Detox diets, or cleanses, have become as common to health as washing your hands and drinking water. They’re seen as a necessity.
But unlike hand soap and H20, there’s no good reason to think that detoxes are good for you. They claim to jumpstart weight loss, cleanse your gut, and provide an abundance of energy by removing toxins from your body. But what they fail to do—along with satisfy hunger—is provide any evidence of their necessity, much less effectiveness.
Before detox-diets were a fitness fad, “detox” was actually a medical procedure, typically done in a hospital, ridding the body of dangerous or life-threatening levels of alcohol, drugs, or poisons . These detoxes involved therapies and drugs to cleanse the body of toxins.
Now “detox” has taken on a brand new meaning—with emphasis on “brand.” It’s no longer a medical procedure, it’s a dieting fad that all your friends are doing (and selling!), leaving their tummies grumbling and wallets empty.
Drink Yourself Clean
Famous detoxes, like the Master Cleanse, instruct participants to follow a strict diet for a given amount of time—anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. Typically, there’s not much food involved—just a whole lot of liquid.
Participants drink shakes, gulp juices, swallow herbs and laxatives, pour salt and cayenne in their water, and soak their bodies in Epsom baths, all in hopes to drink themselves clean.
The idea is to get all your nutrients from juices and smoothies, or fast altogether, to give your insides a break while “flushing” them of toxins. The reason you do this with liquid instead of solid food is because supposedly liquid nutrients absorb quicker and help your body’s organs do their jobs better—aka detoxify.
What Exactly Are You Detoxing?
Detox diets promise to remove “toxins” from your body, never quite defining what exactly those toxins are. They could mean pollutants, heavy metals, processed foods, or even fecal matter.
All we know for sure is that they claim your body is under attack from these so-called toxins and needs a good cleansing. And somehow juices and smoothies are the way to go.
Why You Shouldn’t Bother
Doing a detox diet or cleanse is kind of like leaving the mechanic after an oil change and driving to another mechanic for a second oil change. It makes no sense.
Your body has multiple systems and organs in place to detoxify itself. Your skin provides a barrier against harmful outside substances. Your airways and lungs trap and expel gross particles and toxins from the air—hence why you sneeze and cough. Your intestines screen out parasites and other harmful organisms while allowing the right nutrients to be absorbed. The kidneys do a remarkable job of filtering out waste substances and moving them out of the body .
Your liver—the body’s MVP filter—produces a family of proteins called metallothioneins. These proteins metabolize nutrients and also neutralize harmful metals . Liver cells also produce enzymes that regulate the metabolism (chemical change) of drugs and are an important part of the body’s defense against harmful chemicals and toxins.
Basically, everything expensive detox diets claim to do, your body already does—for free, and much more efficiently.