Sunday, 14 April 2013

Why detoxes are a waste of your time and money

I repeatedly see people asking advice on forums as to which is the best detox to do. Whenever I see this question I want to scream at the person 'no, don't do it. It is a waste of your time and money'...but I don't. I don't want to cause a scene, or start a barrage of backlash from people claiming that it worked for them. Instead, I will present the facts and let you decide for yourself if it is worth doing.

Before I start, I just want to clarify that when I am referring to detox I mean the ones that you buy where you have to take a million various tablets a day and stick to a very restricted diet. If you are going to 'detox' by simply eating healthily then all power to you. That will most definitely do wonders for your body. These detox kits won't. They will produce results; however, the results will be temporary.

Why detoxes don't work

Firstly, the companies who are marketing the detoxes talk about removing toxins that have built up in the body. So, what are these toxins? They don't say. They remain vague and just leave you to let your imagination run wild. Do they mean chemicals, waste products from digestion, bacteria? I guess I imagined it as the waste products from digestion but it would be interesting to hear what other people perceive as the 'toxins' in their bodies.

I read an interesting article on British Beauty Blogger about how Veet gave Chinese women a problem they never had. Chinese women naturally have very little body hair so hair removal products have always been poor sellers. Therefore, Reckitt Benckiser (who own Veet) devised  a marketing campaign to convince Chinese that any body hair is unsightly and released ads equating hair free skin with health, confidence and "shining glory" (the full marketing concept can be read here). I feel that this is the same as what is happening in regards to detoxes. The marketers of the products have convinced us that our bodies are full of these so called 'toxins', from our unhealthy lifestyles, that need to be removed with a detox.

Toxins don't build up in your body. We have a liver and kidneys to filter out waste products. That is their job. If toxins were to build up in your system you would be incredibly sick, and most likely on dialysis. It would be a sign that you are in end stage kidney failure. You would not simply feel sluggish or have dull skin.

EDIT: one of my readers has correctly pointed out that there are certain cases where toxic chemicals can build up in your system. She gave the example she gave is a condition called MTHFR where the body lacks an enzyme making it unable to break down B vitamins. Another example is that some people are unable to break down iron and so it builds up in their livers. Also, exposure to heavy metals can lead to heavy metal poisoning. These are all very serious cases with serious implications (my reader had 5 miscarriages before her toxic condition was discovered), but are easily diagnosed with a simple blood test. If you suspect that toxic chemicals are building up in your body, don't go on a detox. Seek medical advice as you will most likely medical intervention to treat your problem.


The marketers will claim that you will lose weight after doing a detox. That is true. In fact, I  guarantee that you will lose weight. I also guarantee that you will put the weight straight back on.

Why do you lose weight? Two reasons: firstly, the the detox will likely have a laxative as one of the tablets that you have to take. Our intestines contain a few kilos of fecal matter, water and food in various stages of digestion. A laxative speeds that out of your system so, essentially, your intestine are empty. In addition, the detox will often be liquid based so you are not refilling the intestines with food to digest. This will also give you a nice flat stomach. However, the second you resume eating solids and quit taking laxatives your intestines will refill (as they are meant to) and hence, your weight will go up. Late last year, thanks to The Crazy Kid, I got a nasty case of gastro. I spent 12 hours being violently ill from both ends followed by another two days of being very fragile and unable to eat much at all. After three days of this I had the flattest stomach and looked like I had lost a tonne of weight (we don't have scales that work). I have to admit that I was a bit excited that I had finally shifted the last of the baby weight who was carrying. Well, my new post detox gastro body lasted all of a week. Thanks to the gastro, my intestines had been totally emptied of all of their contents giving me a flat stomach. As soon as I resumed normal eating, out popped the tummy and I realised that I hadn't actually lost any weight - well not any fat, anyway.

The second reason you lose weight is that the detoxes often put you on a low carb diet. When carbs are stored in you body to be used as energy at a later time, they are also store water with them. Therefore, when you go on the low carb diet, you will use up your stored carbs and release the water that is stored with them and, voila, more weight loss. You will probably notice that you need to urinate often whilst on the detox. This is partly due to the stored water being released. But, again, once you resume eating carbs your body will exactly what it is programmed to do and will store them to use as an energy source and when it does it will also store water with them; hence, the weight will come straight back. 

Another claim you will hear associated with detoxes is that it will make your skin glow. Again, I can pretty much guarantee this will happen but it isn't really due to the detox but more to the amount of fluid you consume. You will often have to drink litres of fluids whilst on a detox and that is always going to do wonders for your skin. The best my skin has ever looked was just after having The Crazy Kid. In hospital, the nurses were forcing me to drink a 500ml bottle every hour or so and when I got home I just continued doing this. My skin looked amazing. It glowed like it never had before and was so plumped out and fresh looking. When I had Kiki I wasn't as diligent at drinking so much water and I never ended up having the same amazing glowing skin. 

Another claim marketing angle often used with detoxes is to give your liver/kidneys a break from processing toxins. This is ridiculous. You would never say to yourself, I must lie in bed for 3 days and avoid exercising to give my heart a break from pumping; or, go on oxygen to give your lungs a break. Obviously, if you are abusing your body by consuming excess alcohol or other poisons then yes you should cut back but the detox kits are unnecessary.

You won't do yourself any harm being on a detox (as long as you are not on it long term), and I guess if you want a flat stomach quickly for a special event it is a way to do it; however, you have to be aware that you will be cranky as all hell as you would not have been consuming enough kilojules; you will most likely be headachy and you probably won't be feeling great at all. Plus, in a few days time you will go straight back to how you were before the detox. I guess you have to weight up whether it is worth it (if you are planning on doing this before your wedding then I would STRONGLY advise against it - your wedding will be the happiest day of your life but also one of the most full on days and you need to have a good energy reserve to get through it. The last thing that you want on your wedding day is to have a rip roaring head ache or be woozy due to lack of energy). 

If you feel you need to ‘detox’ then, rather than spend your money on one of these kits, you are better off eating as clean as possible. Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible and rather than do this for a couple of days make it part of your life style (easy for me to say whilst I munch on an Easter Egg as I type this!).

The majority of the info in this article I learnt at uni. I did try searching the internet for facts to back up what I was saying and was bombarded with website after website offering dodgy detox ‘facts’. A few sites claim that there is such thing as ‘mucoid plaques’ which are faecal deposits on the linings of the intestines that could be from food you ate years and years ago. They claim that if you do their detox you will release these plaques into the toilet (they provide pictures that are quite disgusting – long snakes of poo). There is no such thing as a mucoid plaque. The long poo snakes come from the bulking agents, such as psyllium husks, in the detox. It is very tough navigating the internet to find trust worthy information that.

What are your thoughts on detoxes? Worth the pain and discomfort or a load of crap?