Skip to content

Get the latest service status updates

Does your body naturally detox?

Do you ever really need a detox diet, or does your body naturally detox? Dr Sam Rodgers investigates detox claims and explains how your body gets rid of toxins naturally.

English summers. They’re usually warm, sunny and when fresh fruit and vegetables are more readily available. So, do you ever really need a detox diet, or does your body naturally detox?

Doctor Sam Rodgers investigates detox claims and explains how your body gets rid of toxins naturally.

What does detox mean?

Detoxes come in different forms. Medically, detoxes can be used in drug rehabilitation programmes to safely manage withdrawal symptoms when a person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol stops taking them[1]. A medical detox is not a detox diet, it is a way to allow the body to clear itself of an addictive drug while managing the withdrawal symptoms.

Detox diets and drinks in the health and wellness space are slightly different. These health-kick diets claim a range of benefits, from helping you to lose weight to clearing out toxins from your vital organs. According to the British Dietic Association, your body is quite capable of detoxing all by itself and they describe detox diets as irrational and unscientific[2].

A few studies have suggested that detox diets could help with initial weight loss because of the calorie deficit they almost always have, but there is no clinical evidence that they do much else. A 2017 study found that even if you lose weight through a detox diet, it’s likely that you’ll gain weight once you return to eating your regular diet[3].

Some detox drinks and diets can provide hydration, vitamins, and minerals. However, relying on them as a source of energy and calories can be very dangerous. The detox drinks that are particularly dangerous to you are those containing laxatives and other harmful ingredients. Likewise, even seemingly healthy plant-based juice detoxes can have very high levels of oxalates, which can affect kidney health[4].

How does the body detox?

The idea behind many detox diets and cleanses is that toxins and chemicals are continuously building up in your system, and you need to do something to remove them, which is untrue. If your body had accumulated lots of toxins, then you would feel ill.

Your liver is responsible for many crucial functions like fighting infections, controlling cholesterol levels, aiding digestion, and removing toxins from the body. If your liver is healthy, you don’t need to actively seek out drinks that will do this detoxing for you.

Do I need to detox?

If you are not addicted to drugs or alcohol or haven’t consumed a poisonous substance lately, there is little evidence that your body needs any help to detox. The most dangerous part? If you start to replace nutritious foods with detox diets or drinks, you can end up starving the body of calories. When you starve your body of calories, it will produce chemicals called ketones. A build-up of ketones can result in nausea, dehydration, weakness, light-headedness, and irritability[2].

Detox diets or juice detox diets often contain very little protein. If you consume insufficient protein for a prolonged period, your body can react by breaking down its muscles for fuel and potentially compromise your immunity.

How to look after your liver

Eating a healthy diet, full of nutritious fruits and vegetables, is the best way to keep your body functioning as best it can. Natural drinks could help give your body an extra dose of nourishment, but it’s best to think of these as healthy drinks rather than a magical way to detoxify your body.

Our bodies are intelligent and don’t need special detox drinks or diets - just vitamins, minerals and enough calories, protein, fat, hydration, and exercise.

Are you at risk of liver damage?

We’ve spoken very generally here, but your liver can become inflamed and progressively damaged. The main causes of liver disease are obesity, excessive alcohol, drug or calorie consumption, viruses such as hepatitis B, and autoimmune disease.

In the early stages, liver damage can be reversed but liver disease is irreversible once inflammation has led to scarring (cirrhosis). That’s why it is important to identify signs of liver damage as soon as possible.

You may want to look at a blood test that measures the level of different enzymes that can indicate if your liver is inflamed if they are raised. Our Liver Blood Test looks at liver enzymes, such as gamma GT and alanine transferase (ALT), to indicate how well your liver is functioning and whether it is inflamed or damaged. Please be aware liver enzymes can appear normal when the liver is inflamed, so protect your liver by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding excess alcohol consumption.

Liver-related blood tests

Medichecks offers a number of tests that include liver health biomarkers, including:

References

  1. https://www.addictioncenter.com/treatment/drug-and-alcohol-detox/

  2. https://www.nhs.uk/livewell/tiredness-and-fatigue/documents/truthdetoxdiets.pdf

  3. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/detoxes-and-cleanses-what-you-need-to-know

  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29203127/