5 Steps To Detox For Weight Loss Safely

Different detox diets making many weight-loss claims are firm favorites in the weight loss industry. Perhaps their allure lies in their promise of rapid and often extreme weight loss, or maybe they feel like a way to make up for overindulgence.

Whatever the case, it’s worth delving deeper into the world of detox diets to see if there is any evidence-based proof that they will help you lose unwanted weight.

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What are detox diets?

Detox diets, or “cleanses,” are dieting strategies that claim to remove toxins, lead to weight loss, and promote health and well-being.

Detox diets can take many different forms, including:

  • Fasting

  • Juice-only diets

  • Soup-only diets

  • Eating only certain foods or food types

  • Using dietary supplements, herbs, or other commercial products

  • Cleansing the colon with enemas, laxatives, or colonic irrigation

Do detox diets work for weight loss?

Unfortunately, there are very few good-quality studies assessing how effective detox diets are. Although some detox diet studies showed enhanced liver detoxification and elimination of environmental pollutants, they were “hampered by flawed methodologies and small sample sizes¹.” The authors of the study concluded that they were unable to find any good-quality trials and suggested that this area deserves more attention so people can become aware of the benefits and risks of detox diets.

A small study in 2017 looked at body composition and antioxidant levels in the blood (researchers used this as a substitute marker for detoxification properties.) It did not find detox diets to be helpful for weight loss or improving health².

A 2015 study examining the effects of the popular lemon juice diet showed some positive results. The lemon detox program is a very low-calorie detox diet that consists of a mixture of organic maple and palm syrups, lemon juice, and sometimes cayenne pepper for seven days.

The lemon detox diet reduced body fat and insulin sensitivity in overweight participants. Unfortunately, it is unknown whether this was due to severe calorie restriction or the diet. There was also no follow-up data looking at weight regain after stopping the diet³.

How safe are detox diets?

Unfortunately, detox diets sometimes do more harm than good. Juices made from high-oxalate foods, such as spinach and beets, can cause kidney stones if consumed in very large quantities.

Diets that severely restrict calories, cut out entire food groups, or are otherwise very restrictive can lead to malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies. Although restrictive diets may cause rapid weight loss, weight is usually regained immediately after the diet.

Using laxatives is common in detox diets, but they can be harmful in the short and long term. In the short term, you can end up with diarrhea and dehydration, and in the long term, you can end up with a lazy bowel that is dependent on laxatives to work.

Colon cleansing procedures and enemas, which may form part of a detox, can have serious side effects, including bowel perforation⁴.

Is there a safe way to detox?

The good news is that there is a safe way to detox, and it may even lead to long-term weight loss.

Your body is a finely tuned machine with built-in detoxifying mechanisms. One of the liver’s major functions is to break down, metabolize, and eliminate toxins⁵. The same applies to your kidneys⁶, and even your skin can get rid of toxins⁷. The best way to detox is to help your body work optimally.

Ways to help your body detox

1. Cut down on alcohol

Some of the by-products of metabolizing alcohol are toxic. Your liver will prioritize metabolizing alcohol and eliminating the toxins above less toxic waste products⁸. Too much alcohol can strain your liver and decrease its ability to detoxify.

2. Limit sugar and processed foods

A diet high in sugar and processed foods requires your liver to work hard constantly. It has to eliminate all the additives and keep your blood sugar levels stable⁹. Choose healthy foods, and your liver will be able to work comfortably and efficiently.

3. Drink enough water

Your kidneys are responsible for eliminating certain toxins¹⁰, so staying hydrated is essential for them to function properly and detox your body.

4. Eat foods rich in antioxidants

Antioxidants help repair the damage to cells caused by stress, pollution, and aging¹¹. Eating a diet high in antioxidants can support the liver to function optimally.

5. Work up a sweat

Sweat eliminates some toxins, so working up a sweat exercising or in a sauna can aid detoxification¹². Make sure that you drink enough water to stay hydrated.

More good news: most of these lifestyle changes also lead to weight loss. Making changes to your diet and lifestyle to support your body’s detoxification function can potentially lead to long-term weight loss¹³.

The lowdown

Good-quality evidence to show that detox diets can help you lose weight in the long term is lacking. Some detox diets may help you lose weight in the short term, but there are insufficient studies to show whether the weight loss is sustainable.

Not only is there little proof that detox diets work, but they may also be unsafe. Severe food restrictions can lead to nutritional deficiencies, and some detox practices may be harmful.

Fortunately, the body has an amazing ability to detoxify itself, and all you need to do is make lifestyle choices that support your body’s functions.

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