It seems that every week, a new detox product hits the market. It promises rapid weight loss, more energy, better libido… the list goes on. The truth is, most of these products are laxatives! And they’re chock-full of harsh, synthetic chemicals or even toxins — the exact opposite of the natural living they claim to support!
Our bodies are quite good at detoxing — if we keep them nourished with the right foods. That’s why the best detox happens when you make simple yet profound changes to your diet. In short, there’s no need to sit on the toilet all day. Let’s separate detox myth from fact so you can finally start feeling better.
Myth: Our bodies won’t detox on their own.
Fact: Your liver, kidneys, and gut all work together to extract nutrients and expel waste and toxins. It’s true that regular bowel movements will “detox” your body. But you don’t need to take expensive pills or laxatives to achieve those. A healthy diet with plenty of fiber and water works wonders in keeping you regular!
Unfortunately, some of these detox supplements may do more harm than good. First, excessive laxative use can cause diarrhea, which not only dehydrates you but also cuts short your gut’s absorption of nutrients. Some detox products contain activated charcoal. While this can be used medically to soak up poison, it also absorbs nutrients and medications. Or, your body simply passes it out as an inedible substance.
The truth is, our natural filtration system will expel as much as possible — as long as we limit our consumption of toxins to begin with! Drink lots of water, eat fiber-rich foods, and avoid preservatives, pesticides, and other toxins, and your amazing body will do the rest. Save money on detox fads and invest in a better diet with as many organic, non-GMO foods as possible.
Myth: Fasting leads to detox.
Many people attempt to detox via fasting. They believe this will trigger the liver to work harder. While it’s been difficult to reliably study detox diets, we do know that fasting often confuses the body. You may experience dehydration, loss of electrolytes, and low blood sugar — none of which aid your body’s digestion or filtration! And if you’re only consuming sugar (many people do “juice cleanses” or such), you’re actually filling your gut with processed, unhealthy products.
A better solution is to add nutrient-rich foods and beneficial herbs such as milk thistle to your diet. These actually support your natural detox! Your liver works best when it is fully nourished; your gut needs beneficial bacteria and adequate hydration. The best “detox diets” rarely include juice and tea. Rather, load up on lean proteins, leafy greens, and beans/legumes for a hearty range of B vitamins, as well as root vegetables, ancient grains, and nuts for magnesium.
Myth: Detox can cure addiction and remove drugs from your system.
Fact: Plenty of products claim to flush pharmaceuticals, cannabis, and illicit drugs out of your body. These companies push their detox supplements as a way to solve addiction problems and help people pass drug tests.
Unfortunately, that’s just not true. First, addiction is not purely biological; it’s often psychological. Medically assisted detox programs are not designed to rid the body of drugs but rather to avoid dangerous withdrawal symptoms while the person abstains from use. Such detox programs should only be done under medical supervision.
This isn’t to say that green living choices don’t help with addiction treatment — they certainly do! Indeed, nutritious diets and active lifestyles are much more effective at treating addiction than any “drug-free detox” you would buy online. Remember, our health is holistic. By improving our diets, avoiding carcinogenic preservatives and pesticides in our food, and empowering our overall wellness, we can more easily recover from drug addiction.
Myth: Detox promotes weight loss.
Fact: If anything, detox pills and diets promote weight gain. As mentioned, they often encourage people to rely on juice as a source of fuel during the cleanse. Well, juice is full of sugar and preservatives! And when your body perceives that little food is available, it goes into starvation mode. Or more accurately, adaptive thermogenesis: your body reduces your metabolism to conserve calories. It may also store more of your available calories as — you guessed it — fat cells!
There is also little evidence that any detox diet or pill promotes weight loss. You may see a smaller number on the scale, but that’s because you’ve lost your water weight due to the laxatives or diuretics you’ve taken. Even if that doesn’t happen, removing toxins from your body has nothing to do with burning fat cells. If anything, many detox fads encourage you to rely on sugary, highly synthetic foods such as juice and teas. These not only raise your blood sugar level but also contribute to fatty liver syndrome — which, ironically, impairs your body’s detox ability down the line.
And if you’re still consuming highly processed, toxin-filled foods with questionable ingredients, you’re not solving the core problem: increased risk of nutrient deficiencies, and cancer due to a chemically altered diet.
That’s why the best way to lose weight is also the best way to detox: eat natural, organic, whole foods rather than over-processed, synthetic food products.
Detoxing, recovering from addiction, and getting healthy are all admirable goals. However, you don’t need any fancy detox supplements or crazy diets to achieve them. Rather, nourish your body with a green living lifestyle: nutritious foods, avoiding toxic chemicals, and staying active. Our bodies have been drenched in synthetic, carcinogenic, and mutagenic additives for decades now. No wonder we are feeling unwell. The solution is not to crash our systems and take more synthetic pills but rather to honor our body’s natural powers of detox. Eat well, get active, and say no to toxic products … and holistic wellness will follow.
This article is based on an interview with Daniel Baldwin, actor and advocate for holistic addiction recovery. He is also an advocate for his family’s eponymous The Baldwin Fund, which promotes awareness and research about breast cancer and its environmental causes.