Detoxes and Cleanses: The Untold Truth

Janelle Polanco

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April 22, 2021
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At some point, we have all aimlessly scrolled through Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or any other social media platform and came across a promotion for a detox tea, juice, shake or supplement. Detoxes and cleanses are often promoted on social media as a “quick fix” to aid in weight loss, bloating, inflammation, restoring energy or ridding the body of toxins for our overall health and wellbeing. 

Unfortunately, there is very little evidence of success when it comes to detoxes and supplements because they are not required to be regulated by the FDA. This means that they do not go through the same safety and efficiency reviews that our food goes through prior to being sold. Therefore, detoxes and cleanses are not only unsustainable, but also have little scientific research to back up their claims (Alexander, 2020).

The truth is, we do not need a detox or cleanse to detoxify our bodies. Our bodies are already naturally equipped and capable of performing a detox on its own! When we eat, the body goes through the process of digestion. In this process, our bodies absorb essential nutrients that are needed, while also ridding the body of toxins or waste products. Here are some specific examples of how our bodies natural detoxify:

The Kidneys: Our kidneys play a major role in the process of detoxification. The kidneys filter our blood and remove toxins, wastes and excess water that is then excreted through the urine. They also maintain electrolyte balance and work to remove any buildup of acid that is naturally produced within our bodies (Your kidneys & how they work, 2018).

The Liver: Our liver is another major contributor to the process of detoxification. It is an important part of our bodies defense against various harmful substances and toxins. The liver is known to act as a filter for the body (The dubious practice of detox, 2008).

The Intestines: The intestines remove waste products that have reached this point in the process of digestion. These wastes are what form our stool (Your digestive system & how it works, 2017).

The Immune System: The immune system is the main reason why we are able to build up resistance or immunity to various forms of bacteria and  illnesses. The immune system also has the ability to recognize foreign substances in the body (The dubious practice of detox, 2008).

The main reason why we use the bathroom is to detoxify. This is our body’s way of getting rid of all the toxins and wastes that have been produced or have entered our body. I know, it’s fascinating. 

The good news is, we can support our body’s natural process of detoxification through staying hydrated and making healthful choices (The dubious practice of detox, 2008). Including the proper amount of servings per day of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains is the main way we obtain dietary fiber (Foroutan, 2019). Dietary fiber helps to maintain regular bowel movements, which supports the process of digestion. Including lean proteins also supports the body’s “master detoxification” enzyme known as Glutathione. Balance, variety and moderation in our food choices is the key. Lastly, including naturally fermented foods in our diet has been shown to promote a healthy gut (Foroutan, 2019). 

So, we do not need to spend tons of money on these advertised detox or cleanse products. Eating a healthful diet will give you all the benefits that most detoxes may claim to give you, but cannot. Be careful with what you read online or what your favorite celebrity is promoting on Instagram, because they are usually getting paid to do so. Remember, they are not the experts! If you are considering doing a detox, please consult with your health care provider or a registered dietitian first to ensure it’s safe for you. 

References:

Alexander, H. (2020, October 26). 4 detox myths: Get the facts. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.mdanderson.org/cancerwise/the-facts-behind-4-detox-myths-should-you-detox-your-body.h00-159385890.html

The dubious practice of detox. (2008, May). Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-dubious-practice-of-detox

Foroutan, R. (2019, June 27). Whats the deal with detox diets. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.eatright.org/health/weight-loss/fad-diets/whats-the-deal-with-detox-diets

Your digestive system & how it works. (2017, December). Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/digestive-system-how-it-works

Your kidneys & how they work. (2018, June). Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/kidneys-how-they-work

Edited by preRD intern, Lauren Gatto

Janelle Polanco

Janelle Polanco

Hi, my name is Janelle. I am currently in my junior year of undergrad in the Nutrition and Dietetics program at CUNY Queens College! I love everything related to food, fitness and my goldendoodle. I am a NASM certified personal trainer and hope to become a future registered dietitian.