To prepare for her role in the movie Dreamgirls (2006), Beyoncé turned to the Master Cleanse method to flush out her system and slim down; she reportedly dropped 20 pounds by forgoing solid foods and consuming only a lemonade- like drink (with maple syrup and cayenne) for 10 days. Other musicians, movie stars and professional athletes also offer explicit details about detox methods they insist they can’t live without—some that sound inconvenient at best, painful at worst or just downright kooky.
But despite the number of celebrities touting detox diets—and the sheer numbers of people willing to shell out big bucks to try them—many experts agree that trying to flush all the unhealthy toxins out of your body in just a week (or two or four) with a drastic program of only kale juice (or lemon water or enemas) isn’t the way to go.
1. Detoxes lead to unpleasant side effects
There’s the issue of unpleasant side effects—it’s like knocking down coworkers in a race to make it to the bathroom in time—not to mention what’s happening to your body when you’re depriving it of the vital nutrients it needs to function properly. A detox program that requires fasting, for instance, can result in fatigue and if it’s followed strictly for too long, it can cause serious vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Extreme colon cleansing, a component of many detox programs, can lead to vomiting, nausea, cramping and dehydration.
[Read more: 5 ways to improve your detox]
2. Our bodies detox on their own
Ashley Koff, RD, founder of Ashley Koff Approved (AKA), advises her clients that the concept of “going on a detox” is a flawed one. “Our bodies have their own built-in detoxification system, so we actually need to be detoxing 365 days a year, our whole lives, by consuming nutrients that provide the resources our detoxification system needs.”
Lauren Harris-Pincus, RDN, founder of Nutrition Starring You, agrees. “Detox diets are not only all hype, but also extremely restrictive and even potentially dangerous. They claim to eliminate toxins from the body, but a properly functioning liver and kidneys don’t need assistance to do what they were designed to do.”
The liver, the body’s second-largest organ, is naturally programmed to remove toxins from the blood; regulate the amount of sugar, proteins and fat that enter the bloodstream; store and process nutrients; and metabolize alcohol and drugs. The kidneys, skin, lymphatic system and digestive system also help rid our bodies of harmful toxins and other unhealthy substances. These toxins—those we eat and drink, slather on our skin, and unknowingly breathe in—attack our intestinal barrier, disrupting our immune system, our gut and our entire digestive process.
3. We should pay attention to our bodies daily
Koff and Harris-Pincus advise that, rather than resorting to a drastic detox once in a while, we should pay more attention to how we treat our bodies daily. “When we don’t stay clean regularly,” Koff says, “a bigger mess builds up that encourages the onset of disease or unwanted symptoms, and that will require a treatment plan.”
The great news, though, according to Koff? “Better detox nutrition is easy and doable for all of us.”