It’s January and as sure as night follows day or hangover follows NYE, everywhere you look there are detoxes. Detox diet plans, detox fasts, detox juices and detox supplements. What’s the juice on these plans and why would I never do one?
Science or sales patter?
The first thing about detox plans, whatever they are selling (and make no mistake, this is all about product sales and marketing with scant regard for any actual science), is that hardly any actually explain what a “toxin” is, let alone how their product will eliminate or ‘flush’ it from your body. If they do offer a scientific (or more accurately pseudo-scientific) explanation, it often differs from one brand to the next and few reliable references are cited with which to back up the claims. If you want more detail on the sort of claims brands are making and how they’ve been debunked by experts, have a good read of The Detox Dossier, written and investigated by young scientists on behalf of the excellent voice of reason website, Sense About Science.
In reality, yes, toxins exist in our environment as pollutants, heavy metals, pesticides, industrial chemicals, radioactive compounds and so on (and yes, alcohol is also a toxin). They may enter our bodies via the food we eat or the air we breathe for example and some may build up in our fat stores and in some of our organs. What we don’t know is how significant this is to our long term health (and bear in mind there are a lot of ifs, buts and mays here). There are certainly many laws controlling the use of pesticides, air quality, disposal of toxic waste and the safety testing of food to reassure us and by eating a broad and varied diet, we minimise our exposure to individual pollutants but the existence of toxins means there will always be a market for products that claim to counteract them.
What we do know is that drinking a green juice, surviving on nothing but lemony water for a week or brewing a special cup of tea is not going to rid your body of any toxins! The only thing you’ll be flushing out is your wallet!
But a detox won’t hurt, right?
While most detox programmes are relatively short term and mostly harmless (a wink to you Douglas Adams fans), there are some cases where individuals have been hospitalised after drinking too much fluid or taking supplements that cause permanent liver damage, all in the pursuit of health. You might lose a bit of weight if you’re barely eating during the detox but this will most likely come straight back on once you resume normal eating patterns. So if there’s no gain and maybe some pain, what’s the point in paying good money for detox products? Do I even need to answer this?
Stop the press: The body detoxes itself!
Yes indeed, the reality is that the human body is equipped with its own state of the art detoxification system, known as the liver and kidneys. They work in tandem to process all manner of toxins from drugs to alcohol. If you are unlucky enough to have overloaded these hardworking organs by poisoning yourself, for example with alcohol, drugs or other poisonous substances, a kale smoothie won’t cut the mustard. Get yourself to a hospital as quickly as possible for clinically proven detoxification treatment
But I’ve spent the last two weeks eating mince pies and drinking prosecco!
Congratulations on having a fantastic festive season! You still don’t need to starve yourself or exist on a diet of cucumber juice and turmeric lattes (still don’t get the turmeric latte thing and I never will).
Purging and feeling guilty about having enjoyed yourself and indulged over the festive season is a complete waste of time and disastrous for your mental health. Subsequently embarking upon a punishing regime of dieting and exercise without setting any sort of realistic goals or checking that the changes you’re making will be sustainable is usually a recipe for rapid failure and even more guilt.
Instead, just ease off the booze a bit, drink a bit more water, eat more vegetables and a bit less cake and move your body a little. That will do you the world of good. And it won’t cost the earth or taste like the bottom of a pond!
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