Many people go on a detox diet for a health and beauty boost, to kick-off a weight-loss program, or to remove unspecified ‘toxins’ from the body.
However, health experts have been warning for years that trendy detox cleanses are not only ineffective, but dangerous.
Now more than ever, they’re urging people clinging on to their New Years resolutions to not fall into the trap of easy fad diets that could be harmful.
Daily Mail Online breaks down which detox diets and regimens are ineffective and potentially life-threatening.
Health experts have been warning for years that trendy detox diets and cleanses are not only ineffective, but potentially dangerous
There are many ways to detox
1. Detox diets
There are many detoxification programs and recipes out there.
A popular one used by many celebrities, including Beyonce, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jared Leto, is the lemon detox diet, dubbed the ‘master cleanser’.
It’s a 10-day diet program in which meals are replaced with a drink containing nothing but lemon juice, water, cayenne pepper and maple syrup. This concoction is supposed to remove toxins, aid weight loss, and illuminate skin and hair.
Another popular detox method is the three-day apple cider vinegar diet in which people drink two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar mixed with water before each meal. It’s supposed to make people feel less hungry and make it easier to avoid snacking.
Detox methods also come in the form of raw food diets where people consume uncooked foods like kale, nuts and seeds, dried fruits, coconut, avocado, olive oil and goat cheese daily.
For this type of detox many people aim to rid the colon, an organ that’s part of the digestive tract, of fecal material and other unspecified toxins.
Some colon cleansing methods include coffee enemas, which are endorsed by Gwyneth Paltrow, and laxatives.
During a coffee enema, a device is used to inject hot coffee into the lower bowel through the rectum. The procedure is though to rid the liver and kidneys of a variety of unspecified toxins, including cancer-causing ones.
Laxatives — which come in many different forms including a pill, a chewable tablet and liquid — contain chemicals that loosen stools and increase bowel movements.
They’re also high in salt, a water-absorbing ingredient, to pull water into the intestines to speed up bowel movements, said Dr Susan Besser, a primary care provider at Mercy Medical Center.
They’re mostly recommended by doctors to ease constipation, but many people use it to cleanse their colon.
Why NONE of those detox diets have any benefits
Unless it’s a precursor to a healthier diet, one-off detoxes and colonics do nothing to rid the body of toxins, experts warn.
‘Most detoxes don’t have long-term benefits unless it’s a kick-start to eat healthy,’ Dr Lauren Streicher, an associate professor at Northwestern University, told Daily Mail Online.
In fact, Dr Besser explains, the body is perfectly capable of detoxifying itself.
‘Every part of the body is cleansing and revitalizing itself,’ she told Daily Mail Online.
The liver, gastrointestinal system, and kidneys are some of the body’s many designated toxin removers.
The gastrointestinal system filters out waste, which is why colon cleanses unnecessary, Dr Besser said.
When food passes through the digestive tract, the nutrients are absorbed in the upper intestines. Then the waste is moved to the colon and removed from the body.
‘People think by expelling all that from the colon they’re getting rid of toxins,’ Dr Besser said. ‘But if it’s in the colon it’s already heading out the door so to speak.’
The kidneys filter toxins out of the blood and into the urine, while the liver detoxifies by changing the chemical nature of many toxins, making them easier for the body to eliminate.
‘If the kidneys aren’t doing their job you need dialysis, not apple cider vinegar,’ Dr Streicher added.
Even the lungs are equipped to remove toxins.
‘Lungs scrub the air as soon as it comes in,’ Dr Besser said. People exhale the waste.
However, this still doesn’t explain why many people claim they feel great and more energized after a detox.
Dr Streicher said this feeling doesn’t come from the detox itself. It comes from not consuming processed food.
‘The idea that a [detox diet] is going to take toxins out the body is not accurate,’ she explained. ‘The reason people feel better after a detox [isn’t because they’re removing toxins from the body], it’s because they aren’t putting junk into their system.’
She said many people feel sluggish or gross after eating a lot of processed foods, or foods containing high sodium, fat and sugar.
But that doesn’t mean they need to detox, it means they just shouldn’t eat those types of food again, or at least not as often.
Detoxing is potentially harmful
In addition to detoxing being ineffective, it can also be dangerous.
Dr Besser said laxatives are more harmful than juicing or other detox diets.
Laxatives stimulate the digestive tract and speed up bowel movements.
She said this could speed up things so much that nutrients from food aren’t absorbed in the upper intestine.
And because laxative can cause diarrhea, it also has the potential to dehydrate people and cause weakness, blurry vision, fainting, kidney damage.
Dr Streicher previously told Daily Mail Online that risks of coffee enemas outweigh the benefits.
Since coffee is a hot beverage, injecting it into the anus can result in burns.
The enema device can also damage the bowel and intestines tract by poking holes in it, Dr Streicher said.
Meanwhile, people who juice — a process that extracts the skin and most of the fiber from fruits and vegetables — are just getting a lot of sugar and not enough nutrients and fiber.
‘If you’re juicing, you’re not detoxifying yourself,’ Dr Besser explained. ‘You’re overloading on sugar.’
When it comes to detox diets and cleanses, Dr Streicher added there are no health risks if they are only done for a couple of days.
But if people are doing long-term detoxes, they aren’t getting enough vitamins and nutrients they need.