Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

(Thinkstock)
(Thinkstock)

Do detox diets really work? Add to ...

Question: Do detox diets really cleanse the body? Is there one you recommend?

Answer: I’m afraid there is no evidence that detox diets “cleanse” the body of A so-called built up toxins such as food additives, pesticide residues, alcohol, caffeine, heavy metals, environmental pollutants, and so on.

According to proponents of cleansing, a poor diet is thought to impede the body’s natural ability to detoxify chemicals, which leads to further build-up in the body. The basic idea of a detoxification diet is to temporarily give up certain foods that contain toxins while consuming fibre, nutrients, antioxidants and herbal extracts that aid in the body’s natural detoxification processes.

More related to this story

Detox diets vary widely and can last for as few as four days to as long as one month. Many involve some version of a liquid diet – giving up solid food for a few days and then gradually reintroducing certain foods such as organic fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds along with vitamin and mineral supplements. Red meat, wheat, sugar, processed foods, caffeine and alcohol are usually avoided.

Some detox programs involve replacing one or two meals with a high protein, vitamin-rich shake. Most include detoxification “boosters” in the form of herbal laxatives and diuretics, probiotics (to replace healthy bacteria in the gut), nutrients and antioxidants.

The truth is, there’s no good evidence that following a detox diet will rid the body of these chemicals. Medical experts believe the healthy human body is well equipped to deal with toxins. Our skin, lungs, kidneys, liver, and gastrointestinal tract are efficient at removing or neutralizing toxic substances within hours of consumption.

If you are considering a detox diet – even simply to break unhealthy eating habits – there are some things to know. For starters, cleaning diet programs are not recommended for people with diabetes, low blood sugar, eating disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, lowered immunity, kidney disease or liver disease. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, children and growing teenagers also should not follow a detox diet.

Here are a few of my tips to help you choose the healthiest detox diet:

• Choose a detox diet that has the least dietary restrictions. Look for a program that include protein-rich foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

• Avoid laxative and diuretic supplements. Consuming plenty of fibre and water will help your body excrete wastes.

• Do not exceed the diet’s recommended duration.

• Check in with your doctor first if you have a health condition or take medications.

Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at dietitian@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on the Globe website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Leslie Beck.

Click here to see Q&As from all of our health experts.

The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Follow on Twitter: @lesliebeckrd

 

More related to this story

Topics:

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories