Where The Myth Stems From
Populations have been detoxing for centuries.
You can go right back to the Ancient Egyptians for instance, who believed that your body could decompose due to toxins in the intestines, and basically invented the water enema as a form of detoxing.
The Greeks then took this a step further, and had a stab at coffee enemas. The less said about those the better. I like to drink my caffeine.
Gradually, food made its way into the detox movement, and that’s more what this article will focus on, as it’s the current fitness industry fad.
Folks began using things like lemon, as well as herbs and spices, while completely eliminating other foods from their diet. The idea was that these foods, along with fruits and vegetables were “natural” and combatted the ill effects of man-made, processed foods, helping to cleanse your body.
What the Science Says
You don’t need to detox.
Plain and simple.
There’s absolutely nothing backing up the efficacy of cutting out almost every food group and focusing solely on whatever detox ingredients your chosen type of fad promotes.
What’s funny, is that despite this being such big business, there doesn’t seem to be any agreement whatsoever on what exactly constitutes a detox, what foods and ingredients should or shouldn’t be included or excluded, what toxins a detox is attempting to flush, or even how these plans work.
A 2009 investigation found that when surveyed, the top 15 selling detox product manufacturers couldn’t get their definitions to align, that no two products used the same ingredients, and no one was even really too sure what their detox was helping with. (1)
Do You Have Kidneys?
Your body is pretty efficient at detoxing itself.
We have organs that do a really good job of getting rid of any potential harmful toxins.
Your kidneys, for instance, filter your blood and urine, and your stomach contains acid that kills any potential nasties.
In fact, while it’s not an “official” system like your circulatory or respiratory system, you do have an inbuilt detoxing system, that includes the kidneys and stomach, liver, lungs, your skin, and your lymphatic system.
Between them, these take care of anything foreign that may enter your body.
Provided you’re healthy, and don’t have any severe medical conditions, you have no need to worry that these may be functioning on a sub-par level, putting you at risk from whatever dangers the detox companies are raving about.
Dangers of the Detox
Detoxes are dangerous.
Straight up, no doubt about it.
Usually with these myths and misconceptions, it’s a case that the “bro logic” – i.e. “don’t eat carbs after 6” isn’t harmful, but is just stupid or unfounded.
That’s not the case with detoxes.
By cutting out complete food groups you’re putting yourself at risk of nutrient deficiencies.
If we look at the most common type of detox – a fruit and/or veggie cleanse (usually combined with some sort of supplement) then we’ve got several problems –
- A lack of protein means impaired recovery.
- You’ll lose muscle mass.
- Energy will be way down.
- Fruits and veggies are fibrous, and this huge increase in fibre intake can cause bloating and digestive discomfort.
- Additionally, such a high fibre intake can lead to nutrient malabsorption.
- When you go back to your “normal” diet, the weight will pile back on.
Why Do People Detox?
Because detoxes sound so promising and so enlightening.
You will lose weight quickly on one, but this is due to a decrease in volume of food intake – it won’t be fat loss.
Also, to begin with, you may well feel better.
If you go from eating no fruits and veggies, and a tonne of high-sugar, high-fat junk food, and then suddenly reverse this, you will get an initial energy boost and feel “fresher” and “invigorated.”
Not only that, but plenty of detox diets do promote making healthy lifestyle changes, such as getting more sleep, taking regular exercise, giving up smoking, cutting down on alcohol, and so on. These clearly make the average Joe feel a bit better too.
There’s nothing wrong with cutting back (or in some cases, even cutting out) “junk” foods – most of us probably do eat a little too much.
But there’s never any need to completely ban any food from your diet, as per a detox.
You never need any detox or cleanse supplements.
If you want to do a sane and safe version of a “detox” then why not just make new healthy habits:
- Only drink alcohol 1-2 nights per week.
- Aim to eat 1-2 servings of fruit per day.
- 3-5 servings of veggies.
- Cut back on processed and packaged foods in favour of fresh.
- Shoot for a minimum of 12 grams of fibre per 1,000 calories.
I guarantee that using these, you’ll be far healthier, far happier and far better off financially that falling for an expensive, unnecessary, needless detox scam.