Detox (adjective) /ˈdiːtɒks/ – Claiming to rid the body of “toxins” through “natural” means. Actually rids your wallet of cash. See also: cleanses. Not to be confused with: drug detoxes (those are legit), Detox Icunt (who we endorse wholeheartedly).
What detox is
Short for detoxification, detox products are unavoidable in any health food store. From pills to juice sets to foot pads to colonic irrigations, the seemingly random products have some overarching themes:
* Your body, especially your liver, kidney or colon, is bogged down with TOXINS from food, the air, life in general. Which specific toxins are never mentioned.
* These toxins are making you sick – non-specific things like headaches, low energy, sadness (which don’t match up with the symptoms actual toxins cause, and are things most people experience at least once a week). The more ambitious cleanses might drop in a few scary mentions of cancer or immune function.
* You can get rid of them with [insert product here] (juice blends, tablets, teas, bath salts, soaps, weird tasting mixtures, massages), which usually also involves not eating much or a liquid-only diet.
Why it’s tempting
Imagine if you could scrub away all that drinking and staying up and fast food and partying with a quick 7 day purge! And it only costs $99.95! None of those effortful long term lifestyle changes like balanced diets and exercise (pfft!), we want a quick and easy solution and if we want it enough, it’ll work, right?
Why it’s bullshit
* Your body detoxifies itself and can’t be boosted… unless you’re really, really sick
Cleanses essentially tell you that your liver or kidney needs to be rinsed out like an air filter, but…your liver and kidneys don’t actually work that way. They’re self-cleansing and don’t need help, unless you have a disease – the sort of disease where you’re rushing to emergency. In which case, cayenne pepper isn’t going to help.
* Detoxes don’t actually help you get rid of toxins
A 2009 investigation asked 15 manufacturers of products labelled “detox” whether they had evidence that their products actually removed toxins – not only did none of them have any evidence, but they couldn’t even name the toxins their products removed, nor could they agree on what they meant by “detoxification”. Then…what are they claiming to detoxify, exactly? Pretty fishy!
* They can be harmful
Laxatives can make you dehydrated, and your body can become reliant on them, leading to constipation. The dramatic shifts in your diet can wreak havoc on your gut flora.
That dizziness that’s meant to be a sign that your body is getting clean? That’s because detoxes are essentially crash diets. Most programs put you on a drastically reduced calorie count, and the diets are usually missing protein. This means you risk feeling crappy, slowing your metabolism, losing muscle mass and damaging your bones and organs in the long term.
* Eating fruit is healthier than drinking juice
Juice is a cornerstone in many cleanses, but there are a lot of disadvantages to drinking juice rather than eating fruit. Firstly, juices are more expensive, and go off faster than fruit. Juice also tends to have added sugars, and the removed pulp has lots of fibre and antioxidants – this is partly why juice will increase your risk of type 2 diabetes while fruit will decrease the risk. Additionally, the fibre will make you feel full for longer.
I tried it and it worked! What gives?
Detoxes and cleanses have some good side effects…but unfortunately they’re temporary.
* Most detoxes are crash diets – weight loss is temporary
As mentioned above, detoxes usually limit your food intake. This does mean that you lose weight (yay!) but it’s water weight which will all come back once you eat normally again (well, fuck).
* You feel better because you’ve stopped putting crap into your body
There’s probably a lot of crap in your life that you’ve cut out during the cleanse – processed foods, caffeine, alcohol – that is uncontroversially bad for you. It’s not the product ridding you of stored toxins that’s making you feel better – it’s simply ridding yourself of bad lifestyle habits. If you fall back into your old days after the detox, you’ll feel shitty again, expensive product or no expensive product.
What should I do instead?
Exercise regularly, eat a balanced healthy diet, don’t smoke, drink in moderation. A bit boring, unfortunately, but it definitely works and your wallet will thank you.