Are Detoxes Good for Your Body?

  • Medical Reviewer: Dany Paul Baby, MD
Medically Reviewed on 5/9/2022

What is a detox or cleanse?

A detox can be described as a rigorous, comprehensive regimen for the body to eliminate toxins, kickstart weight loss, and encourage better health overall. Detoxes may cause low protein, gastrointestinal illness, low energy, altered glucose levels, and disrupted metabolism.
A detox can be described as a rigorous, comprehensive regimen for the body to eliminate toxins, kickstart weight loss, and encourage better health overall. Detoxes may cause low protein, gastrointestinal illness, low energy, altered glucose levels, and disrupted metabolism.

Cleansing and detoxing are very popular in the diet and health arenas. They may require that you drink weird concoctions or deprive yourself of your favorite foods for long periods. Cleanses and detoxes have a common goal of eliminating toxins from the body. They present these toxins as being absorbed from our workplaces and homes or from sources like cosmetics, cleaning materials, and even food, water, and air. But are detoxes and cleanses safe? There are many diets, detoxification regimens, and therapies promoted on the market, and you must do your research to weigh the alleged benefits against any potential risks. 

A detox can be described as a rigorous, comprehensive regimen for the body. The goal of a body detox is to eliminate toxins, kickstart weight loss, and encourage better health overall. The fundamental notion is that getting rid of specific types of food or eliminating solid food will allow the body to rid itself of toxins. In theory, the detox enables your digestive system to rest so that the body will heal and better absorb nutrients eventually. 

The daily detoxification process is known as cleansing. The body is constantly detoxifying, but a cleanse is primarily focused on your digestive system. With a detox, daily meals are often replaced with drink mixtures of lemon, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper mixtures. It could also consist of fruit juices, freshly squeezed vegetables, or green tea. The detox can last up to a month or be as soon as a day.

Usually, a cleanse is not as restrictive as a detox is. Some fasting programs market themselves as a means of cleansing the body. This includes intermittent fasting and periodic fasting. These types of programs may claim to improve aging, promote health, cause weight loss, and prevent disease.  No current research can validate the long-term effects of many of these programs.

Are detoxes good for your body?

Programs that employ a detoxing component could include various processes like fasting, herbal use, sauna use, eating certain foods, drinking only teas and juices, dietary supplements, reduction in environmental exposures, and colon cleansing with or without enemas and hydrotherapy.  The goal is to remove toxins. This attempt at removal of toxins has supposed benefits, such as:

Removing certain foods from your diet for a number of days, and then reintroducing them after a detox can help you identify food sensitivities. The increased intake of vitamins and minerals from natural vegetables, juiced fruits, and drink supplements may also provide detox benefits.

Are detoxes and cleanses safe?

Organs in the body like your kidney, liver, and skin reduce toxins and get rid of them via urination, bowel movements, and sweating. This makes your body a self-detoxification system that can naturally detoxify on its own. Many people do not know this. The addition of a cleanse or detox to the natural system can interfere with the body's natural detoxification process. These treatments could cause:

  • Low protein concentration in the body due to detoxing
  • Gastrointestinal illness and frequent bowel movements
  • Diminished energy, disrupted metabolic rates, and modified glucose levels

There is no research on the long-term effects of detoxing diets. There was a 2015 study that found no significant results in using detox diets for weight management and elimination of toxins. A 2017 follow-up review concluded that detoxing and juicing can kickstart initial weight loss due to low-calorie intake, but the weight comes back once a normal diet is resumed. 

Are detox ingredients harmful?

In the past, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have engaged in legal actions against numerous businesses that market cleansing and detox items. The basis of the lawsuit included:

  • The products contained possible dangerous and illegal ingredients.
  • The products were marketed with false claims that could lead to serious diseases.
  • Medical devices used for colon cleansing were not approved for their suggested use. 

Many detox juices contain oxalate. Oxalate is an ingredient found naturally in foods like spinach and beets. If a substantial amount of high-oxalate juice is consumed, it can increase the risk of problems in the kidneys.  Drinking high amounts of herbal tea and water but not consuming a nutritional diet for an extended period can lead to dangerous electrolyte imbalances.   


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What else should I know about detoxes and cleanses?

Using a detox or cleansing program could make physical activity harder. Reducing the risk of long-term medical problems and retaining proper weight are closely linked to exercise. If you choose to detox or cleanse, you may not have enough energy or have consumed enough calories to workout sufficiently. If you still choose to detox or cleanse, make sure that you consume drinks with proper nutritional value. Your body needs significant amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, and electrolytes

Weight loss is better maintained through a healthy diet and exercise. A detox or cleanse could seem like a quick fix solution. However, a more sustainable way to control your weight is through healthy eating practices. You can find a healthy diet that works for you by:

  • Decreasing sweetened beverages in your diet. 
  • Drinking more water during the day to hydrate the body. 
  • Avoiding low-nutrient, high-calorie foods, including snacks.
  • Packing two-thirds of your plate with plant-based foods like vegetables and whole grains.

Detoxes may seem harmless because natural foods, juices, and products are used. However, there is no evidence of their long-term safety or that they work. The information usually comes from a testimonial that is not verified by a medical professional. Herbal detoxes and supplements do not have approval from the FDA and can be toxic to the liver. The most vital thing you can do to keep the body rid of toxins is to support your liver and other detoxing organs. 

Medically Reviewed on 5/9/2022

Cleveland Clinic: "Are You Planning a Cleanse or Detox? Read This First."

Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine: "'Cleanse' detoxification diet program in Appalachia: Participant characteristics and perceived health effects."

Medical Sciences: "Gut–Liver Axis: How Do Gut Bacteria Influence the Liver?"

MD Anderson Cancer Center: "4 detox myths: Get the facts," "4 things you should know about cleanses, detoxes and fasts."

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: ""Detoxes" and "Cleanses": What You Need To Know."