• Detoxing: diets based on facts or just another health fad? (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Alas. The experts claim that no detox plan has the ability to flush out all the bad stuff from our bodies after a seasonal bender.
Yasmin Noone

11 Jan 2018 - 2:42 PM  UPDATED 8 Jan 2019 - 4:43 PM

If only there was a quick and easy way that we could atone for our indulgent sins of overeating and under-exercising throughout the silly season.

‘How about a seven day liver, colon and kidney detox?’ we hear you cry as you reach for a celebrity-endorsed method to rid your body of seasonal guilt and harmful toxins.

As explored in the new television series The Truth About Your Health which premiered last year on SBS, these detoxes last anywhere from a few days to months. Creative and varied, detox plans range from old school lemon juicing diets to electromagnetic therapy and vaginal steaming regimes (you can thank Gwyneth Paltrow for that one).

Alas. Although your favourite celebrity might support the claims made by the latest detox program, health experts – the people we should be getting health advice from – say there’s really no such thing as an evidence-based ‘detox’ plan that scientifically delivers detoxifying results.

“We really don’t need to buy things to detox our body.”

Director of McGill University's Office for Science and Society (USA), Dr Joe Schwarcz is suspicious of most detox programs purely because they claim a result without producing rigorous scientific evidence of an outcome.

“What are the chemicals you are removing [with your detox program]?” asks Dr Schwarcz in episode one of The Truth About Your Health, airing tonight and available to watch after broadcast on SBS On Demand.

“Where is the evidence that you are removing it?

“[Detox advocates] have this image that the human body is some complicated system of pipes that needs to be periodically rinsed through and that juicing does that,” says Dr Schwarcz. “But that is just not the way that these things work.”

Do you really need a detox?
Lemon juice diets and detox cleanses might seem like a quick-fix to health, but our bodies naturally self-mend and self-detox so, really, why bother?

Spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, Simone Austin explains that most detoxes don’t work because our bodies already have in-built ‘self-cleaning’ systems that are doing the job for us. Remember, she says, the purpose of our lungs, nasal hairs, skin, lymph nodes, liver and kidneys is to rid our bodies of foreign chemicals.

“Whenever someone mentions the phrase ‘detox’, I cringe because people tend to be putting their hands in their wallets to spend on quick health fixes when our bodies already have numerous abilities to detox anyway,” says Austin, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

“We really don’t need to buy things to detox our body.”

Science or Snake Oil: can a detox actually cleanse your liver?
It's a complete fallacy that we need to cleanse the body by following a detox diet, writes medical researcher Nick Fuller.

One popular detox program is a liver detox. Austin warns that these plans achieve little.

“The liver has to constantly deal with alcohol as it comes into the body. It doesn’t store alcohol so it continually works to remove it. So there is no quick way to speed up your alcohol metabolism.”

Perhaps the best part of a liver detox is the recommended period of alcoholic abstinence that goes with the plan – but you don’t need to spend money to stop drinking alcohol.

As for juicing diets, Austin says they won’t perform any miracles. “We are told to eat more fruit and vegetables, not to drink more.”

She recommends that vegetable juices be consumed with the pulp, which is full of fibre and advises people to steer away from drinking too much fruit juice.

“We are told to eat more fruit and vegetables, not to drink more.”

“If you just have juices for a short period of time, then that is okay. But if you are having juices for most of your meals over the long-term then you are probably missing out on nutrients like iron, calcium, fatty acids and Vitamin B which you will get from other food groups found in nuts, seeds, wholegrain breads and meats.”

But it’s not all bad news, post-silly season.

Austin reassures those Australians who usually maintain a moderate eating and exercise plan that their recent Christmas indulgences won’t ruin their health.

Our body’s detox systems will work through the recently consumed booze and processed foods. Then, once we return to our usual healthy lifestyles, our bodies should return to their normal state.

“Rather than trying to fix our bodies with detoxes, what we need to do is prevent putting [toxins] inside our bodies in the first place,” says Austin.

“Make sure you have a diet that does not include a lot of processed foods or additives. Eat mostly lean meats, wholegrain cereals, seeds, nuts and lots of fruit and vegetables. And think about washing fruit and vegetables before you cook them.” 

Don’t let the ‘souping’ trend give soup a bad name
Much like juicing, soup-only diets are targeted at people wanting to ‘detox’. But what if you just want a healthy dinner?
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Eating foods that nourish the body is a custom that has been practised since ancient times. We happen to call it a detox these days, but resolutions to eat healthier doesn’t have to equal deprivation or fad dieting. Get inspired to restore balance with our series of the latest cookbooks dedicated to eating well for food lovers.