From juice fasts to colon cleanses, detoxing is supposed to flush toxins out of your system and ‘reset’ your body. But are detoxes as healthy as you’re meant to believe and should you do one?
Detoxing diets are all the rage, touted as a beneficial way to kick start a healthy lifestyle and help weight loss. Cleansing the body of toxins is also said to reduce the risk of disease and promote the feeling of overall good health, radiant skin and boost energy. However, the practice of detoxification may actually cause more harm than good.
Your body accumulates natural and manmade toxins when you ingest food and water, and when you breathe. Toxins can exist as pollutants in the air and chemicals in processed foods. Even organic fruit and vegetables aren’t safe from toxins such as E. coli and salmonella, which can both lead to acute illness.
What kinds of detox diets exist?
There are many ways you can detox, including:
- juice cleanses
- colon/liver cleanses
- raw food diets
- fasting diets
The risks of detoxing
Of all the detoxing methods, juice cleanses and fasting diets offer the least benefit to those with medical conditions. This is because they deprive you of vitamins and nutrients your organs need to function well and for you to feel good – both of which detoxing diets aim to do. Perhaps you’ll lose weight, your skin will clear and you’ll feel ‘lighter’ for a time, but once you return to a regular diet, all this is likely to change back.
If you have diabetes or issues with cholesterol, a detox diet can be harmful. There is little research showing that detoxing helps improve blood pressure or cholesterol. Any diet that requires you to severely restrict what you eat can lead to very low blood pressure, which is especially dangerous if you’re on medication for diabetes.
So, is a detox diet the answer?
Not really. Your body is designed to expel toxins on its own. The main organ that performs this function is the liver. Everything you eat, drink and breathe that passes into the bloodstream also passes through the liver. This organ does the important work of regulating, synthesising, storing and secreting many proteins and nutrients, along with purifying, transforming and clearing out toxic substances. Drinking a juice or performing another internal cleanse isn’t going to flush your body of these toxins faster, according to some experts.
Some detoxification products are supposed to ‘cleanse’ the liver itself, but in healthy people the liver does not store toxins. Instead, it processes potentially harmful chemicals and makes them water-soluble so that they can be sweated or excreted from the body.
The research repeatedly suggests that the only detox diets worth undertaking are those that limit processed, high-fat and sugary foods, and focus on promoting whole foods, including fruit and vegetables. Basically, if you feed your body the right vitamins and nutrients, it should look after itself just fine.
Have you ever done a detox diet? How was your experience?