Breaking Down Detox: Is it Good, Bad, or Just a Fad?

breaking down detoxDetox stuff has taken off in popularity recently, but what is it exactly? Does a detox drink just flush right through your system and wash your body free of toxins? Does a detox diet actually work? Wait…what are the toxins anyways? Most importantly, can trying to get rid of them be more harmful than healthful?

orange juice vs orange drink
Orange Juice vs. Orange Drink

Many people are quick to jump on the detox bandwagon, but some basic knowledge beforehand can help you determine what will be the most effective when it comes to putting together a personal purifying plan.

The real dirt on toxins

Before you can understand the “de” in detox you should have an idea of the “tox” (aka the toxins we’re aiming to get rid of.) They’re little compounds from various sources that, when they build up in our bodies, have nasty effects. They can cause anything ranging from headaches and nausea to death. Below, toxins are broken into two main categories:

Environmental Toxins: If we wanted to be fancy we could call these “exogenous toxins,” but either way you say it, environmental toxins are made outside of your body. They would be carried in things like food, air, and water. Some examples are over-the-counter or prescription medication, carbon monoxide, and pesticides.

Metabolic Toxins: Technically considered “endogenous toxins” these guys are just the opposite of the above, and they are made inside of your body. They can include the “waste” produced by our cells as they constantly give us energy, but there is a blurry line as to where metabolic and environmental cross over. Some might consider a toxin in highly processed food that is released during digestion actually metabolic, and not environmental.

Also to be mentioned is biological (virus, bacteria, etc.) and chemical (mercury, lead, medication) toxins. In general, they can be stuffed into one of the above categories, which is all you really need to know for a basic understanding.

Which would you rather put into your body?

unhealthy foods
Is food supposed to be these colors?

healthy foods
Wholesome & nourishing.

How do we get rid of these toxins? (Now comes the “de”)

Our bodies are incredibly good at processing toxins, with the liver, lungs, and kidneys bearing a large part of the burden. Without any sort of detox drink or diet we can keep ourselves pretty pure, an impressive feat, considering how many toxins our lifestyle these days include. This is where it becomes hard to figure out if detoxing ourselves does anything, and if it does, is it helpful or harmful? For various reasons, it can be both.

healthy snacks vs bad stuff
Banana Chips vs… (what the heck are these things anyway?)

How not to detox

These are some examples of ways that are more detrimental than beneficial.

Fast or don’t eat: Your body is working hard to keep you healthy all day every day and has a highly-evolved process of detoxification all its own that does a pretty darn good job at getting the nasties out. If you fast you’re often depriving your body of nutrients needed to keep it running strong, healthy, and detoxing at the utmost efficiency.

Follow a “detox” or “detox fad diet”: When people follow a detox diet-particularly the fad kind, that seek to make money off of you-and then find they are more energized, focused, and have an overall sense of wellbeing, it’s probably because they were eating healthier foods. The benefits seemingly experienced by a detox diet most likely just come from avoiding processed edibles (which should really be called inedibles in my opinion.) In terms of weight loss, the initial drop is primarily water weight when on a fast, and any pounds shed after that will only be re-gained when the detox has stopped. It’s just a quick-fix, and not a terribly healthy one at that.

Don’t sweat it: “Sweating out toxins” is not an accurate phrase, despite being so popular. Sweat is 99% made up of water, with a tiny bit of salt, urea, proteins, and carbs. Anything truly toxic, like mercury, alcohol, or drugs, is eliminated by your liver, kidneys, and digestive system. On average you have 2.6 million sweat glands-all designed to regulate body temperature, not get rid of bad waste products.

fruit vs fruit flavored
Fruit vs. Fruit Flavored

How to detox

The best way to “detox” is to avoid toxins in the first place, but the more we overload our world with them, it doesn’t hurt to lend your body a helping hand.

Eat healthy: The body is all about prevention, and tries to keep you healthy rather than get you healthy. It would really rather avoid having to deal with a bunch of processed foods and their toxins in the first place. Eating healthy is the true “detox diet.” There’s nothing fancy about it, just some dedication and trust in the amazing functions of the human body. When possible always go organic, that way you can avoid ingesting the nasty chemicals and pesticides often found on or in non-organic foods.

SEE ALSO: How Much Water Should You Drink Anyway?

