Why It's Time to Cleanse and Detox from Cleanses and Detoxes

I know what you’re probably thinking…

“Kait, that title doesn’t even make sense…”

You're right. Technically speaking, the title makes zero sense. However, from a health standpoint- I’m actually making perfect sense. Intrigued? Hear me out for a second then.

Juice cleanses, detox diets, “tea-toxes” or whatever the trendy, catch-phrase title may be- these type of health promotions all have the same thing in common. All of them promise to “detoxify the body”, “cleanse your digestive system from toxic waste”, “reset your digestion”, or my personal favorite, “give your digestive system a rest”.

So do these diets and cleanses really do all they promise to?

Is it really necessary to cleanse our digestive systems from toxins in our food?

Simple answer: No. And here’s why.

But first, just a little*disclaimer here*: if you believe in cleanses, have done one and liked it, or they have helped your digestion- great! I’m so glad they worked for you. Every person reacts to different diets in their own ways, so I’m not condemning anyone. The information I’m going to share is purely research combined with what I’ve learned to be true from a nutritional science standpoint and in my own personal experience.

Okay now let’s get into the good stuff!

Why shouldn’t you detox?

1. First and foremost, your body is already fully equipped with a state-of-the-art detoxification system built in!

Say hello to your skin, liver, kidneys, lungs and large intestine!!! Whoop whoop! Yes, your body’s digestive and excretory systems are fully capable of getting rid of anything that could really harm you, 24/7, for free! And bonus, they are experts at it.

The skin eliminates many toxins through sweat (which is even more reason to get out and get that workout in, am I right??). The lungs remove carbon dioxide in exchange for oxygen. Kidneys filter blood and get rid of anything in the blood we don’t need through our urine. And lastly, the liver is THE MVP when it comes to detoxing- it excretes the waste products of metabolism, hormones, drugs, alcohol and really anything else that the body doesn’t need!! Pretty cool way set we have huh??

If you’re really nerdy and want to learn more about all that, Texas A&M University made a really cool website to help explain the body’s detoxification process. I linked it here!

Truthfully, if for some reason these systems somehow didn't remove a toxin properly, in a large enough amount that you needed to “detoxify” or “cleanse” the body, you’d most likely need to see a medical professional in a hospital setting. Not really anything a juice, tea, or vegetable can fix at that point….. just saying.

2. Some detoxes and cleanses may actually make your body’s natural ways of detoxification less effective!

Most detoxes provide less than 1,000 calories a day, but for the average adult to do basic functions of life, the body needs anywhere from 1,200 to 3,000 depending on your weight, age, muscle mass, and height. Since these detoxes provide lower than the suggested caloric range, the body can’t perform at its best because it’s not getting enough calories to function the way it needs to. That means your liver, kidneys, and lungs (aka those detox champs) can't do their jobs properly!

And just to add to that, a long-term deficit in calories causes your body to enter a type of starvation mode because the body does not know you are on a diet/ cleanse, all it knows is not enough food is available. This starvation state can cause your metabolism to slow down, muscle wasting, and excess fat storage- not so pleasant huh?

3. They can have some not-so-great side effects.

The calorie restriction from these diets that I mentioned before, also don’t make you feel the best. It can cause fatigue, headaches, moodiness, lack of focus and nausea just to name a few. For me, I really can’t do much more than lay in bed with this list of symptoms so why willingly do it that to yourself?

Also, most of these juices and detox diets cut out anything but fruits and vegetables, with maybe, MAYBE a little protein added- so mainly just carbohydrates. Completely cutting out entire food groups (aka protein and fat) like this can cause some really intense food cravings. Deprivation and cravings usually lead to overeating or binging on large amounts of food, most likely leaving you farther from your health goals than when you started the detox/ cleanse (2,3).

Lastly, according to the Irish Nutrition and Dietetics Institute, many detox diets recommend cutting out dairy foods, which means you are missing calcium containing foods. It is recommended that we eat three portions of dairy products/day to maintain healthy bones and teeth. Cutting out these these foods can put you at risk for osteoporosis or stress fractures (3).

Calcium isn’t the only thing a detox can leave you deficient in. Following rigid detox diets for more than a few days can cause dangerous vitamins & minerals deficiencies (4).

4. A well-balanced diet can do everything a cleanse claims... at a much lower price too!

I don’t think it’s any secret that the diet industry is just that, an industry. Their main goal is to make money, not to better your health, so they can and will pretty much say and do whatever it takes to make a profit. One of the easiest examples of this is the cleanse craze. Charging $200 for a three-day,18-bottle supply of juice or $60 for a month supply of "metabolism-boosting" tea…. TEA… is insane. I can barely pay that for a week of groceries and feel morally okay with myself.

I can't stand to see these companies charging outrageous prices and making crazy claims in promotion of these detoxes. Basically making you think you need a detox to be healthy, when hopefully by this point of this post, you know that you don’t.

EATING A WELL-BALANCED DIET, ADEQUATE EXERCISE, and sleep IS ALL YOU NEED PEOPLE.

I PROMISE.

Incorporate all food groups. Stick mainly to a whole foods diet. Include some variety of foods. Drink water. Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Boom. Literally the perfect detox, so give yourself that. Food was put on our earth for our nourishment- so eat it! Eating healthy can be really simple and CHEAP. Much cheaper than a juice cleanse at the very least.

However, if you still are interested in detoxing, go for it. It won’t kill you. Some people say it is a good way for them to mentally reset in setting health goals. Others say a cleanse/ detox was how they kick-started a healthier, maintainable lifestyle. Some say they feel better. Do what is best for you, your health journey is no one else’s but yours.

*But if you do decide to try one* here are some tips I really hope you consider.

  • If trying a mainly liquid cleanse, please incorporate real foods as well, even if it’s just fruits, veggies, and nuts.
  • Avoid laxatives and detox supplement pills/ powders. These products don’t have to be monitored by the FDA, so who knows what really goes into those.
  • If it less than a 1,200-calorie diet/ detox, move along to something else. Please.
  • Eat/ drink/ consume calories consistently and adequately throughout the day, every 3-5 hours.
  • Add a multivitamin to your regimen to fill in gaps the detox/cleanse might not be fulfilling.

That was a lot, yes. But I hope it helped. Feel free to comment, email or message me on social media if you have any further, more specific questions! I’d be happy to answer the best I can!

References:

  1. http://peer.tamu.edu/curriculum_modules/OrganSystems/module_3/index.htm

  2. http://www.health.com/nutrition/planning-a-detox-or-juice-cleanse-5-dos-and-donts

  3. https://www.indi.ie/fact-sheets/healthy-eating,-healthy-weight-and-dieting/406-the-facts-about-detox-diets.html

  4. https://www.eatright.org/health/weight-loss/fad-diets/whats-the-deal-with-detox-diets