Detox Diets and Your Health

Over 7000 research publications have been written to date on the technicalities of detox dieting, and over 4000 have been published in the past five years. As obesity becomes an epidemic, more and more people are interested in trying the numerous diet plans provided by dieticians around the world. Over the years detox dieting has become a fast route to weight loss and wellness. Detoxification therapy goes back to the 18th century BC and is considered alternative medicine.

The definition of detoxification describes it as a process focused on removing toxins from the body that have accumulated over time through physical and environmental factors, to promote health and wellness both physically and mentally [1]. Detox as it is called for short, has been and is still extensively used in Ayurvedic medicines, yoga and other wellness focused programs for years. Detox diets flush out the deposition of toxins caused by autointoxication or other environmental factors, in order for any medication or treatment administered to work without interruption. Interestingly, modern theories, and theory based procedures have now evolved a new profile of the detox procedures to clear toxins, to help purify and nurture the body, and these are called Detox Diets. These are structured with their focus on the process of detoxification, administered via preplanned diet programs. Preset diet plans range anywhere from three to ten days. The inflexibility of detox procedures demands for tenacious attitude in diet takers. These diets usually start with a pre clean or pre detox, where the dieters prepare their body to undergo the extreme process. The actual detox plan limits the variety of food intake, intake quantity and number of intakes for the planned duration. Once the diet is concluded the food intake is slowly relaxed and nutritional meals are introduced. Currently the results of detox diet programs are highly debated due to lack of scientific evidence, but the popularity of these diets is rising among people as the awareness to eat and live healthy spreads.

The History and Tradition of Detox Dieting

Anything we possess or practice now has its roots far beyond the ages of our grandfathers, there is no exception to Detox diet. The ancient Greeks had a theory called autointoxication. According to this theory, the human body can be toxicated by itself through self performed processes like metabolisation, intestinal pseudo-obstruction, putrefaction etc. The Egyptians came up with a new concept of medieval medicine called humorism that basically demonstrated how a loss in balance of different bodily fluids caused by autointoxication can lead to multiple ailments, and suggested remedies for it. Scientific research based on humorism has highlighted on how largely their therapy to correct imbalance and bring back the equilibrium of bodily fluids has used detoxifying products [2]. Closely linked to Humorism is Ayurveda, another medical methodology by Indians. Records indicate Traditional Ayurveda has used detoxification prior to treatment with medication formulation [3]. Ayurveda is a vast area of study and this practice of medicine is still a widely sought out method of medication among the Asian Indians. One example of currently used household practice of Ayurveda that implies detoxification is the intake of Neem seeds or Neem oil routinely, to knock out intestinal worms and clean the stomach of toxins. This process is coupled with consumption of large quantities of water and liquid food. The powerful matrix of detox therapy provided by our ancestors has now served as an infrastructure to detox diets and its formulation, the biggest difference being nowadays everyone, whether or not they suffer from a specific malaise can undergo detox procedures in the form of detox diet, with their goal of cleansing a particular organ or complete body, unlike in ancient times when medicine and treatment was reserved for the rich people. There are concerns about the nutritional imbalance detox dieting creates, but if administered under the care of a dietitian or a nutritionist the ill effects of imbalances can be avoided. Although modern detox therapy has multiple facets and has competitively picked up the fastest route, its results are yet to be scientifically approved as beneficial. Today, even when advances in the medical field are at its pinnacle, many people are still inclined towards a more natural remedy, and the success of a detox diet is a proof of that. Evolution and rapid random mutagenesis in the human genome due to varying environmental factors could be potential culprits in slowing down the proof of effectiveness in detox diets. Whatever the view point, the true feeling of wellness experienced and shared by people who have undergone detox dieting is a testament to its success.

Types of Detox Diets in Use

From all those processed meats we enjoy at restaurants, and the blood pressure tablets we take to surpass their effects, it all ends up in our body’s main organs. For example, few drugs taken orally encounter our first line of defense in the liver, whereas unwanted byproducts and toxins alike are filtered by numerous liver cells. Likewise, anything inhaled has to survive the aerosols in the lungs that are the cleaning filters, and toxins from rectal suppositories are in turn expelled by the kidneys. When properly functioning, these organs work tirelessly to flush out the toxins in the food and keep us healthy. It's natural for the toxic products to build up in these organs as we age, but due to our fast food eating habits the toxins build rapidly. As much as we try to tackle this problem with multiple doctor appointments, and twice a month pill refill, nothing is natural. Detoxing our body to flush out these toxins keeps us healthy.

