Do you need to detox?

By Hannah Buckland, Healthy Hearts Care Planner

Detoxing claims to help our bodies rid themselves of unwanted toxins. It comes in lots of different forms – juice diets, fasting, supplements, detox teas, vitamin drips and enema cleanses to name just a few – and professes a number of benefits including weight loss, improved digestion, improved energy levels, a boosted immune system and improved hair, nails and skin. Understandably, the idea that a detox or cleanse can “re-set” our bodies is very appealing, especially after a period of over-indulgence. But do detoxes actually work?

The concept of detoxing is heavily tied up in a preoccupation with purity. The detox narrative promotes the idea that our lifestyles are “toxic” and that we must cleanse ourselves to be healthy, ridding ourselves of toxins in the process. However, there is no evidence that toxins build up in our bodies; in fact, if they did, then we would feel very ill. People are often tempted by a quick fix – a 3 day juice cleanse or a 14 day “Teatox” may sound more attractive than the long-term alternative of lifestyle change. But there is currently no evidence to suggest that detox diets or products make your body’s natural detoxifying pathways any more efficient. In other words: detoxing doesn’t work. Your body is able to detox perfectly well by itself; with your liver, kidneys, gut, lungs and skin all playing an important role. There is therefore no need to spend money on detox products or engage in detox rituals.

Harmful to the body
In fact, detoxing can be harmful to the body. Cutting out any food group can risk deficiency in important nutrients that are needed for health and wellbeing. On the other hand, taking supplements or using a vitamin drip could lead to excessive levels of vitamins and minerals in the body, which can also cause serious health problems. Undertaking a fast or juice diet will limit energy intake and may result in fatigue, dizziness and lack of energy – preventing exercise and activity, which is important for good health. Detox teas put stress on your digestive system and often cause cramps, bloating, gas, nausea and diarrhoea. If consumed long-term, they can affect the balance of electrolytes in the blood which may result in heart function disorders, muscle weakness, liver damage and other harmful effects.
In conclusion: many of the claims made by detox advocates are wild and exaggerated and the concept of detoxing itself is irrational and unscientific. In order to maintain optimal health, the best approach is to be physically active and follow a balanced and varied diet.

Resources

BDA (2019). Detox Diets: Food Fact Sheet. BDA. Available from: https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/detox-diets.html [Accessed 12/02/2021].
Saunt, R. and West, H. (2019). Is Butter a Carb? Great Britain: Piatkus.

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