There have been a growing number of infomercials, Web sites, and fitness influencers that are urging us to eliminate the systemic buildup of toxins that supposedly results from bad habits or prolonged exposure to hazardous substances in the environment. We’re told these toxins will destroy our vitality and threaten our health unless we take measures to "detox" our bodies. Thanks to these claims, detox diets and cleanses are more popular than ever.
What is a Detox?
Detoxesare short-term interventions designed to eliminate toxins from your body. They’re claimed to aid various health problems.
A typical detox diet usually involves a period of fasting, followed by a strict diet of fruit, vegetables, fruit juices, and water. Sometimes a detox also includes herbs, teas, supplements, and colon cleanse or enemas.
Detox therapies are most commonly recommended because of potential exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment or your diet. These include pollutants, synthetic chemicals, heavy metals, and other harmful compounds.
Most Common Ways to Detox
There are many ways to do a detox diet — ranging from total starvation fasts to simpler food modifications.
Most detoxes involve at least one of the following:
Fasting for 1–3 days.
Drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, water, and tea.
Drinking only specific liquids, such as salted water or lemon juice.
Eliminating foods high in heavy metals, contaminants, and allergens.
Taking supplements or herbs.
Avoiding allergenic foods, then slowly reintroducing them.
Using laxatives, colon cleanses, or enemas.
Completely eliminating alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, and refined sugar.
Detox diets vary in intensity and duration.
But do they work?
Sure detoxes are popular, but are they proven to do what they say they'll do? “Flush toxins out of your system”? Detox cleanses rarely identify the specific toxins they aim to remove.
In fact, there is little to no evidence that detox diets remove any toxins from your body.
The body is amazingly designed and capable of cleansing itself through the liver, feces, urine, and sweat. Your liver's function is to make toxic substances harmless, then ensure that they'rereleased from your body. However, there are a few chemicals that may not be as easily removed by these processes, including persistent organic pollutants(POPs), phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), and heavy metals.
These tend to accumulate in fat tissue or blood and can take a very long time, sometimes even years for your body to flush out naturally. However, there is little evidence that detox diets help eliminate any of these compounds.
If your goal is weight loss, a detox cleanse might help you drop a few pounds, but you’ll likely just gain it back since most weight loss is from the loss of fluid from no carbs. In the end, you will haven’t accomplished much of anything. Without any real scientific evidence behind detox diets, they can be officially classified as just another overhyped weight-loss fad.