Are Detox Diets Safe?

Pinterest is full of them, celebrities advertise them, and people are constantly talking about them – detoxes. There is a wide variety of detoxes being talked about, but people often question the truth behind whether or not they actually work and if they are good for your body. While there have been some positive aspects of detoxing and cleansing that have been reported, there are many negative side effects that you can experience.

What Are Detoxes?

Detoxing means getting rid of harmful or unhealthy substances or toxins that are in the human body. Toxins are thought to build up in the liver, intestines, kidneys and other areas in the body that are meant to break down and get rid of toxic materials. Many feel that detox plans and cleanses will help get rid of this buildup.

Common Reasons Why People Do Detoxes

  • Lose weight
  • Combat high cholesterol
  • Lower blood glucose levels (often for those with type 2 diabetes, in particular)
  • Boost the immune system
  • Get rid of toxins
  • Diet alternative
  • Improve skin
  • Improve energy levels
  • Reduce chances of diseases such as heart disease and colon cancer

Popular Detox Diets

From apple cider vinegar detox drinks to fasting and taking green tea pills, there are many different types of detoxes that are thought to be highly effective.

Apple Cider Vinegar Detox

Apple cider vinegar (frequently referenced as ACV) is a key ingredient for many liquid detox recipes. A cup of apple cider vinegar is typically consumed in the morning to stimulate the digestive system and improve bowel movements. In addition, the enzymes, good bacteria and vitamins found in apple cider vinegar are supposed to be very healthy for the body, along with acetic acid that could potentially lower blood pressure and eat up starches. However, many of supposed benefits of these apple cider vinegar detox recipes are contingent on a variety of other factors, such as getting enough Vitamin C, and eating the right proteins and whole grains.

Tea Detoxes

There are many different types of tea detoxes, including dandelion root tea detox, peach tea detox and green tea detox. Milk thistle, dandelion, ginger and other herbs found in certain teas have natural properties that are thought to help liver function. Green teas and black teas also contain antioxidants that provide overall health benefits. There has been no scientific evidence that teas can actually play a direct role in removing toxins from the body.

Smoothie Detoxes

Many people believe smoothie detoxes allow you to feel full and lose weight. However, like all detoxes, scientific evidence is lacking. Most smoothie detox recipes have leafy, green veggies or vegetable juices, combined with fresh fruits or fruit juices and low-fat liquid such as almond milk or coconut water. Some even take the concept a step further by incorporating lemon juice, cayenne pepper, unfiltered apple cider, apple juice, ground cinnamon and even maple syrup. The main idea is that you’re restricting your calorie and fat intake, reducing the amount of unhealthy foods that you’re eating and are limiting yourself to fruits and vegetables.

What Are the Benefits of Detoxing?

People who have done a detox or cleanse have reported feeling better overall, with more energy and focus, as well as losing weight. Depending on what type of detox you’re doing, there could be vitamins and nutrients that are beneficial for your body and can help maintain a healthy diet. Furthermore, focusing on certain foods, such as fruits and vegetables can help limit the intake of processed, fatty and sugary foods.

As the detox industry continues to grow, clinical studies have looked into the efficacy of commercial diet detoxes. Some have found an enhancement of liver detoxification and the removal of organic pollutants from the body, but with small study sizes and ineffective methodologies, evidence is inconclusive.

What Are the Negative Side Effects of Detoxing?

Like many diets that actually don’t work, there is no proof that detoxing leads to weight loss and there are many physicians that advise against it. You could be depriving your body of proteins and healthy fats, and you could actually end up lowering your energy levels. With low energy levels, you could be less likely to exercise, and physical activity is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Other Reported Side Effects of Detoxing

  • Constant hunger
  • Fluctuation of body weight
  • Feeling weak
  • Low blood sugar levels
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Body aches and pains
  • Skin blemishes
  • Poor sleep
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Damage to tooth enamel

While weight gain isn’t a common side effect of a detox, many have reported short-term weight loss, but weight gain immediately after completing their detox cycle or diet. These as well as many other potential side effects could lead to additional discomforts and health problems.

Other Influencing Factors

Aside from detox recipes and diets themselves, there are many other factors that could influence potential benefits and negative side effects. Diet, lifestyle, pre-existing medical conditions, overall health status, pregnancy, genetic factors and level of physical activity can all impact the body’s ability to remove toxins.

Conclusions About Detoxing

Ultimately, individuals should consult their primary care physicians with any health concerns, and should ask a professional, such as a registered dietician, when considering a drastic diet change. While there are potential benefits to certain aspects of detoxing, it’s important to consider any potential negative impacts on your body and consider the healthiest, trusted methods that you know will be good for you and your body in the long-term.