However, it is not entirely clear how they do this, what they're supposed to eliminate or if they actually work.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
This is a detailed review of detox diets and their health effects.
What is a Detox?
Detox diets are generally short-term dietary interventions designed to eliminate toxins from the body.
A typical detox diet involves a period of fasting, followed by a strict diet of fruit, vegetables, fruit juices and water. Sometimes a detox also includes herbs, teas, supplements, colon cleanses or enemas.
These methods claim to:
- Rest the organs by fasting
- Stimulate the liver to get rid of toxins
- Promote toxin elimination through feces, urine and sweat
- Improve circulation
- Provide the body with healthy nutrients
Detox therapies are most commonly recommended because of exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment or diet. These include pollutants, synthetic chemicals, heavy metals and other harmful compounds.
The Most Common Ways to Detox
There are many ways to do a detox diet, ranging from total starvation fasts and juicing to simpler food modifications.
Most detox diets involve at least one of the following (1):
- Fasting for 1 to 3 days
- Drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, water and tea
- Eliminating foods high in heavy metals, contaminants and allergens
- Taking supplements or herbs
- Avoiding all allergenic foods and then slowly reintroducing them
- Using laxatives, colon cleanses or enemas
- Exercising regularly
The different detox diets vary in intensity and duration.
Which Toxins are Eliminated?
Detox diets rarely identify the specific toxins they aim to remove or how exactly they eliminate them. In fact, there is little to no evidence that detox diets actually remove any toxins from your body.
More importantly, there is really no scientific evidence backing up the claim that our bodies are loaded with toxins and need to be cleansed. Your body is actually very capable of cleansing itself, through the liver, feces, urine and sweat. The liver makes toxic substances harmless and then makes sure they're released from the body (3, 4, 5, 6, 7).
These tend to accumulate in fat tissue or blood and can take a very long time, even years, for the body to get rid of (12, 13, 14). However, generally speaking, these compounds are removed from or limited in commercial products today (15).
Do Detox Diets Work?
Some people report feeling more focused and energetic during and after detox diets.
However, this improved well-being may simply be due to eliminating processed foods, alcohol and other unhealthy substances from your diet. You may also be getting vitamins and minerals that were lacking before.
On the other hand, many people also report feeling very unwell during the detox period. There is some evidence from animal studies that indicates coriander, an algae called chlorella and several types of fruit acids and pectin may help eliminate toxic metals and organic pollutants (2).
Detox Diets and Weight Loss
Currently, very few scientific studies have investigated the effectiveness of detox diets for losing weight (2). While some people may lose a lot of weight quickly, this seems to be due to loss of fluid and carb stores rather than fat. This weight is therefore usually regained quickly once you start eating normally again.
The weight loss effects of one detox diet, called the “lemon detox diet," was studied recently in overweight Korean women. It involves consuming only a mixture of organic maple or palm syrups and lemon juice for seven days.
This diet significantly reduced body weight, body mass index, body fat percentage, waist to hip ratio and waist circumference, in addition to reducing markers of inflammation in the body (16). The results also indicate a beneficial effect on hormones by reducing insulin resistance and circulating leptin levels.
If a detox diet involves severe calorie restriction, then it will most certainly cause weight loss and improvements in metabolic health.
However, this type of “crash" dieting probably won't lead to long-term results unless you change your lifestyle at the same time.
Detox Diets, Short-Term Fasting and Stress
Several varieties of detox diets may have effects similar those from short-term fasting or intermittent fasting. Short-term fasting may improve various disease markers in some people, including improved leptin and insulin sensitivity (17, 18).
However, these effects do not apply to everyone. Studies in women have shown that both a 48-hour fast and a 3-week period of reduced calorie intake may increase the levels of stress hormones (19, 20). On top of that, crash diets can be stressful. They involve resisting temptation and feeling hunger and deprivation (21, 22).
Beneficial Aspects of Detox Diets
There are a few aspects of detox diets that may have health benefits (4). These include:
- Avoiding heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants
- Eliminating toxins from body fat by losing excessive fat
- Exercising and sweating regularly
- Eating whole, nutritious and healthy foods
- Avoiding processed foods
- Limiting stress and getting good sleep
Following these guidelines is generally linked with improved health, no matter whether they involve a detox or not.
Safety and Side Effects
Before doing any sort of detox, it is important to consider possible side effects.
Several detox diets recommend fasting or severe calorie restriction. Short-term fasting and limited calorie intake can result in fatigue, irritability and bad breath. Long-term fasting can result in energy, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, electrolyte imbalance and even death (23).
