave people feeling better and, often, thinner.

But critics disagree with the principle. Dr Andrew Wadge, of the Food Standards Agency, has branded detox regimes "nonsense" and said the body has its own system of getting rid of toxins - the liver.

I do it when I'm feeling a bit clogged up
Ellie Kopiel, detoxer

Dieticians are regulated by law in the UK, but nutritionists and nutritional therapists are not.

Catherine Collins, chief dietician at St George's Hospital in Tooting, told the BBC: "As a dietician I frequently see people who have been given the wrong information by nutritionists or nutritional therapists and we deal with the consequences," she said.

But others believe detoxing can beneficial if done properly. Ellie Kopiel, 55, detoxes about once a year by limiting her food intake, eating lots of fruit and vegetables and drinking about two litres of water a day.

Ms Kopiel, a reflexologist from London, told the BBC News website: "I do it when I'm feeling a bit clogged up.

"The first time I did it I must have had a lot of toxins in my body and for the first few days I felt very weak, very nervy and very tired. But now I'm more conscious of what I eat all the time so when I detox the most I get might be a headache."


Below is a selection of readers' comments:

I started a Lipotrim diet in 1997. It consisted of 3 sachets of 'food' mixed with water per day and plenty of water. The weight loss was amazing. The diet was given to me by private prescription and I was weighed and monitored each week. Within a few days I became constipated and was advised to drink more water. At the end of three weeks I was drinking apporx 3L of water per day. I then had an epilectic fit. The following month (by now I was on 5L of water per day and still constipated) I had a series of about 8 fits over 24 hours and was taken into hospital. I lost my memory, was unable to drive for 18 months, had difficulty in making decisions, panic attacks an inability to do everyday things like shopping, washing and looking after my two young children.
Pauline Major, Looe, UK

My husband & I both tried a detox diet together last year and had dramatically different results - depsite being on the same programme. The reason for this was our different body types and metabolism. My husbsand is very tall, slim with a low BMI and a high-burn metabolsim. I am the polar opposite - overweight with a slow metabolism. My husband felt sick and unwell after only one day but I felt fine. A healthy lifestyle is about moderation, balance and common sense. I am a nurse specialist and often see people who have unwittingly caused themselves harm in the name of 'natural therapy'.
Kate, Devizes, Wiltshire

Yes I detoxed about 5 yrs ago. The side effects were not good. Dizziness, headaches, blurred vision, feeling faint and weak. I had three 4 day sessions every 10 days. I lost a dress size and felt wonderful afterwards. But it is short lived and not worth the expense. Better off re-assessing your lifestyle!!
Kim, Lichfield, Staffordshire

Many years ago I took the same diet - three days later, I had a headache, was vomiting, and now, I don't move and I am in my bed very sick. I am very bad and have become deaf in my left ear. I think about for the litre water I drank, about 4 or 5. Days later I saw a doctor, when I told him I have tried a water diet, he laughed. After examination I was well. But after that I lost the ability to hear. But when I read the story that you reported, I think I have been lucky. And now I drink only when I am thirsty.
Lys Bonome, Paris

Yes I have completed a detox diet several times and think they are a good way of cleansing the system. I have felt healthier and energised by them. I am a reflexologist and believe in natural healing methods used sensibly. Sometimes people may ignore safety measures advised by their therapists to speed up a process.
Ellie Kopiel, London

The detox industry is entirely unregulated. A lot of detoxes don't work at all. But some certainly do. Like thousands of others I went (abroad) to a spa offering a detox regime of a week of fasting, daily colemas and at the end of the fasting a diet high on fruits and raw vegetables. It did all and more than I hoped - not only did it make me feel better than I had for years, it also broke my previously bad food addictions - tea, coffee, cola. I've gone back now 7 times in 5 years. If it hadn't been very good for me I certainly wouldn't have gone back again and again.
Bob, London UK

I have recently returned from Thailand having done a 9 day detox diet. It was properly overseen. There was no suggestion of drinking VAST amounts of fluid. There were lots of fruit and vegetable dishes and protein drinks. Yes, it was a little rough for the first few days with headaches etc. But I felt indescribably fantastic and so much better. I lost just over half a stone - which I have kept off. My skin improved and has only now started worsening with the introduction of small amounts of sugar in my diet! At the end of the day, FAD diets don't work. They are, in my view, dangerous and don't teach the person to eat a proper, reasonable, balanced diet.
Sally Jenkins, Bedale, North Yorkshire

I have been on a detox diet and it was excellent. I've also drunk over 5 litres of water a day for a sustained period. But you are supposed to balance your water and salt intake as both are vital to health. Detox diets are powerful and need to be undertaken with care. But I don't believe there is anything wrong with the idea that you should flush excess toxins from your system.
Robert, London

I went on the Carol Vorderman detox diet about 5 years ago. Basically you become vegan for a month. After the month was up I felt really good. I wouldn't stay on it for any longer than the stated time though. I do believe in the saying - you are what you eat so I do try and keep off foods containing additives/high fat etc so I don't really need to detox. So long as ones diet is balanced, now, I don't think detox diets are necessary.
Carolyn Davison, Carmarthen, Wales


SEE ALSO
Scientist dismisses detox diets
29 Dec 07 |  Health
Why is too much water dangerous?
15 Jan 07 |  Magazine
What's the point of detoxing?
03 Jan 06 |  Magazine
'No proof' detoxing diets work
07 Jun 05 |  Health

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