Things to know before you try a detox diet

Diets that claim to cleanse and detoxify the body are not hard to find, but are they OK for our health? 

Kristin Kirkpatrick of Cleveland Clinic said many people are interested in the idea of ridding their body of toxins. However, she warns detox diets which involve not eating for days on end are not the place to start.

“Some of these detoxifying programs will literally starve you for a week,” she said. “So, if you have some sort of cleansing or detoxifying program where you’re not eating - you’re just drinking to sustain yourself for the week – it’s not the best idea.” 

One recent trend involves the use of activated charcoal or activated carbon to rid the body of toxins.

While activated carbon is used in emergency departments to treat people who have ingested poison, Kirkpatrick said there is no research that shows it will help rid everyday toxins from the average person.

She said the liver serves as the body’s natural detoxification system, so if we treat it right, there is no need for a "detox."

Instead of buying supplements, Kirkpatrick suggests buying more fruits and vegetables and whole grains, which will actually help boost liver function and naturally detoxify the body.

She said it’s important to remember there is no such thing as a quick fix for years of bad dietary habits, but making changes today will add up over time.

“Get more color in your diet with antioxidants and phytochemicals; get physical activity and do things that actually are going to love your body back, not a quick cure or something you can buy toward health, because you can’t buy health,” said Kirkpatrick. 

Kirkpatrick said much of our health is related to our gut health as well, so it’s important to think about the whole body when you’re thinking about detoxifying.

“Add in some probiotics into your diet, as well as prebiotics,” she said. “Prebiotics help probiotics thrive and flourish and you can find them in bananas, Jerusalem artichokes and a lot of high fiber foods. Probiotics are going to come from fermented foods like miso, tempeh and sauerkraut as well as yogurts that contain ‘live and active cultures.’”

Kirkpatrick also warns that people shouldn’t try detoxifying supplements if they are taking any medications because some supplements can impact their effectiveness. She said it’s always a good idea to talk to a doctor before trying any new diet or supplement.