Are “Detox Diets” and “Cleanses” Real or a Scam?


by Sean Nalewanyj

Whether you’re looking for an easy way to drop a few quick pounds, boost your energy levels, reduce stress or improve your overall health, you may have been convinced that a “detox diet” is the way to go. Take a look around your local health food store and you’ll find no shortage of pills, powders, teas and other supplements designed to “cleanse” your body from the inside out, leaving your organs rejuvenated and free of impurities.

But before you break out the old juicer or take the first step in Dr. Oz’s “5-Day Detox Cleanse”, there’s something you should know. “Detox diets” and “cleanses” are nothing but a marketing scam. The idea that splashing lemon and cayenne pepper into a glass of water or that eating nothing but apples and cucumbers for 3 days straight will somehow “rid your body of harmful toxins” is pure advertising B.S designed to sell useless products that treat a non-existent condition.

What Exactly Is A “Detox Diet”?

First off, there is no single agreed upon definition as to what a “detoxification diet” or “cleanse” really is. Take a look at the marketing material from different companies in the detox niche and you’ll see a wide variety of descriptions as to how these products supposedly work. In medical terms, “detoxification” simply refers to the removal of a harmful substance from the body. For example, it could be alcohol, drugs or accidental ingestion of poison.

These sorts of detoxification treatments are provided in hospitals when there is a real life-threatening circumstance on-hand and are conducted using careful medical procedures. When it comes to generalized “detox diets” and “cleansing supplements” however, you’ll be hard-pressed to find ANY science-based explanation as to exactly which “toxins” are being dealt with or how each specific product actually works in eliminating them.

In fact, a 2009 investigation conducted by VoYS (Voices Of Young Science) titled the “The Detox Dossier” found that out of 15 companies selling various detox products, none of them gave the same definition as to what “detoxing” actually meant, nor could any of them provide any scientific evidence to support their claims. Companies like this will simply throw around a vague word like “toxin” without any explanation of what it actually means. Claim that your liver, colon, kidneys or some other body part is slowly accumulating them over time to dangerous levels.

And that their miracle diet, tea, tablet, tincture or whatever else will rescue your health and well-being by magically flushing them out of your system. The process usually involves strict caloric restriction and food choices (typically fruits, vegetables and various juice concoctions) carried out over a few days, a week or more. It might sound good on paper, but it’s nothing more than pseudo-science at its best. As Edzard Ernst (professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University) describes it…

“There are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t. The respectable one is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions. The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated. It’s a scandal.”

The Proper Way To Detoxify Your Body

If you want to know the real truth about how you can effectively cleanse your body and prevent the build-up of harmful substances, here it is. Have a liver, kidneys, lungs and skin. Yeah, it’s really as simple as that. There are other systems in the body that aid in the process as well, but these are the main ones. As your body produces energy, by-products of that process have to be removed. Think of it like a log burning in a fireplace. As the wood continues to burn, heat is produced and ashes are left over as a result.

The liver, kidneys, lungs, skin and other organs work to remove the “ashes” of those metabolic processes in the body. You don’t need any help from a “citrus green tea detox smoothie” or “herbal cleansing face mask”. Your body is already evolutionary wired to eliminate harmful substances and properly flush out the waste products of metabolism all on its own without the need for special dietary or supplementary interventions.

This is the body’s main detoxification system and completes a variety of important tasks. The liver inactivates and removes toxic substances that have been ingested, extracts/transforms waste material from the blood so that it can be removed by the intestines or kidneys, and also contains cells that destroy foreign invaders such as bacteria, fungi and viruses.

The kidneys also assist in the detoxification process by purifying the blood of harmful substances through tiny filtering units known as “glomeruli”. Each unit is a cluster of capillaries attached to a tubule where waste products are removed and excreted through the urine.

The lungs are lined with hair-like structures called “cilia” that trap bacteria and dust particles we breathe in. The cilia contain mucous which is moved upward toward the pharynx, and this plays a critical role in protecting against infection. The lungs also secrete a substance called “immunoglobulin A” which protects against respiratory infections, and are also lined with immune cells called “macrophages” which engulf and destroy debris and microbes that enter.

The skin is the largest organ in the body and also plays an important role in the elimination of toxins if the kidneys, liver and lungs aren’t completing their tasks sufficiently. It helps out by removing waste products known as “crystals” (uric acid and urea), which are substances that are soluble in liquid and are excreted in the form of sweat through the sweat glands.

“But I Tried A Detoxification Diet And It Really Worked!”

I know many people will probably read this post and be quick to defend the latest detox diet they used, but there are a few simple reasons why some of these methods may appear to be working on the surface. First off, virtually all detoxes and cleanses involve caloric restriction. Go ahead and cut your calorie intake by a large margin and weight loss will obviously be a result. However, this has nothing to do with the removal of toxins, and most of what you’ll lose during that period will be nothing more than simple water weight and glycogen.

The few pounds that you’ll drop will be temporary, and once you go back to eating your regular diet , it will pile back on just as fast. Secondly, most people follow an unhealthy diet and lifestyle to begin with. If a person goes from eating at a high calorie intake along with large amounts of processed food and then reduces their food intake and consumes plenty of fruits, vegetables and water, a boost in energy levels and mental well-being will likely follow.

Once again though, this is not a result of the body being “cleansed of toxins”; it’s simply because that person is now properly hydrated and consuming adequate amounts of important micro-nutrients that their previous diet may have been lacking. The placebo effect can also play a big role here as well. If a person simply believes that a certain diet or supplement is going to have a particular benefit, they’ll often feel as though it’s working regardless of what effect it really is or isn’t having.

Thirdly, some detox products are specifically formulated to deceive you into thinking they’re effective. For example, some colon-cleansing supplements actually contain polymerising agents that will turn your feces into a plastic-like substance so that it appears you’ve eliminated so-called “intestinal plaque” from your colon after you’re finished using the toilet. Disgusting but true.

Or, some “detoxification foot pads” contain substances that, when combined with your foot sweat, will turn brown in order to convince you that toxic sludge really is being magically drawn out of your system from the bottoms of your feet. These are only a couple examples, and it just goes to show how far some shady marketers will go in order to capitalize on consumer gullibility and rake in a quick buck.

The Bottom Line On “Detoxification” And “Cleansing”

Most of the various “detox diets” and “cleansing supplements” out there probably won’t do you any harm, but they’re simply unnecessary and a waste of time and money. Fall for this marketing scam and the only thing that will truly be “cleansed” is your wallet. There is no scientific evidence to support the idea that these products or methods will “remove toxins” from your body, and your liver, kidneys, lungs, skin and other organs already take care of this process for you. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t support these organs for optimal functioning by eating a nutrient-dense diet, exercising regularly, getting a proper sleep and avoiding unhealthy habits like excessive drinking or smoking… but beyond that, the whole notion of “detoxification” is something you don’t even need to worry about.

About the Author:
Once an awkward, out-of-shape “social outcast”, Sean Nalewanyj is now a renowned fat loss and muscle building expert, best-selling fitness author and success coach. Through his mega-popular websites and his information-packed online email lessons, Sean has helped tens of thousands of average, everyday people from all over the world burn fat, build muscle and get into the best shape of their lives. Sean is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, has written articles for dozens of the top muscle-building and fat loss websites across the Internet and is recognized as an expert authority on the subjects of building muscle and burning fat fast.