The health store shelves are filled with optimistic claims of weight loss products. It’s tempting after what may have been weeks of “I’ll start the diet tomorrow” to think about cleansing out your system to kick start your new body.
Quick fix detox teas, juices and supplements are heavily marketed, enticing you to drink a magical natural potion which will rid you of your over-eating and partying sins so you can start afresh.
Combinations of cayenne pepper, lemon juice and honey taste so disgusting, you might be convinced that they must be good for you, but the truth is in the scientific evidence for which there is none.
In fact a 2015 review of clinical evidence about detox diets published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics concluded that there is no compelling evidence to support the use of detox diets for weight management or toxin elimination. They found that many clinical studies are hampered by flawed methodologies and small sample sizes and that no randomized controlled trials have been conducted to assess the effectiveness of commercial detox diets in humans.
Detoxing is marketed based on the idea that some combination of alcohol, preservatives and fast food burgers can cause a build-up of toxins in the body. I’m yet to find one detox kit that actually describes and names which toxins that they remove and how they manage to do this.
The reality is that our bodies are constantly being exposed to a huge number of chemicals. Not all chemicals are bad, and the presence of chemicals in the body doesn’t mean that they are doing harm or building up. Some natural chemicals can be much more harmful than some synthetic ones and we have been exposing ourselves to harmful substances since the beginning of man. To survive, our bodies have evolved to defend against and remove unwanted substances. Our skin, lymphatic system, kidneys and liver combine to form an incredible intrinsic detoxification system.
Detox marketing describes how our liver and kidneys act like filters, but need to be cleaned out to remove the toxins that are trapped there, akin to periodically rinsing a dirty sponge. In reality, our liver’s main role is to detox by taking in blood from the digestive system and filtering out toxins like alcohol and medication by-products. It does this by converting the toxins through a series of chemical reactions into substances that can be eliminated in bile.
Our kidneys also detox by excreting waste products into our urine using over two million filtering units called nephrons which remove waste and send useful minerals back to the bloodstream.
The liver is a self-cleansing organ, it doesn’t store toxins unless you have been diagnosed with serious liver disease and no amount of lemon juice concoction can rinse it out in any other way than it is already capable of.
Detox dieters often make claims that they feel better and have more energy on their cleansing diet. The chances are it’s not the juice causing this but the fact that the juice is replacing a diet full of processed fats, sugar, alcohol, soda, and snack foods. By eliminating these, your liver and kidneys are not overburdened with filtering a bad diet and can carry out their normal detoxification duties. What detoxers are likely experiencing is the feeling of a healthy well balanced body functioning normally. The only thing a detox diet is proven to clean out is your wallet, so instead of looking for a quick fix, give your liver a break and consider making evidence based long term healthy lifestyle choices instead.