You Can’t Actually Detox Your Body with Juice Cleanses and Salads

We’re constantly inundated with the idea that we need to “detox” our bodies to get rid of the bad “toxins”. But how do we do it? Is this even possible? What are toxins anyway?

I’ve been hearing the word “toxin” for years, but I’ve wondered exactly what people and companies were talking about. It always just seems to be used as a general catch-all term for anything that is bad. Toxins sound really bad – how can a “toxin” be good. But no one is ever specific. What specific toxins are people talking about?

The word “toxin” and “detox” have really lost their meaning, in my opinion.

Detox saladBut the evidence is pretty clear. You can’t “detox” your body with a 3 day juice cleanse. Most doctors will tell you that your body just doesn’t work like that (see this article and this one as well).

Organs like your kidney and liver are constantly working to filter and purify your system. This process has been honed over centuries of evolution. That’s how toxins are removed from our bodies and a healthy body doesn’t need help removing toxins.

You can’t force “toxins” out of your body through some combo of laxatives and nutrients.

In fact, some doctors will tell you that detoxes are actually bad for you.

So why do we all love detox diets so much?


The “Detoxing” Trend:

When I was younger, doing a detox was reserved for heroine addicts that needed to go to rehab. They had to dry out for a few months and break the addiction.

But it’s taken on a whole new meaning in the last little while. You can get a “detox salad” at a lot of restaurants (or make them yourself). You can get detox juices.  You can buy books about detoxing programs (that book even claims to detox you of “fattening toxins”). The detox language is everywhere.

Buying “detox kits” is big business these days.

We’ve seen this increasing in popularity over the past little while. If you look at the google trends data for “juice detox”, you can see a slow climb over the last decade:

Google trends

This, despite the fact that widely published studies were debunking “detox” ideas for a while. But here we are in 2015 and it’s still increasing.

But why is it happening? Does that mean there is something to it?

No, not really.

I think it’s simple: detoxing is a very convenient idea. The thought that we can eat poorly, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes even – but then reverse it all with a simple 3 day juice detox is very attractive.

I wish it were true. I wish I could wipe the slate clean with a simple detox.

But I think this is what people like about it. Your dietary/lifestyle sins can be forgiven by binging on vitamins and nutrients. You can undo damage by simply detoxing. It sounds very attractive.

Unfortunately, it’s just not realistic.


What are toxins anyway?

When you hear people talk about toxins, what are they referring to? You can find a number of definitions, but here’s a typical definition: “substances created by plants and animals that are poisonous to humans.”

OK, so how do you deal with a toxin? To me it sounds like if you have an actual toxin in your body, you’ve got a real problem. They’re poisonous and could seriously harm you. You would need medical treatment immediately.

But the detox industry talks about “toxins” in a different way. It’s a bit more loose.

Essentially, it’s a medical terms that has been overused and lost its real meaning. Now it has become a marketing term that is used to make products sound more legitimate.

But what bothers me most is that there is never any specificity. That’s how you know it’s slightly nonsense. Read your detox kits and try to find a specific toxin that they’re saying the product will help you with. What is it that they’re saying the detox will get rid of?

Not only do they not name a particular toxin, they don’t provide any evidence that they can get rid of the unnamed substance.

I’ve certainly never seen a scientifically reliable study whereby an experimental group has a certain level of a poisonous substance in their body that is reduced by drinking juice for 3 days (with a comparable control group that doesn’t also have that reduced by simply letting 3 days go by). If you’ve seen one, please let me know in the comments.

Healthy foodsConclusions:

The truth is, if this “detoxing” movement causes people to eat more vegetables, stop smoking, drink healthy juices, or exercise more, then this whole fad isn’t a bad thing. Indeed, that detox salad I linked to above is delicious and very healthy.

But my only point is this: let’s not pretend that making all kinds of poor health decisions for our body can be rectified by a simple 3 day juice detox. Because it can’t.

I think this whole idea that it can is very damaging because it lets people think they can live recklessly and just fix it with a simple detox.

Good health and proper nutrition can’t really be cheated. The only person you’re cheating is yourself. Understand that a detox salad/juice/meal can be really healthy for you – but it’s not magically removing evil “toxins” from your body.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below.

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Adam Ferguson

Adam is a health and fitness writer that has a passion for helping people improve their health. He writes about subjects like nutrition, workout tips, natural remedies, and any other way to help people reach their health goals. Adam is the primary writer and editor for ThinkHealthiness.com.

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