I despise this word.
From Plexus to Herbalife to FitTea, there's no limit on businesses exploiting people desiring a quick fix for their health issues. These types of products present so many bogus claims, and because they are considered supplements, they don't have to prove any of them. Thus, their statements are not backed by the FDA. Even worse, these products are unnecessarily pricey.
I suppose you could say I’m on a crusade to eliminate the word ‘detox’ from people’s vocabulary, other than the strict medical definition of it that is reserved for those needing ‘detoxification’ because of an over-consumption of poisons.
Yesterday I was on a popular fitness blogger’s FB page, and she posted a recipe, labeling it as detox water. I was horrified to see her labeling it as such, particularly because I follow her due to her being one of the few fitness bloggers who avoids “fitspiration” messages. Now I didn’t suddenly unfollow her because of this. After all, many in the health and fitness field believe so strongly in this concept of detoxing. It’s simply ignorance, not ill-intent, that leads to promoting of what many believe to be a healthy lifestyle.
Yet, it’s simply maddening to see prolific health and fitness people sharing recipes of fruit-infused waters and labeling them as detox waters. Yes, fruit-infused water is healthy. There is no denying that. What isn’t healthy is spreading misinformation by presenting these waters (or juices, or any food in general) as having a detox effect on your entire system.
So why is this labeling harmful if these foods and drinks are healthy in the first place and you don’t plan to overdo it?
It is harmful because people look at the word detox and automatically think that it is something that can reboot their systems. They think they are cleansing their bodies of unknown, unnamed toxins by undertaking a juice fast (or whatever), when all they’re really doing with prolonged fasting is getting rid of essential nutrients. People also think they’re losing weight, when all they’re really losing is water weight–which is VERY harmful.
Your liver, kidneys, and lymphatic system do all of the detoxing for you. You can eat poorly all day, and they’ll still function to get rid of unnecessary waste. That’s what they’re meant for. If you load yourself up on too much alcohol, your liver is there to filter it for you. Your kidneys will even torture you with constant urination. And, in some cases, your stomach will purge you of this alcohol if you’ve consumed too much.
You do need to eat well to keep these systems functioning. But to think that you need a special diet to self-cleanse is patently wrong. If you needed to rid yourself of toxins via other methods, like cleansing, you would either be severely ill or just downright dead. These detox diets cannot replace what your body is already designed to do. In fact, detoxing is only reserved for the medical community for those who need to take substances like charcoal to rid themselves of poisons from overdoses. This is the only case in which it is acceptable to even use the word detox.
What interests me the most about this fad is how widespread it is becoming. During my stay in Austin, I saw some juicing company that had set up a few shops around the city. My fiance’s sister told me it was new. I scoffed when I saw a truck promoting it as a detox system. My fiance’s sister then proceeded to tell me about the man in Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, who went on a juice cleanse for sixty days. Apparently he was able to get off several medications due to it. I had to explain to her that if this man truly regained his health, it’s only because he increased his consumption of fruits and veggies and eliminated junk food. You don’t need to do that through juicing. And I also question how he was able to survive on merely juice alone. Then again, I haven’t watched the documentary, so if you’ve seen it, feel free to give me the rundown.
I am about protecting the public from harm. Prolific fitness professionals with a massive following absolutely need to search for peer-reviewed studies when they come across a new diet fad. In fact, it’s in the nature of our jobs. To neglect this aspect is to rob the public of the truth surrounding so many fads out there. There are zero peer-reviewed studies supporting detox because it simply isn’t real.
What should you do instead?
ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, nutrition coach, young adult author, moody ballerina.
I help people perform without pain.
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The views expressed on this blog are entirely my own. Any advice I offer is not to be taken as medical advice. If you think you have contraindications to exercise, please see your physician before implementing any sample workout plans I present on this blog.
All images are either my own, from Canva, or Creative Commons