Detox has emerged to become one of the most common ways to jump-start a weight loss programme, be it for a health or a beauty boost because the latest trend is to expel all 'toxins' from the body.
And as popular as detoxing has become over the last few years – with celebrity endorsements only fuelling their popularity – experts have spoken to Daily Mail Online, warning how not only they are ineffective, but potentially harmful to the body too.
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The most common ways to detox are detox diets – which involves just juices replacing regular food items and meals, and colonics – where people aim to cleanse out their colon of faecal matter and other unspecified toxins.
But experts believe that unless it's an absolute precursor to a healthier diet, these methods do nothing to rid the body of toxins. "Most detoxes don't have long-term benefits unless it's a kick-start to eat healthily," Dr Lauren Streicher, an associate professor at Northwestern University shared.
"Every part of the body is cleansing and revitalizing itself," she added, indicating that the body is perfectly capable of cleaning itself on its own – courtesy the liver, gastrointestinal system, and kidneys, which happen to be some of the body's many designated toxin removers.
This is done by the gastrointestinal system filtering out waste. The nutrients are already absorbed in the upper intestines while it passes through the digestive tracks, explained Dr Susan Besser, a primary care provider at Mercy Medical Center. The rest of the waste then moves to the colon, to be expelled out of the body.
"People think by expelling all that from the colon they're getting rid of toxins," Dr Besser said. "But if it's in the colon it's already heading out the door so to speak."
The kidney, on the other hand, is in charge of filtering toxins out of the blood and into the urine. The blood contributes to detoxifying by changing the chemical nature of multiple toxins – making them easier for the body to eliminate.
"If the kidneys aren't doing their job you need dialysis, not apple cider vinegar," Dr Streicher added, while Dr Besser explained that the lungs filter the air as soon as it comes in. The rest is exhaled.
But if you're wondering why so many people claim to feel so great after going on a detox, Dr Streicher believes it's from not consuming processed food actually.
"The idea that a [detox diet] is going to take toxins out the body is not accurate," she explained. "The reason people feel better after a detox [isn't because they're removing toxins from the body], it's because they aren't putting junk into their system."
But Dr Besser said that detox's potential at being harmful stems from the fact that laxatives – that are often used in these detox methods – can speed up bowel movements to the point where food nutrients are unable to get absorbed in the upper intestine.
Apart from causing diarrhoea, laxatives can also dehydrate the body to the point of weakness, blurry vision, fainting, and even kidney damage.
Also, juice detoxes involve extracting the skin and most of the fibre from fruits and vegetables, meaning that the body is only getting sugar and not enough nutrients or fibre from those food items, dr Besser explained.
Dr Streicher, however, added that while the health risks don't apply if these cleanses are done for a couple of days, long-term detoxes could lead to the body being completely denied of the nutrients and vitamins it needs.