The “Detox” Myth

When I hear the word detox, I think of lemon water, green juices, “skinny-me tea” and the hundreds of Instagram’s that these products have been splashed across. The toned, tanned, healthy looking bodies really sell the idea that these things really work! 

But just how safe and effective are these products? 

The main claims made by detox companies include; weight loss, detoxification, increased energy levels, clearer skin and reduced bloating. This all seems very appealing, especially if you’ve had a weekend of heavy drink or overeating, a couple of days of away from alcohol and stodgy food will do you good.

However, the idea that we “need” to detox on a regular basis has been called into question by the British Dietetic Association (BDA). Their spokesperson, Rick Miller, argues:

‘It’s a complete fallacy that the body needs to detox. Removal of waste products and toxins is a continuous process and we don’t need to periodically flush them out. The body does a perfectly good job of eliminating any substances on its own.’

What he is referring to, is our inbuilt detoxifying machine which is made up of our kidneys, liver, skin and even our lungs which are detoxifying as we speak. But surely a little extra help along the way can’t hurt, can it?

Well we have taken a look at three popular methods of ‘detoxing’ to see if they live up to the hype, or if they are, as Miller puts it, “a complete fallacy“.

The “Juice Cleanse” 

A juice cleanse usually relies on people drinking only juice for 3-5 days in an attempt to rid their bodies of toxins and feel “healthier”. Many of the companies that design these juice cleanses will usually argue that modern life has increased the load of “toxins” that our body is subjected to, and thus, we need to undergo a “cleanse” every once in a while. They promote cleanses as quick way to lose weight “flush out toxins, hydrate your cells and nourish your body” which will no doubt “leave you feeling better than ever”.

BUT a quick google search leads us to believe that this may not be the case…  

We suspect you'll be spending many hours in the bathroom...
We suspect you’ll be spending many hours in the bathroom…

The problem with juicing is that important nutrients such as carbs, fibre, sodium and fat-soluble vitamins are all limited. This can lead to light-headedness, headaches and a lack of energy. Aside from the deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, juice cleanses lacks protein which is needed on a daily basis! If it is not provided, our body will scavenge it from other sources such as muscle tissue, organs and bones!! This means that if you do lose weight during the fast, it will most likely be made up of water weight and muscle mass, which is neither ideal nor is it sustainable!

So while there is no reliable scientific research to support claims that juicing your produce is healthier than eating it whole, there is also not much evidence is to say that it will be damaging in the long run. So if you have tried it out, and felt great than feel free to do it again (sparingly!). However, if you have a history of disordered eating than these type of “fads” can be incredibly harmful! So why not focus on incorporate some fruit and vegetable juice (and whole veggies while you’re at it) in a balanced diet…much more beneficial and sustainable (and less time in the toilet).

The Lemon Water Detox 

The Lemon Water Detox is a DIY solution that has us squeezing half a lemon into a glass of water each morning as a way to improve digestion, support the immune system, and detoxify the liver. While these claims may hold a seed of truth, the benefits are largely overstated. Another common misconception is that lemon water increases your metabolism, which to be perfectly blunt, is just not true! There is little evidence to suggest that any single food will boost metabolism. Yes, it is true that some foods are metabolised differently, and are easier to digest, but our metabolism, as a system, is much more complicated than simply adding lemon. It is regulated by our water intake and level of hydration and also by a whole series of hormones…but is not boosted by adding lemon to our water.

But, if adding a bit of lemon to your water makes you want to drink more water, than keep going! There is definitely no harm to this health ritual if done in conjunction with a balanced diet…and it can be incredibly refreshing on a hot day!

Teatoxing 

“Teatoxing” is super popular at the moment amongst celebrities and “insta” famous fitness and wellness personalities. The main ‘benefits’ of “Teatoxing” is reduced bloating and weightless. Even the names of these brands (SkinnyMe Tea for example) promote the idea of “weightless” as a benefit, so it’s no wonder so many people get sucked in.

Kylie Jenner is Fan of SkinnyMint Tea and their detox plan
Kylie Jenner is Fan of SkinnyMint Tea and their detox plan

Many detox teas contain a natural laxative called “senna” which is usually used to clear bowels before a colonoscopy or to relieve constipation! According to National Institute of Health (NIH), this ingredient:

“irritates the stomach lining to produce a laxative effect and can contribute to stomach discomfort, cramps and diarrhoea”.

They go on to recommend against any extended teatox plan, warning that it can cause:

“abnormal bowel function or changes in electrolyte levels that can lead to heart problems, muscle weakness, liver damage and other harmful effects”.

Doesn’t sound too ideal to me!

Registered Dietitian, Eliza Zied, sums the whole thing up perfectly in her article for Shape Magazine:

“If your goal is to lose weight and get clean, skip the teatox. Instead consume a nutrient-rich, calorie-appropriate diet that includes plenty of produce, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy in their lowest fat and sugar forms, and that limits highly processed and refined foods. Drink water, sip on regular tea if you enjoy it, be more active, and get enough sleep. Doing all of that is likely to be healthier and safer than taking a chance on an unproven and potentially unsafe concoction.”

The Verdict 

It seems pretty evident that there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that any of these detox plans can improve a process that works perfectly well in a healthy body!

So next time you find yourself tempted to fork out a small fortune for the latest “detox” fad, remember the words of Catherine Collins, an NHS dietitian at St George’s Hospital:

“The ultimate lifestyle ‘detox’ is not smoking, exercising and enjoying a healthy balanced diet”

LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT ‘DETOXING’ IN THE COMMENT SECTION BELOW! 

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2 thoughts on “The “Detox” Myth

  1. While I absolutely adore cold water with lemon in the morning to help wake me up, I do agree that it’s important not to overstate the benefits! As for ‘detoxing’…I’ve never seen anyone adequately describe what these ‘toxins’ actually are so I’ve never felt a need to detox ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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