Detoxification (detox) diets, also known as detox cleanses, run the gamut from fasting to juicing — and are all the rage among Hollywood stars. However, as popular as these diet trends are, it's important to understand the truth behind the hype.
"In a nutshell, detox diets and cleanses — which claim to flush toxins out of your system — are not healthy," says Dr. Eunice Sanchez-Mata, a family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. "There is no solid research supporting any weight loss or health benefits through these types of diets."
She explains that the human body already has a natural way of detoxifying itself through the gastrointestinal and renal systems, which are designed to eliminate waste.
"Generally, your kidneys and liver are highly effective in filtering most toxins that are ingested into the body, so any additional methods or products designed to detoxify your body aren't necessary," she says.
Detox diets are not without risks. According to Dr. Sanchez-Mata, any initial weight loss you may experience is temporary because these diets cause a loss of fluids and water — which can put you at risk of dehydration.
"People who attempt these diets are often lacking important nutrients and electrolytes they need to sustain their energy and activities, which is why you might feel light-headed. It's a sign that you're starving your body," she cautions.
These types of diets can even be dangerous for those with medical conditions, adds Dr. Sanchez-Mata. For example, if you are taking diabetes medication, limiting what you eat through these types of diets can cause your blood sugar to drop dangerously low.
Healthy ways to improve your diet and manage weight loss
Dr. Sanchez-Mata offers the following three tips for a healthy diet approach:
Stick with whole foods. Dr. Sanchez-Mata recommends incorporating more fruits and vegetables in their most original and natural form, and choosing whole versus refined grains.
Limit processed foods. Prepackaged foods can often be high in fats, salt and added sugars, so you should eat these foods sparingly.
Stay for the long haul. Long-term results happen with long-term change, which is why modifying your lifestyle habits is key.
"As with any diet or weight loss program you are planning to do, it's always important to discuss it with your doctor first," says Dr. Sanchez-Mata. "He or she can help guide you with your options and make sure you pursue your health goals in the safest way possible."
For the media: To talk with Dr. Sanchez-Mata about the risks of a detox diet, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.