Do Detox Diets Work?

by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Published on December 25, 2019
a cup of detox drink of lemon and mint

The need to have a healthy body is a preoccupation of many in the world today. Apparently, this craze if detox diets work is not a new phenomenon. It is a notion from many centuries ago. The idea of a glowing body and slowing the natural aging process is the genesis of this preoccupation. In reality, do detox diets work? In this article, we will endeavor to address the facts and demystify the myths about detox diets. 

What is detox?

Detoxification or commonly known as detox is the body’s natural mechanism of getting rid of the harmful toxins. Toxins are substances that have the potential of causing harm or damaging the body tissues or organs. Toxic substances are generally divided into two categories. The first category is the harmful residues that occur after the natural cell metabolism process. These include uric and lactic acids and waste products like feces. The second category involves external substances that we introduce into the body. These can come through the food we eat, the air we breathe, or the skin products we apply. Some examples of external toxins include pesticides from plants, mercury from fish, and lead from petroleum fumes (1).

The body naturally can clear itself of any harmful substances. Several body organs engage each other during this process. Internal organs like the liver, kidney, lungs, intestines, and colon help in the cleansing. The blood and skin also aid in the process. If toxin levels exceed the usual standards, the body loses the capacity to excrete them effectively. Ultimately, it causes a metabolic breakdown in the protective shield of the body. Thus, most toxins find their way into body cells and tissues. When this happens for a considerable period, serious health issues may occur. Essentially, this is why people are using various products to enhance natural metabolism (1, 2).

Since excess toxins cripple the body’s capacity to metabolize effectively, many symptoms call for detox. The significant manifestations form six categories. 

  1. Excessive tiredness.

If you are experiencing constant tiredness and lack of adequate sleep, then you may need to detox your body. It is fine to feel tired when you have a busy schedule. In this case, your body does not get enough sleep despite long sleeping hours. Again you are always tired for no apparent reason. When this happens for a while, it is good to detox (3).

  1. Brain fatigue

Anxiety, lack of concentration, and high-stress levels are signs that your brain is under duress. You need a cleansing program to rejuvenate your brain cells.

  1. Abdominal problems

Microbes are crucial in flushing out the toxins in the stomach. If your digestive system is weak, then you will have intestinal issues. It is time to detox. 

  1. Craving for junk food

When you experience a surge in craving for sugary food, it is a clear red flag. It may mean your sugar levels are low. This is because the body cannot metabolize sugar from the food you eat. 

  1. Aching joints and muscles

When you get pains yet you do not go to the gym; there is a problem. There could be a pile-up of acid in your joints. Detox to get rid of it. 

  1. Regular allergies

Seasonal allergies are common. But when they become a constant feature in your life, then your immune system is low. It is high time you detox. (3)

Types of popular detox diets

Detox diets are common with people in this health consciousness era. Numerous platforms discuss and offer advisory features on detoxification. Here we will sample the most popular detox diets for you. 

  1. Fasting

This is the total or partial abstinence from eating or drinking anything for a specific period. It helps in relaxing the body organs from the routine metabolic work. When the body has little food, it burns the fat which stores excessive toxins. When the body loses calories, the person loses excessive weight. The intensity of fasting varies from the available plans. While some go for limited intake of specific liquids, others opt for intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is the alternation of fasting days. Though it is famous for weight loss, most medical practitioners have reservations for the practice (4).

  1. Liquid detox

This diet consists of natural juices, smoothies, and brewed tea. In this category, smoothies provide the best option. Juices contain a high content of vitamins. Though this is good for the immune system, it lacks other things like fiber, protein, and calories. Brewed tea gives a good measure of antioxidants but falls short, just like juices. Smoothies vary in the combination. You can incorporate all the things you want. For better results, use fresh leafy vegetables, nuts, fruits, and other proteins. This concoction will give you almost all the nutrients you need. Other people go for lemon water as their preference. Some nutritionists argue that the best liquid for detoxification is pure water (5).

  1. Food elimination

This type of dieting involves removing foods that are likely to have toxic agents. The toxic agents may include heavy metals and allergenic foods. Though this may take time, it is one good way of improving your body immune system. You have to start by eliminating what you think is toxic. Then after a while, you try introducing the foods back slowly checking out the side effects if any. If you notice any adverse effect, you discard the food altogether. It is generally a cumbersome trial and error method. So, it is good to work with a nutritionist for faster results. 

  1. Colon detox

The colon is an organ in the digestive system responsible for the removal of waste from the body. When it does function well, there is a buildup of waste in the digestive system. Thus some people prefer to detox the colon for better excrement of the waste. The most common practice is the use of laxative ingredients like senna. Besides, you have to observe a high fiber and whole-grain diet. Take in many water. Lastly, avoid alcohol, smoking, and red meat. It will take a healthy habit to manage the detox routine (5).

