The popularity of detoxification or detox diets is on the rise, promising to eliminate toxins from the body, reduce weight and improve overall health. These short-term interventions claim to cleanse the organism, improve the condition of skin (especially in the case of acne) as well as the condition of hair and nails and slow down signs of aging. Do detox treatments really have such an effect on our health and beauty? The answer is given by our dear associate, Ana Vrbanović, MD.
In the medical field, the term detoxification denotes a medical procedure used to eliminate often life-threatening amounts of alcohol, drugs or toxins from the body and it is carried out under controlled conditions. On the other hand, detox programmes claim to cleanse the organism of toxins responsible for creating various medical symptoms such as headaches, cramps, joint pains, fatigue and depression. They are carried out using various detox products or food supplements that may be widely and freely purchased in stores, pharmacies or web shops, no prescription needed. A second detox option is sticking to a specific diet plan which requires cutting out certain foods for a short period of time.
The human body has developed very sophisticated mechanisms for eliminating toxins. The liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal system, skin and lungs all play large roles in secreting unwanted substances. Different pathways in the organs serve for carrying out detoxification processes, depending on the substance which is being flushed out. In reality, there is little evidence that detox diets truly remove toxins from the body. Yet many people who have tried different types of detox programmes claim that after completing them they really do feel better. It is possible though that this feeling of well-being results solely from the fact that detox programmes require that for a certain time the person gives up sugar and fat-laden processed and fried foods. If the person usually consumes such high-calorie foods, once they are avoided, they will instantly begin feeling better. And most often, the first organ that begins to show these improvements is the skin.
By eliminating unhealthy snacks and sweets and introducing more fruits and vegetables into our diet in order to cleanse the organism, the condition of skin and hair begins to improve. Poor diet has a poor effect on the appearance and health of the skin, hair and the entire body. This kind of diet often causes fatigue, sluggishness, acne and obesity. It’s only logical that after switching to a healthy and nutrient-rich diet the person will notice positive changes on their whole body. But, if they go back to their old ways, after finishing the detox the undesired symptoms will quickly return. It isn’t the accumulated “toxins” from a bad diet that are causing poor health and appearance. It is the unhealthy substances in general that we feed our body on a daily basis which in time lead to cumulative damage to the organism. Therefore, short term changes can’t really have a long term effect on health.
The human body is highly capable of defending itself against many external factors. If the person’s health is good in general, it is recommended that they focus on long term changes in their diet and lifestyle. These include incorporating more fresh foods like fruits and vegetables into their diet and avoiding fried foods and all forms of fast food. Also, regular exercise and sufficient sleep will most certainly have a positive effect on the health of the whole body so there will be no need for resorting to any kind of quick-fix regimens. In truth, these mostly have a yoyo effect once the person returns to their previous lifestyle.
- Klein A.V. & Kiat H. (2015) Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. J Hum Nutr Diet. 28, 675–686, doi: 10.1111/jhn.12286