The main organs targeted are: Liver, Colon (Colon Cleansing), Lungs, Skin and Kidney [4]. Among these colon cleansing through colon irrigation procedures, is a commonly prescribed and performed detox procedure by Physicians to ease discomfort. The master cleanse is cleansing of the whole body, specially the colon and intestinal track. There is also the beauty cleanse and fat flush cleanse. The detox diets is further broken down into programs aimed at a specific group or audience. This audience type could be gender specific, based on body mass index, or age. For a beginner the whole process of detox dieting and diet packages can look overwhelming. These diet plans have years of dietitians research behind them, and they can be expensive if administered under the care of dietitians. It is always wise to undergo a health check up to ensure it is right for you. Self conducted detox diet plans can fall apart as the restrictions on food intakes can cause food cravings. Extreme detox diet makeovers, especially for fat flushing, are best to start slowly and be well planned out before embarking on. Detoxification can be done using natural methods, or over the counter products. Natural methods are the most recommended, popular, and common.

Detoxification for Substance Abuse

The thought of detoxification diets can be a serious issue in patients with substance abuse problems. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provided detailed guidelines for dealing with detoxification in these patients through counselors [5]. Although most of the detoxification process is through prescription drugs, eating green healthy foods, drinking lots of water, and engaging in physical fitness can ease withdrawal symptoms in substance abuse patients. Whatever the reason for starting a detox diet, whether planning on a healthy lifestyle and feel the need to clean your system before that, or just for the feel of a healthy mind & body, there are a variety to choose from.

Catchy names make certain detox diets more popular than others. The results of these detox cleanse’s can vary by individuals due to impact factors like age, race, body mass index, level of activity, or any other genetic, physical, or medical conditions.

  • The Master Cleanse: One that tops the list is master cleanse/ lemon juice diet. It has been legally approved for 74 years [5]. The master cleanse involves three main ingredients - Lemon, Maple syrup and Cayenne Pepper, mixed in defined proportions in huge quantities of water, and consumed for a ten day duration. Lemon is a natural antioxidant, and cayenne pepper is a metabolism booster. The only additional things allowed when on this diet are herbal tea’s or normal laxative’s that help form bowel movements, and salty drinks that work as a salt flush of toxins. In starving mode your body has a tough time adapting to symptoms like headaches, extraordinary cravings, tiredness, etc. Needless to say this detox diet is going to need lots more that liking a perfect body, one has to put in exceptional effort and a high degree of self control to be successful in this cleanse. Benefits include corrected bowels and weight loss of about 4-20 pounds [7]. Master cleanse diets don’t cost much and are safe to use.


  • The Fruit Cleanse: This detox diet is the 3 day fruit cleanse/diet. Dieters replace all three meals for full three days with fruits with lots of antioxidants. Pressed juices are preferred than fruit concentrates or ground versions, as pressed fruit product are mostly devoid of unwanted enzymes that otherwise could act on the intestinal membranes once consumed. These fasts/diet programs are less stern than the master cleanse, as you can choose from many juices, and the duration of the fast is shorter. Benefits can be felt as bowels become looser due to the fiber in the fruits. Unlike the master cleanse, dieters aren’t starving themselves with fruit detox diets as the fruit is high in sugar content. Dieters can lose up to 9 pounds in a week of cleansing [8]. High quality fruit can be expensive, but the shorter duration of the diet makes up for it.


  • Salt Water Cleanses: Done in the mornings on an empty stomach this is more like a substitute to laxatives. Though many people find it hard to drink a glass of salt water, there are several benefits. [9] It is necessary to use non-iodine salts (preferably pink salt) mixed with water in the correct proportions. Two tablespoons of pure salt in one quart of water is the recommended mix. Bowel moments can occur anywhere between 20- 40 minutes later. The salt water cleanse can be a cheap, painless way to see through colon problems and constipation before going to the doctor. Performing the salt water flush once in awhile is beneficial to the colon, but done too often can burden the kidney.
  • The Candida Cleanse: Fungal overgrowth can cause a variety of infections. Although some fungal species have become a part of our daily food intake (like yeast & mushroom) you have to watch out for Candida albicans overgrowth. [10] The fungus Candida uses human’s as a host and thrives on sugar and starch. To knock out this fungal species dieters go on a no sugar, no flour diet for 10 days.

Are Detox Diets Safe

To date there is no concrete evidence to suggest whether detox therapy is safe or not. Certainly detox programs are common among people suffering from alcohol, tobacco, and drug based addiction but using the same intense procedures for people with normal lifestyles could be potentially harmful.

Detox Diets are not recommended for kids and teenagers [12]. At younger ages, growth is faster, and it is only fuelled by a good nutritional intake. Starving for over 10 days to cleanse kids and teens could be considered dangerous. Teens fascinated by the idea of detox diet and the resulting weight loss, are more prone to self administer themselves with these readily available detox diets, and suffer from its aftermath in the form of hormonal imbalances and deficiencies.

In people with an eating disorder, a detox diet could be addicting and life threatening. Detox diets could hide the eating disorders, while starving the body of essential nutrients could be fatal. An addiction to detox diets has its root in the physical body experiences during starvation, and the side effects that come along with it.

Pregnant women are strictly advised against detox dieting. Although several programs have come up with pre pregnancy cleanse [13], which is to avoid all dairy, sugar, refined flour, and caffeine while trying to conceive, it is mandatory to provide all necessary nutrients while pregnant. Dieting during post pregnancy can also result in breast milk deficiencies of micronutrients and should be avoided.

