Detox drinks are everywhere – claiming to gather up all of those ‘harmful toxins’ in your body and flush them all out, with handy ‘side effects’ of weight loss, immunity support, etc….
Sounds good doesn’t it? But do detox drinks actually work? And does your body even need a detox in the first place? Let’s find out!
Detoxes are a thing, but they’re usually used as the first stage in drug rehabilitation programmes to rid the body of alcohol and other dangerous drugs. These detoxes help people to safely manage the withdrawal symptoms that often occur when someone addicted to drugs or alcohol stops taking them.1
The detoxes you may have heard of in the ‘health’ world are totally different. These detoxes often claim that their detox drink can rid your body of alleged toxins, which can ‘apparently’ cause all sorts of health issues, including:
But multiple studies have disproven many of these claims.2,3
Several studies have suggested that although some popular detox diets can help with initial weight loss (due to the calorie deficit they almost always have), there is no clinical evidence that they can do much else.4,5 One review in 2017 also found that detox diets tend to lead to weight gain once the participant goes back to eating a normal diet.6
If you are not addicted to drugs or alcohol or haven’t been consumed a poisonous substance lately, there is little evidence that your body needs any help to detox.
The British Dietic Association have advised that detox diets are irrational and unscientific.7 They explain that if for some reason your body had accumulated a lot of toxins from day-to-day life then you would feel very ill. Turns out, your body is quite capable of ‘detoxifying’ all by itself.
When you go on detox diets or replace healthy meals with detox drinks, you often end up starving your body of calories, which ultimately causes it produce more and more chemicals called ketones. The build-up of these chemicals can have the following effects:
These detox diets or juice detox diet plans often contain very little protein. If you consume insufficient protein for a prolonged period of time, your body can react by break down its own muscles for fuel and potentially compromise your immunity.8
Most detox diets are based around different liquid concoctions. You may have heard of these popular detox drinks:
Now, most detox drinks consist of 100% natural ingredients so they’re perfectly healthy – they just might not be doing as much (or any!) ‘detoxing’. What they do do for our bodies is provide hydration, vitamins and minerals – which is all good. But relying on them as your energy and calories for the day can be very dangerous.
The ‘detox’ drinks you need to look out for are those containing laxatives, e.g. senna and other harmful ingredients. Always check the back of labels for ingredients and be especially careful about buying products over social media or from non-reputable companies online.
Drinking natural drinks and following a healthy diet could give your body an extra dose of nourishment and actually support your body’s natural detoxification processes, aka your liver function. It’s better to think of them as healthy drinks, rather than magical body detoxifiers.
One type of detox drink we can definitely get behind are smoothies! When consumed as part of a balanced diet, smoothies are a great way to pack in lots of plant-nutrients into one effective beverage.
Adding a healthy breakfast smoothie here and there can provide your body with vitamins and nutrients it needs to remove any ‘toxins’ from your body by itself and help all other body processes run smoothly.
Simply choose lots of leafy greens + fruits and vegetables you enjoy, and perhaps some oats, milk, nutritional powders and yoghurt to make your own up. Here are some of our favourites:
Different types of tea are often used in detox diets, and although there is little evidence that they can flush toxins from your body, a good cuppa is linked to various health benefits. Here are a couple of examples:
Herbal teas are very hydrating, contain no calories (unless you add honey, etc to them) and can calm you mentally, so you could use them as a way to ‘detox’ from sugary, chemical-laden drinks.
Using water to ‘detox’ is pretty common, with people choosing to forgo food and just drink water for long periods of time. Detox water may seem like it could work as your body will stop having to digest food for a period of time and focus on other tasks, but it can also be very dangerous. We need nutritious food in order for our body to do all of those other jobs.
However, you may benefit from a lemon water ‘detox’ drink in the morning by combining fresh lemon juice with lukewarm water to provide your body with much-need hydration after your overnight fast. The acid from lemons could also help your body digest breakfast after and top up your vitamin C levels too.10
Detox juice plans are everywhere, but are they any good? Just like we said about smoothies above, fruit contains lots of yummy nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can help our bodies function at their best, but there’s not much evidence that you need them to ‘detox’.
Drinking just fruit juices in moderation can support our health but be wary of sugar content and the overall amount of sugar you drink every day. Smoothies and eating real fruit can be better as fruit juice tends to be stripped of all the natural fibre and other goodies that real fruit and smoothies contain.
Eating a healthy diet full of nutritious fruits and vegetables is enough to help your body ‘detox’ all by itself. Our bodies are very intelligent and don’t need special detox drinks or diets to do this, just vitamins, minerals and enough calories, protein and fat – which healthy drinks can help provide!
Last updated: 16 April 2021
Joined Holland & Barrett: Apr 2019
Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry
Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.
After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.