The Truth About Detox Diets

Forget fad detox diets. Follow these nine down-to-earth strategies to support your natural detoxificaton systems.


| March/April 2014


Have you been thinking wistfully about a healthier lifestyle? Maybe it’s time to detox. If that sounds appealing to you, a quick Internet search will yield a ton of suggestions for how to go about it. Numerous plans for detox diets and cleanses are right there, ready to help you, and some make very appealing claims: Flush chemicals from your system! Lose weight! Have more energy! Look years younger!

Don’t take all these claims at face value. The body’s natural detoxification systems center on the liver and kidneys, and in fact, we can take many actions to help keep these vital organs healthy. However, this is an area of health and wellness where unproven claims abound. Before buying into any particular detox plan, it’s a good idea to do a little research and ask a few hard questions. (For a few suggestions, see Questions to Ask about Detox Diets, later in this article.)

Feeling Toxic

People try detox plans for many reasons, but here’s one of the most common: When you start looking at detox books, many begin by talking about chemical body burden. It’s a well-documented fact that we all carry around a lot of pollutants in our bodies. The average person’s blood and urine contain measurable levels of numerous chemical contaminants including the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A (BPA), flame retardants and other industrial chemicals. One group that does extensive investigation into and reporting on these issues is the Environmental Working Group. You can also read detailed reports on human exposure to environmental chemicals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Knowing all that to be true, who wouldn’t want to detox? The trouble is that when you start reading about proven medical therapies for removing pollutants from our systems, the options look pretty limited. One of the few established medical options is chelation therapy for removing high levels of heavy metals from the blood, for people with lead poisoning, for example. (And even here you need to be cautious—this treatment should only be done under medical supervision. The FDA has issued advisories about over-the-counter home chelation products.)



What’s much more likely to be effective, according to those working in the area of toxins, is avoiding these chemicals in the first place. Fortunately, there are many great ways to go about this, including eating organic food to avoid pesticide exposure and choosing nontoxic products for our homes, including natural cleaning and personal-care products.

A few resources that can help you find less-toxic products are the Environmental Working Group—it offers guides to identifying and avoiding potentially harmful chemicals in personal-care products, household cleaners and produce—and the Organic Consumers Association. It’s quite simple to make your own nontoxic household cleaners and beauty products; for our recipes, visit our Guide to Homemade Cleaners and Homemade Beauty Products.








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