Furthermore, colon cleansing methods, which are sometimes recommended during detoxes, can cause dehydration, cramping, bloating, nausea and vomiting (24).
Some detox diets may pose the risk of overdosing on supplements, laxatives, diuretics and even water. There is a lack of regulation and monitoring in the detox industry and many detox foods and supplements may not have any scientific basis.
Who Should Avoid Detox Diets?
Some groups of people should not start any detox programs or calorie-restricting regimens, at least not without consulting with a doctor first.
This includes children, adolescents, elderly people, the malnourished, pregnant or lactating women, and people who have blood sugar issues or medical conditions, such as diabetes or an eating disorder.
Don't Put Junk in Your Body
People encounter toxic substances all the time. Most of the time, however, your body does a perfectly good job of removing them without any additional help.
If doing a detox diet helps you to start eating and feeling better, then it is a great thing. But this probably has nothing to do with eliminating toxins, but simply the fact that you're putting less junk in your body.
A much smarter approach is to avoid putting toxic things (junk food, cigarette smoke, etc.) in your body in the first place.
This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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The Biden-Harris transition team identified COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change as its top priorities. Rivers are the through-line linking all of them. The fact is, healthy rivers can no longer be separated into the "nice-to-have" column of environmental progress. Rivers and streams provide more than 60 percent of our drinking water — and a clear path toward public health, a strong economy, a more just society and greater resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis.
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Wild and Scenic Merced River, California. Bob Wick / BLM<p>Let's begin with COVID-19. More than <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">16 million Americans</a> have contracted the coronavirus and, tragically,<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank"> more than</a> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">300,000 have died</a> due to the pandemic. While health officials encourage hand-washing to contain the pandemic, at least <a href="https://closethewatergap.org/" target="_blank">2 million Americans</a> are currently living without running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater treatment. Meanwhile, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank">aging water infrastructure is growing increasingly costly for utilities to maintain</a>. That cost is passed along to consumers. The upshot? <a href="https://research.msu.edu/affordable-water-in-us-reaching-a-crisis/" target="_blank">More than 13 million</a> U.S. households regularly face unaffordable water bills — and, thus, the threat of water shutoffs. Without basic access to clean water, families and entire communities are at a higher risk of <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2020/08/05/488705/bridging-water-access-gap-covid-19-relief/" target="_blank">contracting</a> and spreading COVID-19.</p><p>We have a moral duty to ensure that everyone has access to clean water to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Last spring, <a href="https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/coronavirus-stimulus-bill-explained-bailouts-unemployment-benefits.html" target="_blank">Congress appropriated more than $4 trillion</a> to jumpstart the economy and bring millions of unemployed Americans back to work. Additional federal assistance — desperately needed — will present a historic opportunity to improve our crumbling infrastructure, which has been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">grossly underfunded for decades</a>.</p><p>A report by my organization, American Rivers, suggests that <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Congress must invest at least $50 billion</a> "to address the urgent water infrastructure needs associated with COVID-19," including the rising cost of water. This initial boost would allow for the replacement and maintenance of sewers, stormwater infrastructure and water supply facilities.</p>
Economic Recovery<p>Investing in water infrastructure and healthy rivers also creates jobs. Consider, for example, that <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y9p6sgnk" target="_blank">every $1 million spent on water infrastructure in the United States generates more than 15 jobs</a> throughout the economy, according to a report by the Value of Water Campaign. Similarly, <a href="https://tinyurl.com/yyvd2ksp" target="_blank">every "$1 million invested in forest and watershed restoration contracting will generate between 15.7 and 23.8 jobs,</a> depending on the work type," states a working paper released by the Ecosystem Workforce Program, University of Oregon. Healthy rivers also spur tourism and recreation, which many communities rely on for their livelihoods. According to the findings by the Outdoor Industry Association, which have been shared in our report, "Americans participating in watersports and fishing spend over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">$174 billion</a> on gear and trip related expenses. And, the outdoor watersports and fishing economy supports over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">1.5 million jobs nationwide</a>."</p><p>After the 2008 financial crisis, Congress invested in infrastructure to put Americans back to work. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act <a href="https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/25941-clean-water-green-infrastructure-get-major-boost" target="_blank">of 2009 (ARRA) allocated $6 billion</a> for clean water and drinking water infrastructure to decrease unemployment and boost the economy. More specifically, <a href="https://www.conservationnw.org/news-updates/us-reps-push-for-millions-of-restoration-and-resilience-jobs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an analysis of ARRA</a> "showed conservation investments generated 15 to 33 jobs per million dollars," and more than doubled the rate of return, according to a letter written in May 2020 by 79 members of Congress, seeking greater funding for restoration and resilience jobs.</p><p>Today, when considering how to create work for the <a href="https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10.7 million</a> people who are currently unemployed, Congress should review previous stimulus investments and build on their successes by embracing major investments in water infrastructure and watershed restoration.</p>
