Detox diets and supplements are a multimillion dollar a year industry, with many in the health and wellness field, and even some in the medical community, touting their benefits. But, do they work, and more importantly, are they safe?
Detoxification (detox) is the process of expelling harmful substances from our bodies. The body naturally does this through the lungs, skin, kidneys, liver, and colon; but some believe that the chemicals and pesticides we ingest daily build up in our bodies, causing adverse effects. These effects can result in anything from weight gain, to disease and death.
Do they work?
Yes and no.
Many people that follow a short-term detox plan do in fact lose weight. The problem is the weight lost is primarily fluids (water weight) that are quickly regained at the cessation of the diet. As far as the health benefits of detoxing; there is still zero research backing the claim that detox diets can help prevent illness. The almost universal consensus in the medical field is that the body is fully capable of detoxifying itself, without the help of detox diets or supplements.
Are they safe?
Again, yes and no.
Following a conservative detox diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, for a short period of time, is completely safe. The danger comes into play with the more restrictive detoxes that combine severely reduced calorie diets with various “detox” supplements. These plans generally leave people under-nourished, resulting in low energy and high stress levels. Continuing on one of these plans for more than a few days could result in serious illness.
Are they worth trying?
There is currently zero evidence suggesting that our bodies accumulate toxic substances, and even if they did, there is no research that detox diets and supplements would aid in the removal of these toxins. Some supporters of detoxing have linked the increase in diseases with a build-up of toxins in our bodies, but this can largely be explained by an increase in the obesity rate, as well as increased diagnosis of diseases.
Even if your only goal is to drop a few pounds, detoxing is still not a good solution. As stated before, a majority of the weight lost will be fluids, with the remainder being a combination of muscle and fat. With this muscle loss, and highly restricted diet, the body with see a slight reduction in its metabolism (i.e. burn less calories). As soon as pre-detox calorie consumption is resumed, the body will regain all weight lost, and then some more, because of the body will not be burning as many calories as before.
What is the solution?
Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. Because toxins are removed by our lungs, colon, kidneys, and skin; it is also important to get plenty of exercise, fiber, and water. Doing these small steps will be more than enough to ensure your body is toxin-free, as well as save you plenty of money!