What you’ve always wondered about detox diets

Detox diets make a variety of irrefutable claims that range from adding body energy and an improved complexion, to preventing and curing diseases. These amazing purification results, according to detox enthusiasts, are due to the elimination of toxins in the body via processes called fat flushes, intestinal cleansing, fasting detox, colon cleansing, raw food fixes, nasal irrigation, or detox foot pads, to name a few.

This level of purification is reached by a mixture of methods — depending on which detox guru you listen to — but often include restricting certain foods, drinking only their detox holy water or outright fasting as a way to allow the body to rid itself of built-up toxins. While it may sound slightly advantageous and alluring, is there any proof that you can indeed, force your body on command, to dispel built up toxins?

There’s no dispute that modern food choices, whether fresh or processed, carry their fair share of toxins. From the wax on fresh fruit and vegetables, to the chemicals inside packaged foods, to the air we breath to the beauty products we use, no one disagrees that consumers are simply bombarded with chemicals. But is there a way to forcefully rid the body of the chemicals that lace our lives?

A large portion of the dieting detox marketing hype is aimed at those wanting to shed weight fast. Eliminating or restricting certain foods, especially if they’re fatty carbs, will certainly result in weight loss and, whether carbaholics admit it or not, will make you feel better. According to numerous doctors and nutritionists, including Mayo Clinic’s Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D, there is no scientific proof that diet detox helps rid the body of toxins any faster or more efficiently that it naturally does on its own.

The truth of the matter is the organs in your body — specifically the kidneys, liver, lungs and even your skin — filter toxins on an ongoing basis. This consistent detoxification process is how the body naturally sifts through good nutrients from bad toxins — and yes, it knows the difference. According to Harvard Medical School, the body has its own built-in detox system. 

Respiratory system: Every breath you take is filtered by the fine hairs that line the nose. The lungs filter the air you breath and expel unwanted particles from the airways in mucus.

Liver: As the main filter of the body, the liver produces proteins called metallothioneins that naturally neutralize harmful toxins such as cadmium, lead and mercury then prepares them for elimination. Your liver also produces enzymes that help regulate metabolism and defend the body against toxins.

Kidneys: Your kidneys filter waste, which results in excretion by way of urination. The kidneys are amazingly efficient at filtering waste substances and removing them from the body.

Intestines: There are lymph nodes in the small intestines called Peyer’s patches that have the job of screening foreign substances, including parasites.

Immune system: This network of cells is incredibly organized when it comes to finding and removing chemicals and toxins from the body.

The skin: The skin is your body’s largest organ and serves many purposes, one of which is to act as a protective barrier between you and harmful substances. This includes viruses, chemicals, bacteria, heavy metals and other toxins.

The bottom line, your body is fully equipped to take on environmental insults. If you really want to detox your system, water could help. Although there is no scientific proof that water flushes out toxins, that is according to Harvard School of Public Health, drinking water is one way to ensure your body has the tools it needs to function properly and keep you healthy without all the detox dieting.

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