Do Detox Cleanses and Diets Work? Here’s What You Need to Know

Detox, known in full as detoxification — is a popular buzzword.

Detoxification is a term that describes the art of using special products or following a special diet that supposedly flushes toxins from your body, thereby enhancing weight loss and promoting your health.

It is important to note that the human body is well equipped to flush out toxins and therefore has no need for special diets or any unique supplements.

However, it is also worth mentioning that you can enhance your natural detox system.

In this article, I will explain some of the common misconceptions about detoxing. I will also show you some evidence-based methods that you can use to revive or boost your body’s detoxification system.

Photo by Vika Aleksandrova on Unsplash

What is a detox?

Detox is a short-term intervention designed to flush toxins from your body.

A typical detox plan or diet involves a period of fasting, a diet comprised strictly of fruits, fruit juices, water, and vegetables. In addition, some detoxes may include colon cleanses, enemas, supplements, herbs, or teas.

Detox cleanses claim to:

· Fortify your body with nutrients

· Improve the circulation of blood in your body

· Promote the elimination of toxins through urine, feces, and sweat

· Stimulate your liver to flush out toxins

· Rest your organs by fasting

Proponents of detox therapies recommend it because of potential exposure to toxins in your diet or the environment. These toxins include synthetic chemicals, pollutants, heavy metals, and other toxic compounds.

Many people also believe that a detox diet helps with several health problems, such as digestive issues, obesity, autoimmune conditions, bloating, allergies, inflammation, and chronic fatigue (1).

However, it is worth mentioning that there are little to no human studies on detox diets. Moreover, the few pieces of research that exist have very significant flaws (23).

Common methods of detoxing

There are several ways of detoxing — ranging from fasting to simple modifications of one’s diet.

Many detox diets may include any of the following (1):

· A 1–3-day fast

· Drinking fresh smoothies, vegetable and fruit juices, tea, and water

· Taking herbs or supplements

· Not eating foods that contain contaminants, heavy metals, or allergens.

· Using colon cleanses, enemas, or laxatives.

· Restricting oneself to specific drinks such as lemon juice or salted water.

· Regular exercising

· Total elimination of refined sugar, cigarettes, coffee, and alcohol

Detoxing varies in duration and intensity.

Which toxins are eliminated by detoxification?

It is important to note that most detox diets do not specify the actual toxins that they remove. We also do not understand how exactly these detox mechanisms work.

There’s no scientific evidence that detox diets flush out toxins from your body.

It is also worth mentioning that your body can detox or clean itself via feces, the liver, sweat, and urine. For example, your liver detoxifies all toxic substances that get into your body and then flushes them out (34567).

But then, despite the liver's detoxifying capabilities, there are some compounds and chemicals that may prove stubborn while the liver performs its detox functions. These include phthalates, persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals, and bisphenol A (3891011).

These compounds may accumulate in the blood or fat tissue and can take ages for your body to eliminate (121314).

Most commercial products are rid of these compounds during production (15).

So, there is very little evidence that detox diets eliminate any toxins from the body on a general note.

What’s the proper way(s) to detox?

1. Limit alcohol consumption

Your liver metabolizes over 90% of the alcohol that you drink (16). The enzymes in your liver metabolize alcohol to acetaldehyde, a well-known carcinogen (1718). Because your liver recognizes acetaldehyde as a carcinogen, it converts it into acetate, a harmless substance, which is flushed from your body. Several studies have observed that moderate alcohol intake is beneficial for cardiovascular health. But then, drinking in excess can trigger a wide range of health disorders (192021).

Excessive drinking causes severe damage to your liver function via inflammation, fat accumulation, and scarring (22). These processes inhibit the smooth functioning of your liver, so it defaults in its ability to filter waster and other toxins from your body.

Therefore, abstaining from alcohol or eliminating the amount you consume is one of the best ways to boost your body’s detoxification systems.

2. Get adequate sleep each night

Getting adequate and quality sleep every night gives a lot of support to your body’s natural detox system. When you sleep, your brain recharges and reorganizes itself. Your brain also uses your sleep time to flush toxins that may have accumulated throughout the day (2324). Beta-amyloid is an example of waste that accumulates in the brain. It plays an important role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease (2526).

When you deprive yourself of sleep, your body won’t have the time to perform these detox functions, and so the toxins accumulate and affect your health in different ways (27).

Poor sleep is associated with several health consequences such as anxiety, stress, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity (28293031.

Aim for 7–9 hours of sleep per night, regularly. Doing this guarantees good health (32).

3. Increase your water intake

Water does more to your body than quench your thirst. It serves as a regulator of body temperature, aids digestion, lubricates your joints, aids in absorbing nutrients, and detoxifies your body by flushing out waste (33).

You see, to function optimally, your body’s cells have to be continually repaired. But then, these repair processes release wastes. The waste comes in the form of carbon dioxide and urea and may cause harm if it is allowed to accumulate in your blood (34).

Water flushes these waste products out of your body through sweating, breathing, and urination. As such, proper hydration is essential for adequate detoxification (35).

4. Reduce your intake of processed foods and added sugar

Processed foods and added sugar contribute immensely to today’s public health crises (36). Excessive consumption of processed and sugary foods has been linked to chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease (373839).

These diseases affect your body’s natural ability to detoxify itself. They do this by harming those vital organs involved in our body’s detoxification processes — organs such as your kidneys and liver.

For instance, excess consumption of sugary beverages leads to fatty liver, which hurts liver function (404142).

By eating less junk, you can maintain the health of your body’s detox system.

Other proper ways to detox include:

· Eating antioxidant-rich foods

· Not leading a sedentary life

· Decreasing your salt intake

· Eating foods that are rich in prebiotics


Detox cleanses and diets are believed to eliminate toxins, leading to improved health and weight loss. However, as seductive as these detox cleanses and diets may be, your body doesn’t need them as it has its detoxification system, which, frankly, is highly efficient.

Either way, you can boost your body’s natural detox system and improve your health by reducing your salt intake, staying hydrated, getting active, and eating antioxidant-rich foods.

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