Story at a glance
- Claims that fad diets and juice cleanses detoxify the body are not supported by science.
- The body has its own natural detoxification system, including the liver, kidneys and colon.
- Experts say there are some simple things you can do to support your body’s ability to detoxify itself.
“Detoxing” is rampant around the new year, as people hope to eliminate harmful substances from their bodies in hopes of ushering in improved health in 2020. The idea that juice cleanses, laxatives and diets can remove toxins from the body has been largely unsubstantiated by science, and the human body actually does a fine job of detoxifying itself naturally. But the Inverse spoke with experts to find out how we can improve the body’s ability to detox.
“The human body has mechanisms, including the liver, to deal with toxins we may be exposed to,” nutrition professor Sharon Kirkpatrick told Inverse. She also echoed the fact that there is no evidence that detox therapies or diets rid the body of toxins.
“Most people probably claim to feel better after detox diets because they’re actually just eating healthier and possibly exercising,” nutrition professor Jamie Baum told Inverse.
The liver, kidneys and colon are all sophisticated biological machinery that remove minor toxins such as lactic acid or excess nitrogen from the body. These toxins are generated by normal internal processes or come from the external environment.
The toxins routinely removed by the kidneys and liver are distinct from being poisoned or from the physical symptoms of withdrawal that can follow drug dependency, for which established medical treatments exist.
But the experts say there are a number of things you can do to help your body do its usual job of eliminating toxins even more efficiently.
Tip 1 from nutrition professor Robin Tucker:
Drink enough water, because urination helps the body ditch harmful substances — just don’t go overboard.
Tip 2 from Robin Tucker:
Get plenty of fiber in your diet — about 38 grams a day for men and 25 for women. Fiber can help our bodies eliminate bad cholesterol as well as promote healthy bowel movements, which, along with urine, are “another way we rid our bodies of harmful substances.”
Tip 3 from nutritionist Kelly Pritchett:
Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and proteins. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli and Brussels sprouts, alongside berries, artichokes, garlic, onions and leaks, all support the detoxification pathways.
Tip 4 from Jamie Baum:
Reduce your intake of sugar and salt, and eat more fermented foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut — which help maintain a healthy gut.
Taken as a group, the advice is clear: Getting rid of toxins is as simple and as laborious as just taking better care of your body and letting it do its thing.