How would you like to cleanse your body, inside and out? Flush out the toxins that have built up. Detox from chemicals and make up for bad diet choices.
Who wouldn’t want to do this? Brighter skin, less fatigue, and a flatter stomach? Sign me up.
The problem is…you can’t. The whole cleanse and detox industry is build on pseudoscience, false claims and exaggerated testimonials.
You can’t “flush out toxins”
Let’s have a dose of reality. When you ingest things that are toxic — from food, alcohol, pollution, teflon in your eggs — those toxins enter the bloodstream and go to your liver. Your liver breaks down toxic substances, and they are excreted.
Your liver, kidneys, skin, and lungs excrete toxins continually, every day, 24/7. There is no evidence that you can assist or improve the function of your body’s natural detox system, through juice, food, supplements or any other method.
If you had a buildup of toxins beyond your body’s ability to get rid of it, you’d be clinically ill, in need of medical intervention.
And despite popular belief, toxins do not make you fat. Caloric surplus makes you fat.
The questionable claims of detox peddlers
It’s pretty easy to sift through bullshit. You just have to ask questions.
What exactly is meant by ‘detox?’ Specifically which toxins? How do these products work?
In a survey of 15 companies who sell cleanse and detox products, not one was able to answer these questions. They could not name the toxins that they were supposedly eliminating, nor provide any evidence of detoxification.
In other words, they have no proof of their claims.
Treatments for your body need to be based on evidence. Purveyors of such treatments have to be able to prove their claims.
Why most people detox
Let’s say you could “cleanse and detoxify” your body. There are a lot of reasons you might want to do this. But most fall into there categories:
Reason #1: ”I just feel tired and crappy all the time”
Even if you live on the straight and narrow, but you’re always fatigued, bloated and/or constipated, it’s easy to buy into the detox myth.
Developing sustainable daily habits — and making a few tweaks to your diet — will do a lot more for you than a short term fix.
- Reduce your inflammation. Certain foods can cause systemic inflammation (aches, pain, fatigue), as well as inflammation of the gut. Culprits often include grains, legumes, eggs and dairy; but there are many causes, and not everyone is affected. Try an elimination diet to see if something you’re eating is making you feel bad.
- Take it easy on the caffeine. You might need it to get going in the morning (or at the gym), but all-day caffeine can make you feel tired most of the time
- Get more sleep. It seems obvious, but just do it. Get 7-9 hours a night.
- Figure out the right amount of training. If you’re not working out, find a plan and start. But if you’re stressed out and going to the gym every day, you may need to dial it back so you can recover fully between training sessions.
- Lay off the booze. Or drink better booze and less of it.
- Drink water throughout the day.
- Do yoga. Regular yoga will correct muscle imbalances that leave you feeling stiff and sore. Yoga can also improve regularity, which will reduce bloating.
Reason #2: “I need to lose weight fast”
Crash diets have been around forever. And they don’t work any better on a $400 juice cleanse than they did on the 1970s grapefruit diet.
Yes, you will lose weight if you only consume juice and supplements, because you are in a massive caloric defecit. But you’re likely to gain it back (and possibly more) when you return to normal eating.
If you want to lose weight and keep it off:
- Get your ass to the gym consistently, lift weights, and do some high-intensity interval training.
- Figure out your daily caloric needs and stay in a slight deficit.
- Eat whole, unprocessed foods that center around vegetables, seafood, lean meats and healthy fats (nuts in moderation, avocados, etc.).
- Eat lots of fiber and stay away from starchy carbs.
- Keep alcohol to a minimum.
Reason #3: “I fell off the wagon and I need to detox”
Who doesn’t love a bender?
Feel-good food, booze like you’re in college, going to bed whenever the hell you feel like it. It feel’s great. Until it doesn’t.
If your liver is working overtime because you’re drowning it in gin and french fry grease, you’re going to feel like crap (especially if you’re not 21 anymore). But extreme, unsustainable solutions often breed more off-the-wagon behavior.
If you’ve been living hard and fast, the best thing you can do is rein it in. You don’t have to give up alcohol or go on a green juice diet. Figure out how to moderate. I know this is easier said than done, but it comes down to small, everyday choices.
- Take a break from alcohol (3 days, 3 weeks, you decide) or limit it to certain nights of the week.
- Commit to eating at home 4 nights a week. Even if you don’t cook, buy something prepared at the grocery store (instead of restaurant takeout).
- If you’re going out, drink as much water as alcohol.
- Plan some meals ahead. This doesn’t mean you have to pre-cook and put everything in tupperware, but have a strategy of what you’re going to eat, and when. A lot of regrettable food choices are due to lack of planning.
- Don’t mix caffeine with alcohol. This is a recipe for feeling like shit.
There’s a middle ground between acting like a frat boy and acting like a nun. That’s where the fun is.
Don’t get duped by snake oil salesmen
If you just want to drink vegetable juice for three days, have at it. There are worse things you could do for your body. And you might feel better because you eliminated some inflammatory foods.
Just be clear: you are not detoxifying. You are not cleansing. You’re simply drinking juice (or detox tea, or whatever they sold you). And that’s it. Probably not worth what you paid.