Do Detoxes and Cleanses Really Work?
Detoxes are known for putting you through hell to get results. For some people, detoxing is downright unsafe. Even if you're healthy, the symptoms of detox can take a toll. The truth is, the body has its own elaborate system of functions for removing toxins of all sorts from cells and tissues.
Given you have to shell out cash for detox supplements such as herbs or smoothie kits, you may be wondering: do detoxes work? Let's see what the science says about whether detoxes can actually boost your health.
The Body's Natural Detoxification Process
Several organs and systems break down and process toxins, then expelling them from the body. Your liver filters your blood, cleansing it of impurities. It works by converting toxins into waste products capable of exiting the body through an exit route—such as going to the bathroom or sweating. Your lymphatic system runs throughout your body, collecting toxins that get converted to waste in the spleen. All these processes happen independently but can be sluggish when your lifestyle lacks healthy nutrition and exercise.
Is There Scientific Evidence Detoxes Work?
Studies that looked at detox diets and juicing have shown that the weight loss from detox is only temporary. Once someone resumes their normal diet, the evidence suggests they'll gain back the weight shortly after. Detoxes can have side effects and symptoms, including diarrhea and muscle loss, which may not align with your health goals. Disrupting your eating pattern with a detox can potentially cause electrolyte imbalance.
On the other hand, a buildup of toxins from the environment and processed foods is bound to slow your health down. One study found that a seven-day detox markedly improved liver function. Participants also reported improved health and well-being from the detox.
Why Do a Cleanse?
According to one doctor, the reason people feel better after a detox diet is most likely because they've reduced the daily toxic load on their bodies by cutting out processed foods from their diets. Here are some of the benefits that can result from this:
1. Better Energy and Mental Clarity
While you may feel cranky or mentally foggy during a detox, you typically have better energy afterward. There's also a sense of clarity that comes, which is seen of spiritual significance in religions that practice fasting.
2. Temporary Weight Loss
If your goal is to lose weight long-term, doing a detox isn't the answer. However, one of the benefits of detoxes is that typically you'll lose a bit of body fat just by burning more calories than you take in. You may also expel excess water retained in your tissues and lose some water weight to sweat during a detox.
3. Better Digestion
If you have indigestion, constipation, or other digestive ailments, giving your digestive system rest is beneficial. A detox helps cleanse your bowels and restore them to better function. If you're only drinking juices and smoothies, for example, digestion becomes a much simpler process. Your body can improve hydration, repair organs, and accelerate its natural detoxification with less of your energy and cellular resources diverted to digesting food.
4. Kick Sugar Cravings
If you have daily cravings for sugar, taking a break from it will likely trigger a detox. Breaking the cycle of eating sugar, you can prevent cravings from coming back.
What Are the Risks of Detoxing?
Before starting any detox, here are the risks you need to be aware of:
If you reduce your intake of nutrients, including essential vitamins and minerals, you run the potential to become deficient. Nutritional deficiencies reduce your body's ability to naturally detoxify cells and cleanse organs. That said, you risk defeating the purpose of detoxing if you aren't careful.
Losing Muscle Weight
If you restrict your intake of calories for several days, you're bound to lose some weight. You want the weight you lose to be in water and stored fat. If you aren't getting enough protein during the detox, you risk some of that weight being muscle.
Who Should Avoid Doing a Detox?
While harmless for many healthy people, cleanses are definitely not for everyone. You should avoid doing a cleanse if you have diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, or any other medical condition, as it can cause more damage to your organs. Pregnant women and teens should avoid detoxing, as both groups have high nutritional and caloric requirements.
Precautions To Take When Detoxing
To avoid nutritional deficiency when detoxing, avoid water fasting. While you do want to eat less, you never want to stop your nutritional intake to detox. Be sure to drink juices and smoothies throughout the day if you're doing a liquid-only detox. Add sugar-free protein powder to help maintain your muscle weight. Avoid working out during a detox, besides some light yoga or stretching.
End your detox safely by merging back into your normal diet slowly. You don't want to introduce heavy foods too quickly. Eating fruit is typically a good way to break a fast if you've been intaking liquids only.