Beware The Drastic New Year Detox Plan

January tends to be the time that people try to live healthier lives. Which is great, as long as you don’t overdo it.For example, pledging to visit the gym seven times a week is a tad ambitious, as is committing to eating 17 portions of fruit and veg a day.


Here’s another example: embarking on a drastic detox where you forgo most food and instead drink herbal remedies and huge amounts of water.

Doctors have warned of the dangers of a radical detox plan by highlighting the case of a woman who ended up in intensive care due to alarmingly low levels of salt in her body. Her milk thistle and valerian root levels were probably through the roof, but apparently that didn’t help.


Drinking a lot of liquids will result in frequent trips to the bathroom, but the idea that these visits are somehow cleansing the body of toxins is dangerously misleading. Drinking too much water can be as dangerous as not drinking enough, as it depletes your sodium levels.

The general notion of detoxing your body after the hedonistic extravagances of the festive season seems to be a good one, which is why your body’s organs, like the kidneys and liver, do exactly that.

Best of all, these organs are always on the case, not just in January. They’re troopers, on the clock 365 days a year.

If you are ever tempted to embark on a detox regime, first ask yourself exactly what toxins you are hoping to remove from your body. Then forget about it and eat some vegetables.

Dr Frankie Phillips, a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association speaking to Coach last year, summed it up: “The whole idea of ‘detox’ is nonsense.”


“The body is a well-developed system that has its own built-in mechanisms to detoxify and remove waste from top to toe. The skin, gut, liver and kidneys are all chemically-controlled powerhouses that respond to signals to remove waste products.”

The Truth about Detox Diets (Spoiler: They’re Nonsense)

From the covers of women’s magazines to our own HRH Prince Charles, you don’t have to look far to find advocates of “detox”. But while detoxification – the medical term for treatments of dangerous levels of drugs, alcohol or other poisons in the bloodstream – is real, these are medical procedures that can’t just be grabbed off the shelf at Holland & Barrett. No single food or drink can increase the rate at which we eliminate nasty stuff from the body. More to the point, it’s not even necessary.

THE WHOLE IDEA OF ‘DETOX’ IS NONSENSEThe whole idea of ‘detox’ is nonsense,” says Dr Frankie Phillips, a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. “The body is a well-developed system that has its own built-in mechanisms to detoxify and remove waste from top to toe. The skin, gut, liver and kidneys are all chemically-controlled powerhouses that respond to signals to remove waste products.”

Blame the Ancient Egyptians

So, how did the idea of detoxing come about and why are we being sold stuff that claims to cleanse? Ancient Egyptians invented enemas to remove a “toxic sludge” build-up in the colon – something still used to sell them today, although no gastroenterologist has ever seen the stuff – while the Chinese believed toxins left the body through the feet and invented vinegar-soaked footpads to help extract them. These, too, are still being sold despite biology proving that’s absolutely not the case.

Suspicions as to how effective purging techniques actually were date back to the 1830s. That scepticism is far stronger now, with no research-based evidence to suggest any modern detox diet, product or ritual can affect the body’s ability to eliminate waste. “Nobody can even name the substances that they’re supposedly eliminating,” says complementary medicine expert Professor Edzard Ernst (edzardernst.com). “The only thing detox products do eliminate from the consumer is his or her money.”

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