  1. Exercise regularly

It is a recommendation from almost all medical experts that regular exercising helps detox the body. The use of body muscles triggers most senses to become active. The body uses more calories, sweats a lot, and consumes more food and water. This transformation helps the internal organs to work better. While exercising gives the body organs and muscles a boost, you have to have utmost discipline. Abstain totally from alcoholic drinks, smoking and caffeine, and concentrated sugar confectioneries. 

Do detox diets work?

This is an age-old question that is still under serious debate in professional circles. Generally, the immediate effects are positive. Most people report an improvement in their overall wellbeing. Those on weight loss programs lose their calories and subsequently, weight. Others claim to have better energies and an improvement in sleeping patterns. All these testimonies point to one factor. The participants record a dramatic change of lifestyle. Some of the things they adopt in the dietary session include eating healthy foods and drinking many water. Other habits include exercising and avoidance of harmful metals and drinks (8).

Though there is no scientific evidence that detox diets work, the reality is it does improve most people. Going by the potential benefits that you can get from dieting, it is prudent to say detox diets work. Yes, you can get the benefits even when you are not dieting. But most people ignore living a healthy lifestyle. It is only after a particular condition that they agree to create room for healthy living. Furthermore, the discipline in dieting lacks in most people. Thus the only time people optimize on healthy living is during dieting (6) (8).

As much as the benefits are visible, the side effects of this practice are significant. A few days of fasting are suitable for the body. The problem comes when you starve your boy of the essential calories. This makes the body weaker. Fatigue, bloating, dehydration, and nausea are common adverse effects of fasting for a longer period. Without proper discipline, you can starve yourself hoping for faster results. This situation happens mostly on the people seeking to lose excessive weight. 

Overdosing of supplements is another problem that needs attention. The liver, kidney, and colon cleansing involve taking supplements. These supplements are not under strict regulations. It makes it easy for one to take more pills without a prescription. Again, the ingredients in the supplements may be false. This may injure the internal organs, thus affecting the health of the person. 

The vulnerable segment of society. In this group, we have the children, elderly, pregnant, nursing mothers, and the sick. If you are in any of these groups, you have to get the approval of a doctor. Any exposure to detox diets can lead to more harm than good. The reason is simple; your immune system is low. As for pregnant and nursing mothers, the toxins may filter into the child. (6) (8)

Why do detox diets work?

The success of the detox diets is fundamentally through the change of lifestyle. Many nutritionists and medical doctors still argue to the contrary. In reality, most people keep posting positive results from their experiences. Nonetheless, some have side effects, but the number is few. The primary reasons that contribute to the success of the detox plans are:

  1. Good nutrition

The intake of natural foods and drinks boosts the nutritional value of your diet. In this fast-paced lifestyle, most people prefer junk than to cook their food. Even when they cook, they use processed foods. This depreciates the body of the essential nutrients. When you embark on a detox program, you religiously watch what you eat. The natural foods boost your health and overall wellbeing (7) (8).

  1. Exercising

When you stress your body muscles, they tend to relax the mind and alleviate stress. It, in turn, may help you relax. In the process of the detox program, you take in many water. This alone helps the internal organs to eliminate the toxins regularly. With the help of proper nutrition, good rest helps the body metabolize well (8).

  1. Avoidance of smoking and alcohol

The reason for needing a detox is to remove harmful toxins. If you reduce agents of excessive toxins like alcohol and tobacco, you will leave a healthy life. The only time people avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, and toxic fumes are when they are on a detox. Though it is sometimes hard, try as much as possible to avoid toxic areas. These include lead motor vehicle emissions, petroleum fumes, and any allergenic exposure (8)


Detox diets programs are increasingly getting popular daily. But do detox diets work? There is little scientific statistics to affirm or negate the effects of detox on people. Nevertheless, it is a widely known practice over the world. It endears many through its natural way of using traditional food and herbs. Since the mind knows that the body is not taking in synthetic materials, it responds faster. Besides, the will to respond comes from the mind. 

Whether it is good or bad, the debate is open for your opinion. In essence, we undergo a general detox every day through natural metabolism. The craze of detox diets should be an everyday plan and not a short term crush plan. The diets that people undertake are expensive. The moment you leave your diet, the possibility of gaining back your previous condition heightens. So, do detox diets work? Yes, transform your life and embrace good eating habits, exercise, and adequate rest. If this becomes your lifestyle, you may need no crush detox program. It will be your lifestyle. 


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