Do Diet Cleanses and Detoxes Work?

If you need to lose weight, there are countless diets you can choose. Some of them involve not eating carbs, some make you avoid sugar, others require ordering your food directly from the diet company, others involve counting calories, points, or macros. And some are cleanses or detoxes.

In theory, shouldn’t your own body be doing the cleansing of anything you ate? Isn’t that the whole purpose behind your liver and kidneys and things like that? As somebody whose kidneys didn’t work properly, I wondered what all these diet cleanse/detox diets actually did. Not that I thought they could replace dialysis, but could be good to maybe make my life a little easier and increase my health.

So I asked my doctors. Hey, I already have enough health problems. I certainly wasn’t asking the internet (which is both wise and an idiot simultaneously, and there’s no way to distinguish which one it happens to be at any given moment except maybe through typos and grammatical errors). First, my doctors and I talked about what are considered to be toxins – in terms of food, it is mostly chemical additives, foods contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, and ingredients that have been scientifically modified. Basically, things I had been avoiding anyway.

However, I learned a few things that I want to share here:

A detox diet is not a real thing. Food cannot provide detoxifying effects. Only your liver or kidneys can do that. Notice I said yours there. For me, it would be only my liver, somebody else’s kidney, or dialysis can cleanse my body of toxins. A detox diet is usually very rigid and limiting – drinking a certain juice or blend for days at a time, for example. While that may help in the short term, it isn’t detoxing your body, and it certainly isn’t something you can keep doing. There is no one food that can give your body everything you need, so a diet that is extremely restrictive is bad for you in the long term.

A cleanse, on the other hand, is usually a temporary restriction of a diet in order to kick start better eating habits. While it sounds good in theory, it can be hard to sustain and impractical for some people. In other words, if you went on, say, a sugar cleanse, you would stop eating anything that had added sugar. The idea behind a cleanse is to use natural, nutrient rich foods to help your body work more efficiently. In other words: if you’re eating less crap, your body won’t have to work so hard to get rid of all the gross stuff you’re consuming. That means it’s still your body doing the work.

A pro of both is one simple concept: you remove junk from your diet. Just keep in mind that you are detoxifying or cleaning up your diet, and not using food to detox your system. Don’t believe anybody who tries to tell you otherwise. Neither of them are sustainable long-term, and most people end up gaining weight back the minute they start eating normally again. These diets don’t teach you the good stuff, the important things, like reducing calories or establishing a more balanced diet that consists mostly of healthy foods.