"If it sounds too good to be true it probably is"... some detox diets claim huge weight loss, huge gains in gut functionality and digestive abilities. Read about the diet, and use your common sense to determine if it is safe. Most detox diets involve a few days of fasting, followed by a specific recommendation to follow for a week (such as a special lemon drink or green smoothie for the next 7 days). Most detox diets are probably ok in the short term, but the nutritional adequacy and safety needs to be questioned if they are followed much longer than a week. Most of the weight you will lose will be from lack of fluid or reduced glycogen storage which will be quickly regained once you eat whole foods again.
Some detox diets are promoted as life changing, but are actually based on sound nutritional principles of drinking more water, cutting down on caffeinated drinks, cutting out alcohol, increasing your wholegrains and increasing your fruits and vegetable consumption. This is very common advice routinely given out to clients who need to make dietary changes to improve the nutritional quality of their diet. This is not rocket science, nor is it a detox diet.
Many detox diet claims focus around your liver, and its inability to adequately flush out toxins and metabolites from your body. Your liver is an amazing organ of the body, and if it wasn’t functioning correctly you would certainly know about it. Your liver has about 500 different jobs in the body, and is main role is detoxification, fat/ protein and carbohydrate metabolism, vitamin and mineral storage, blood filtering (for hormones, alcohol, drugs), immunological functioning, albumin production and synthesis of angiotensin (important for the regulation of blood pressure). The main cause of liver problems in the industralised world is from alcohol abuse. Lucky for us, the liver is the only organ of the body that can regenerate, providing a minimum of 25% of the tissue remains (2). Look after your Liver.
As mentioned previously, the liver is the main detoxifier in the body, but so is the skin (through sweating), gastrointestinal tract (through faeces and urine production). Your body detoxifies very efficiently, and unless you have an issue with your digestive tract and have a diagnosed medical condition, you are likely to be referred to a Dietitian who can guide you into an appropriate therapeutic diet. There are of course some toxins the body can not removed, and they may build up over time such as chemical exposure, pollutants and heavy metals. A detox diet is unlikely to remove these serious toxins either, and it is also unlikely to be able to specifically remove a particular toxin, so be wary of detox diets that claim then can remove these serious toxins.
The best detoxification method is adequate hydration. Many of us do not drink enough water daily and this is why your digestion system is inefficient (leading to constipation or bladder infections) or why your concentration is poor or why your athletic performance is impaired. Try drinking at least 30 – 35 mL fluid per kilogram of body weight daily to achieve adequate hydration for all your bodily processes (good digestion, feces and urine production). Try using a urine chart to review your urine colour – just remember some foods and medications can temporarily colour your urine.
Please read the clinical review on detox diets below as the bottom line from this well researched article that specifies the potential health risks of detox products and that these should be discouraged by health professionals and subject to independent regulatory review and monitoring.
1. Klein, A. V., & Kiat, H. (2015). Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. Journal of human nutrition and dietetics, 28(6), 675-686
2. Michalopoulos, G. K. (2007). Liver Regeneration. Journal of Cellular Physiology, 213(2), 286–300. http://doi.org/10.1002/jcp.21172