Health fads are nothing new to modern civilization. Collectively, we want so badly to look our best and live forever that we do things that make absolutely no sense (like drink bottles of radioactive water). Thankfully, as medical science advances, we have better and better means to test whether the newest health craze is healthy or just crazy.
Here are five reasons detoxes should make you incredibly skeptical.
1. They are really (really) expensive.
A quick search for cleanse or detox on Google shopping will present you with pages and pages of expensive pills, powders, juices, sprays, patches, creams, and even machines that purport to somehow make you much healthier in a very short period of time.
If they cost all that and actually did all the things they claim to do, maybe there would be no cause for complaint. However...
2. They promise vague benefits and are even more vague about how those benefits are produced.
These products often talk about the dangerous "toxins," "metals," or "chemicals" being stored in the human body. But the particular compound that the product is supposed to fight is almost never specified. Scientific studies of detox products do them no favors, which is why you won't be hearing them cite any peer-reviewed studies.
3. They're often advocated by people who have no expertise in the mechanics of the human body.
It's almost shocking how much money these ordinary-person-turned-health-entrepreneurs can make by starting a food trend — even if that trend has no basis in medical science. They advocate plausible-ish solutions for issues like pain, unwanted weight (especially this one), or fatigue. But the lightest scrutiny often shows them to be largely ineffective.
4. They can be really dangerous.
When it comes to nutrition, juice cleanses are bad news. By restricting your diet to juices, you're flooding your system with fructose (the type of sugar in fruits that makes them taste sweet) while virtually eliminating your protein intake. There's nothing healthy about a high sugar/no protein diet.
Doctors have been waving red flags about colon cleanses and colonics for years. But people are still doing them despite warnings of potential cramping, bloating, bowel perforation, and kidney problems, among other issues.
And because so few of the people who advocate for these regimens are trained medical professionals, they might be advocating for routines that could cause irreparable damage (like this woman in the UK whose "nutritionist" told her to drink so much water that she suffered brain damage from hyponatremia).
5. They have no science to back them up. Like, none.
Eight questions to ask before starting a "detox" or "cleanse":
- Have I talked to my doctor about the health issue I'm trying to address?
- Have I talked to my doctor about the regimen I'm considering, including its efficacy and side effects?
- What specific health benefit am I supposed to get from this regimen?
- By what specific method does this regimen deliver this benefit?
- Is the person or persons responsible for developing this regimen qualified to do so?
- What body of evidence supports this method of health improvement?
- Has this regimen's health effects been independently studied and replicated?
- Has this regimen's claims been debunked by a credible source?