Elderly people are considered to have high levels of toxins accumulated in them, if they had not undergone any detox process routinely. As much as it is true, it is also crucial to consider the wear and tear of organs in the elderly before performing any kind of diet cleanse. For example, colon cleansing or intestinal cleanse would require these organs to expand to their limits to accommodate the fluids injected, this could result in breaks in the membrane walls enclosing these organelles if the walls are weak. Also depriving nutrients from your body can result in complications too. Fasting can be a better alternative to give the body a break for the elderly, as long as the fast is not for too long and ends with proper nutritional food intake [14]. People that have undergone any type of medical procedure, or that have undergone surgery on their major organs, should discuss their plans with physicians or dietitians before a diet commences.

The Abuse Potential of Detox Diets

Abuse of anything comes from two main aspects - the motivation to abuse and the resource to abuse. For detox diets the motivation to abuse them materializes in the form of skinny celebrities who are the role model for many growing teenagers. The sooner they realize the weight loss due to the cleanse they just went through is temporary, and is creeping back, teens are not afraid to do the cleanse one more time. This repeated stripping off of nutrients could have negative effects on the body, including loss of hunger and ability to experience satiety. This sensation of apathy in food can gradually become addictive. Not only teens, but also men and women who carry out cleansing and detox dieting more often than recommended could also fall into this pit and develop eating disorders. The necessity of making detox dieting a routine to flush off toxins from time to time does no good to help the addict, the only way to fight it would be to always remember the goal at hand and let it go and eat healthy foods when our body naturally craves them. Leave only the motivation of abuse as the starter, as the resources to try out detox diets and also to potentially abuse them is very real. While 3 day detox plans, 10 day cleanses, easy weight loss cleanses, and beauty detox plans are freely available when surfing the internet, they can be that much more accessible to abuse too. It could be too late to reverse course once the damage to the body is done and if not reversible, could extend until death. It is wise to consider the side effects of each detox diet, read reviews about them, and consult a nutritionist to determine which program might suit you.

Things to Expect During the Detox Diet

Fasting can make it difficult to restrain from eating those lovable fast foods, but the addition of uneasy symptoms can deter all self control. A better understanding of why these things happen, and how to minimize them, can go far towards bringing you some peace of mind. A few of the common symptoms that hit as soon as a detox program is started are headaches, nausea, bloating, loose bowels, irritation, and mood changes [16]. This phenomena of experienced withdrawal symptoms during the detox process is called the 'healing crisis'. Depending upon the intensity of the toxin removal, underlying addictions, and amount of food restricted, the magnitude of the symptoms varies. Coffee and caffeine lovers experience sharp headaches when caffeine is restricted. Although withdrawal symptoms fade away in a day or two it can cause considerable discomfort. Drinking excess water can contribute to loose bowels. You could also experience mood swings and irritation. Consuming fermented drinks like coconut water Kefir and apple cider vinegar can calm the symptoms down a bit, as these fermented products contain essential enzymes for cleansing and are high in electrolytes [16]. Another naturalist, Linda Zurich, advises on supplementing the diet with magnesium and Vitamin C supplements, performing hydrotherapy, and dry skin brushing [17].

Yoga and Meditation are two widely sort out methods other than Detox Diets. Yoga is regulating the blood flow, which increases the oxygen supply to various regions of the body, that can in turn purify the blood of toxins. Breathing practices in yoga are known to have great effects on people with respiratory problems [18]. This ancient art has many credentials to it and has now become a proven wellness method. Meditation, on the other hand, builds mental strength and gives back the internal peace and calmness, in a measure against stress and hypertension. Both these methods can be used during detoxing the body to effectively reap the result of the detox therapy. Detox Diets are recommended to be undergone periodically to clean out the body, but it is also critical to space out these diets to make sure the body gets plenty of the essential nutrients. If any illness or unwanted symptoms are experienced during dieting it is advised to see a Doctor immediately. With proper protocol and safety measures taken, detox dieting is perfectly healthy and safe.


1. on Feb-2010.

2. Alchemical Medicine for the 21st Century: Spagyrics for Detox, Healing, and Longevity: by C Goodrick-Clarke - 2010 -

3. Ayurvedic Medicine: by JJ Gormley - Better Nutrition, 1999.

4. 01/01-2013 by Natasha Turner.

5. Pub id: SMA06-4225,Published on: 03/2006.

6. ; Master Cleanse and the lemon diet by Mike Olaski.


8. ; Reviewed by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on December 09, 2013.

9. ; by Mike Olaski on November 24, 2008 in The Master Cleanse.

10. ; Brent A. Bauer, M.D., on Sept 03, 2013.


12. ; Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD on July 2013.

13. ; by Sara Novak.


15. ;Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD.

16. ; by Dr. David Jockers on Aug 2012.

17. ; by Linda Zurich of Holistic Paths to Healing and Wellness on May 2013.

18. Yoga as medicine: The yogic prescription for health and healing by T McCall - 2007 -

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