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Detox Fads Debunked

Most people don't even realize it, but they feel sluggish, miserable, stressed, and whipped most of the time because their bodies are clogged up with all the junk they've been eating for so long. You Can Detox Your Body with (insert detox diet name here) and Feel like a Kid Again...

Sounds great doesn't it? I took the paragraph above directly from a book promoting the wonders of a detox diet. It all seems so logical. Everyone knows there are toxins everywhere in our environment. The cure is simple. All you have to do to feel better and be healthier is get rid of those toxins. We just need to Detox.

The typical (and I am making a broad generalization here) detox diet suggests you only eat raw vegetables, fruits or water. Most will warn you of the dangers of alcohol, flour, sugar and meats, including fish. You are instructed to follow a program, eating only the allowed foods for five days to as long as a month. When you're finished you look and feel better!

That's the hype. Here's the truth.

Myth #1: We need to detoxify our bodies on a regular basis.

Reality: The liver, kidneys, lungs and skin are the human body's natural detoxification system. They continuously remove wastes and toxins that are then flushed out through urine, feces and sweat. Changing your eating habits for a week won't reverse the damaging effects of years of high fat, high sugar and high sodium diets. There is no magic "flush" handle on your body to rid it of toxins like there is on your toilet.

Myth #2: "Rotting matter and other wastes" build up in the colon. A detox program or colonic is necessary to keep the colon clean.

Reality: "Rotting matter" doesn't "build up" in the colon. Ask any gastroenterologist. (That's a doctor who studies disorders affecting the stomach, intestines, and associated organs.) While blockages can and do occur, it is a serious medical condition that must be taken care of by a doctor or trained medical personnel. As for colonics, in rare cases they can pose the risk of infection or perforation. If you want more "regularity" to your bowl movements, try eating more fiber.

Myth #3: By using laxatives and diuretics you can increase the output of urine and feces and speed up the rate at which toxins are moving out of your body.

Reality: Using laxatives and diuretics will increase your output of urine and feces, that's true. But there is no process that can help you purge toxins any faster than what your body is naturally capable of doing. Laxatives and diuretics also cause dehydration and can alter your electrolyte levels, creating health problems. To make matters worse, they can be habit forming.

Myth #4: Detox diets are good ways to loose weight.

Reality: A detox diet can help you loose weight, because most are so low in fat and calories. But the results are strictly short term. If you don't eat enough calories, your body will turn to muscle for fuel. As you loose muscle your metabolism slows down. In the end you weigh less (because you've lost muscle) but you still have just as much unhealthy fat. Instead of that "tight and toned" look, you'll have a "skinny and flabby" look.

Finally, for those of you who are constantly feeling sluggish, miserable, stressed, and whipped most of the time, consider what other factors may be causing it.

  • Are you getting enough sleep?
  • Are you eating properly?
  • Do you get enough exercise?

If you said yes to all of the questions above, and still don't feel well, then you should visit your doctor. A doctor can help you determine the cause and suggest ways to fix the problem.

The best way to feel better is simple. You have to exercise regularly and eat healthier foods. Nothing magic or secret, it just takes work.

We wrote an updated version of this story in 2010. Here's a link to our "Cleanse" article.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.

11/13/2003
Updated 6/27/2011