Keep the air fresh: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure here as well. Try making a switch to greener cleaning products that will emit fewer chemicals that are harmful to breathe in, and do your best to avoid things like cigarette smoke as much as you can.

Create or follow a good recipe: The beauty of the internet is that we can share information across the world in the blink of an eye. Using what you know about detox and any experience with it, come up with a healthy recipe of your own to help flush things out, or utilize someone else’s. There are a lot of good ideas floating around out there from a straightforward detox drink to elaborate smoothies.

Learn how to make our favorite detox drink with watermelon & mint.

Exercise: Exercise keeps your blood pumping along and circulating through your body, which helps keep your system clear of bad build up. It just boosts your organ health overall, and often times you can work up a good sweat. While you don’t sweat out toxins, you certainly feel good and healthy after you work out effectively and sweat a little.

The verdict?

You and your body are a team, and when you want to detox, you only have the best intentions at heart. Keep in mind though, the best way to keep your system clean and toxin free is to use common sense and trust your internal workings.

I like to define detoxing loosely, more as a day-to-day undertaking, rather than an intense period or product that “cleanses,” and that won’t help much once you stop. It’s a blend of knowing what to avoid, and what kind of things actually do help you out, whether used on occasion or every day. It can be as simple as eating healthier. We add more toxins to our world all the time, knowledge on how to get rid of them grows increasingly important. Think about what you would define detox as when you’re deciding on what to try and who to trust.

Little tips

  • Generally something or someone that makes money off of a diet or fasting method isn’t your best bet. Chances are you know something better for your body than what is being offered, and it’s usually just about free.
  • To help keep your body healthy and clear of toxins, make sure you’re giving yourself a healthy dose of things that are known to help out the head honchos of the detox system, like the liver and kidneys. Knowing some of these foods can really take you a long ways when it comes to whipping up a drink, smoothie, or plain old good meal.
  • The less bad stuff you put in, the less you have to clear out.

We Want to Know: What do you do to detox?

We Want to Hear from You! Let us know which remedies work and do not work for you, ask a question or leave a comment:


  1. Leslie Fennell says:

    love this site, so informative, makes sense, and works.

  2. zahra says:

    Thank you for this article. It was very simple and straight to the point. I was at a detox workshop last nigth and learned much of what was presented here. I’ve never gone through a specific detox program, but will be for my liver very soon. I didn’t understand the toxic nature of alot of house hold and person care products until recently. Now I know how important detoxing is. And having a good pattern of eating and drinking well.

  3. Lorie says:

    Thanks for the article, love them all. I have used a lot of your ideas and they work. Thank you for the thought of our health. Keep them coming.

  4. Chris says:

    Fasting is an awesome way to detox. I believe it is the best way. Juice fasting is wonderful. I have done juice fasts for periods of 7 days to 30 days. I worked six days a week and felt just fine. Actually I felt great. I highly recommend it. Just carrot juice is all you need.

  5. Baylie says:

    I am a 17 year old and I have been wanting to take getting healthy and in shape seriously. I’m not healthy like I should be. I don’t watch what I eat or drink. I want to be more serious about it and I want to lose weight and become a healthy person overall. I’ve been think of detoxing with just and simple mint and lemon infused water. How much of this drink should I ingest and how often? Should I drink a glass or two everyday or just do it occasionally. Once I get in shape and in good health I intend to stay that way. So should I just detox at the beginning of my weight loss journey or no? I would appreciate the further explanation! Thanks!

  6. Louise says:

    I drink 2 litres of water with 1 thoroughly washed lemon (juice & pulp) & 2 tsp of Redmond salt every morning before breakfast. I sometimes add Aloe Vera juice & chlorophyll to the mix. I then cut up the lemon rind & put in my large bottle of water with 1/2 tsp of Redmond salt & drink at work. I actually have a hard time drinking water without lemon now. Allow yourself 2 hours before leaving in the morning if you know what I mean. It sure got rid of my kidney stones.

  7. Sarah says:

    I just made the life-changing decision to go gluten free, and in doing so I’ve really started to research more about most of the man-made ingredients/preservatives that are put into so-called foods I find where I shop. I am only 26yrs old, and the effects of the overprocessed foods I’ve eaten over the years have caught up rather quickly. I am safely detoxing my body with healthy juices/spices/water, alongside my new solid food choices. I have a 3yr old son that I hope will learn more quickly than I have concerning proper more natural foods.

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