Racial Justice<p>American Rivers also recommends that Congress dedicate <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">$500 billion for rivers and clean water over the next 10 years</a> — not just for the benefit of our environment and economy, but also to begin to address the United States' history of deeply entrenched racial injustice.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.epa.gov/npdes/sanitary-sewer-overflows-ssos" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">23,000-75,000 sewer overflows</a> that occur each year release up to <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/2020/05/fighting-for-rivers-means-fighting-for-justice/#:~:text=There%20are%20also%2023%2C000%20to%2075%2C000%20sanitary%20sewer,to%20do%20with%20the%20mission%20of%20American%20Rivers." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10 billion gallons of toxic sewage</a> <em>every day</em> into rivers and streams. This disproportionately impacts communities of color, because, for generations, Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color have been <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/flooding-disproportionately-harms-black-neighborhoods/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">relegated</a> to live in flood-prone areas and in neighborhoods that have been intentionally burdened with a lack of development that degrades people's health and quality of life. In some communities of color, incessant flooding due to stormwater surges or <a href="https://www.ajc.com/opinion/opinion-partnering-to-better-manage-our-water/7WQ6SEAQP5E4LGQCEYY5DO334Y/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">combined sewer overflows</a> has gone unmitigated for decades.</p><p>We have historically treated people as separate from rivers and water. We can't do that anymore. Every voice — particularly those of people most directly impacted — must have a loudspeaker and be included in decision-making at the highest levels.</p><p>Accordingly, the new administration must diligently invest in projects at the community level that will improve lives in our country's most marginalized communities. We also must go further to ensure that local leaders have a seat at the decision-making table. To this end, the Biden-Harris administration should restore <a href="https://www.epa.gov/cwa-401#:~:text=Section%20401%20Certification%20The%20Clean%20Water%20Act%20%28CWA%29,the%20United%20States.%20Learn%20more%20about%20401%20certification." target="_blank">Section 401 of the Clean Water Act</a>, which was undermined by the <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/tribes-and-environmental-groups-sue-trump-administration-to-preserve-clean-water-protections#:~:text=Under%20Section%20401%20of%20the%20Clean%20Water%20Act%2C,seeks%20to%20undermine%20that%20authority%20in%20several%20ways%3A" target="_blank">Trump administration's 2020 regulatory changes</a>. This provision gives states and tribes the authority to decide whether major development projects, such as hydropower and oil and gas projects, move forward.</p>
Climate Resilience<p>Of course, the menacing shadow looming over it all? Climate change. <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">More than 100 climate-related catastrophes</a> have pummeled the Earth since the pandemic was declared last spring, including the blitzkrieg of megafires, superstorms and heat waves witnessed during the summer of 2020, directly impacting the lives of more than <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">50 million people globally</a>.</p><p>Water and climate scientist Brad Udall often says, "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQhpj5G0dME" target="_blank">Climate change is water change</a>." In other words, the most obvious and dire impacts of climate change are evidenced in profound changes to our rivers and water resources. You've likely seen it where you live: Floods are more damaging and frequent. Droughts are deeper and longer. Uncertainty is destabilizing industry and lives.</p><p>By galvanizing action for healthy rivers and managing our water resources more effectively, we can insure future generations against the consequences of climate change. First, we must safeguard rivers that are still healthy and free-flowing. Second, we must protect land and property against the ravages of flooding. And finally, we must promote policies and practical solutions that take the science of climate disruption into account when planning for increased flooding, water shortage and habitat disruption.</p><p>Imagine all that rivers do for us. Most of our towns and cities have a river running through them or flowing nearby. Rivers provide clean drinking water, irrigate crops that provide our food, power our homes and businesses, provide wildlife habitat, and are the lifeblood of the places where we enjoy and explore nature, and where we play and nourish our spirits. Healthy watersheds help <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059952" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mitigate</a> climate change, absorbing and reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Healthy rivers and floodplains help communities adapt and build resilience in the face of climate change by improving flood protection and providing water supply and quality benefits. Rivers are the cornerstones of healthy, strong communities.</p><p>The more than <a href="https://archive.epa.gov/water/archive/web/html/index-17.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">3 million miles</a> of rivers and streams running across our country are a source of great strength and opportunity. When we invest in healthy rivers and clean water, we can improve our lives. When we invest in rivers, we create jobs and strengthen our economy. When we invest in rivers, we invest in our shared future.</p>
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