Nutrition Myth 13: You Need to 'Detox'

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Detoxes are an example of a ‘magic bullet’ being sold to us by clever marketing and health ‘gurus’. The idea behind detoxes is that every few months, it is important to flush all of the toxins out of our body, usually by following some kind of liquid-only, plant-based juice diet (usually with a supplement or two thrown in).

A few days of a juice detox will leave your body refreshed and cleansed of any and every harmful toxin, apparently? The problem is, not only is there no evidence to support these claims, detox companies themselves can’t even provide evidence to support their claims, name a single toxin eliminated by their products, or even show a great understanding of what they mean with the term ‘detox’. Here’s a link to the 2009 investigation which provided these findings.

By definition, ‘toxins’ are plant or animal-based substances which are poisonous to humans, even though some ‘gurus’ would have you believe otherwise (citing heavy metals or anything synthetic as toxins, too). Even if we establish a clear and narrow definition of toxins, a detox diet becomes no more useful of effective. If you have high levels of toxicity in your body it would be a pretty serious situation, and you’d need to go the hospital, not down a concoction of orange, ginger and celery.

And lower levels of chronic toxicity are better dealt with by a well-fed and nourished body than one starved and relying only on a few (essentially) fruit juices to get by. Your liver and kidneys are the main organs that work around the clock to ‘detox’ your body, though the lungs and other organs can play an important role in this process, too. Your organs need to be well-nourished in order to function optimally, and following a ‘detox’ diet will do the opposite.

You see, if your entire energy intake is coming from a few fruit juices, you are definitely going to be lacking in many vitamins and minerals, let alone the absence of protein and fat in your diet. So, following a detox diet is more likely to hinder your body’s natural detoxification process far more than it may help it!

So, in no uncertain terms, ‘detoxes’ are a load of rubbish - they aren’t backed by evidence, they don’t do anything that they claim to do, and they are more likely to negatively impact your health than positively affect it. This does beg the question: why are they so popular, then? The answer is quite simple: rapid weight loss.

Almost all ‘detoxes’, whether you’re drinking juices or ‘special’ teas, will lead to a pretty drastic calorie deficit. Restrict your body of calories and carbohydrates and you can drain your glycogen stores in as quickly as one day. The subsequent weight loss that this causes makes us instinctively feel as though the diet has ‘worked’… because losing weight is always good, right? The problem is, the second you resume a ‘normal’ diet, you will replenish your glycogen stores, and the weight will all return. So, maybe we can all agree that these ‘detoxes’ aren’t a good idea after all?

We understand how easy it is to be fooled by fad diets and approaches such as detoxes. We all want a quick and easy solution to improve our health and lose weight, and many, many companies prey on this. Unfortunately, weight loss is almost never quick and easy, and improving our overall picture of health will definitely take a concerted effort and commitment to real dietary and lifestyle changes… not just throwing a bunch of plants in a blender and downing it before trotting off to work.