One of the more popular things I regularly encounter on social media, particularly on health and fitness accounts in December and January, is something called “detox” or “cleansing”. Everybody’s doing it! There’s a long and growing list of maladies that “detox” can supposedly treat: obesity, fatigue, brain fog, skin problems, acne, arthritis, allergies, anxiety — seemingly everything except a missing limb.
Detoxing is so popular and common I almost feel left out as a non-believer(a heretic in some circles) in detox, though luckily this feeling lasts for all of 2 seconds. Detox can take many forms — while often a pricey supplement, it can also be a week, or month, or 6 month long juice regimen — the length of their detoxing sentence often reflects how “bad” they’ve been. Sometimes it can be a tea and is called a “teatox”. In its most extreme form, a person’s entire diet is a long-term detox, usually a 100% vegan whole-food raw-food diet — basically solitary confinement for those who have been really bad.
So what do I make of all this? It’s 100% nonsense. The health claims made for these products or juicing regimens are evidence-free and very vague; the “toxins” in question are almost never identified, and the users of these products are not tested before and after for these elusive “toxins”. This is nothing but pseudoscience.
Doctors and legitimate health professionals do not recommend a detox unless someone has ingested a significant amount of heavy metals or poison, and they use chelation drugs to help remove the toxins, not green juice or an MLM scam product. There is no evidence that this type of detox can help you with any medical problem.
Bottom line: Detoxing is unlikely to help you lose weight or improve energy. However, this doesn’t mean drinking fresh juices or smoothies is a bad thing. You can get a nutrition boost from some green juices if you don’t ordinarily eat that well(this may explain why many people feel better after a detox or cleanse). If juice is your preferred method of consuming your fruits and vegetables, then go for it. Detox supplements on the other hand are useless and potentially dangerous.
Just don’t be mislead into believing these juices are helping you “detox” anything. Toxins are a natural byproduct of living and metabolism and you already have an effective way to deal with this: your liver and kidneys. If you have a functioning liver and kidneys, your body is detoxing for you 24/7. If you believe you’ve been poisoned, consult a doctor.
Harvard Women’s Health Watch: The dubious practice of detox
Science-Based Medicine: Detox Scams are Worthless and Potentially Dangerous
The Vegan RD: A Vegan Diet is Not a “Detox” Plan
Scibabe: The Weekly Woo: Toxins. Toxins Everywhere
Ars Technica: Herbal remedy ingredients: lead, mercury, and/or arsenic
Mel Magazine: Yes, Of Course, Detoxing Is a Scam