If you type the word “detox” into your Google search box, a few things will come up: a couple of local drug addiction treatment centres, some naturopathic medical spas, a sponsored ad by deals.sixpackabs.com for something called Green Detox (I think it’s a juice cleanse?) and about 231,999,999 other websites about weight loss, the detox diet, more juice cleanses, fasting, “the real way to detox”, and “the actual real way to detox—no really this time!”
Full disclosure: I have partaken in my own fair share of lose-weight-quick schemes, fad/trendy diets, and yes, even detoxing. I have had my different reasons for detoxing: weight loss, feeling better after a season of overindulgence, or even just occasional bodily maintenance.
I decided to reach out to the Telehealth Ontario hotline, and got in touch with Zara—a lovely Registered Dietician with quite a bit to say about detoxing. “There are a lot of cleanses and detox diets out there that promise to improve health, and to help facilitate weight loss. But there is no scientific evidence to show that our bodies need cleansing.” She continues, “That is what our organs are for—our kidneys, lungs, liver, they all work to filter out different toxins from our system. Detox diets are not based on scientific evidence and therefore we cannot recommend them.”
Although the detox may be successful in helping you achieve what you wanted, Zara raises a good question— “Say you manage to lose a few pounds. What happens when you’re finished with your detox? It’s all going to come right back.”
According to Zara, detoxing could be unsafe if followed for too long. The longer the detox period, the more dangerous it can be, and the more havoc it could wreak on your organs. The truth is, detoxing can come with its own set of side effects, ranging from mildly unpleasant to downright dangerous. The spectrum could include diarrhea, feeling faint, dehydration, an imbalance of electrolytes, low blood sugar, low blood pressure, and even palpitations. The dangers increase if you have any pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes.
Of course, there are many ways and interpretations of detoxing. There are herbal teas, supplements that promise to detox your organs (i.e. your liver after the last three crazy weekends you’ve had in a row), laxatives, enemas, fasting, and periods of restrictive dieting. According to Zara, the only type of detox she can get behind is clean eating, which is to say, limiting sugary, processed foods, and swapping them in your diet for nutritious, whole foods—and doing this for the long term.