One of the more mystifying trends in the ever intensifying weight loss war is the idea that detox drinks are the perfect answer for weight loss. Given the number of fad diets that come and fail and go and then repeat the cycle every few years, it is baffling that people keep falling for them.
The simple truth is that if there were an easy, foolproof way to lose weight, no one would ever need a closet full of clothes in four different sizes. Everyone would stroll around looking like swimsuit models or movie stars. And if forced detox was possible, no one would ever be hungover. These are lovely fantasies, but dreaming alone won't make it so.
In reality, weight loss requires commitment to a healthy eating plan as well as regular exercise, both of which need to be adjusted as your body changes. Detox diet drinks will not speed this process up in any way, though they can be a convenient quick snack, and those that are water-based can help keep you hydrated.
How Detoxing Works
Medical detoxing is an important part of addiction recovery, but the problem with popular detox drinks and diets, explain the experts at Rush University Medical Center, is that the manufacturers or detox gurus never define what toxins their product is supposed to remove, or how exactly their product removes them.
There are two types of toxins that you are normally exposed to, explain the experts at Northwell Health's The Well. Exotoxins are those you are exposed to such as smoke, exhaust fumes, paint fumes and pollen. Endotoxins are the byproducts of your normal metabolic functions, such as breathing and digesting foods. Neither type of toxin is affected in the least by diet detox drinks.
Your body has an elegant and efficient series of detoxing systems all set up and functioning every second of your life. They include your liver, kidneys and lungs. Your liver and kidneys work to filter out, neutralize and excrete any toxins that you are exposed to, reassure the experts at Baylor College of Medicine. They also point out that depriving your body of calories and nutrients makes it harder for your natural detox system to work, the same way that your car cannot run if it is out of gas.
How Weight Loss Works
The simplest answer as to how weight loss works would seem to be taking in fewer calories than you burn over a period of time. If that's all it took, weight loss would not be such a struggle. But the experts at Massachusetts Institute of Technology explain, you also need to make sure that every calorie is nutrient dense as well as making sure that you do not take in so few calories that your body starts hoarding them.
Using diet detox drinks that drastically lower your calorie count can put you in danger of your body going into starvation mode, where your metabolism slows down so far that you burn fewer calories than you normally would. You can fight this by exercise, but if you are not getting enough nutrition to support your workout, you increase your risk of injury.
The safest and most effective way of losing weight, remind the health authorities at the University of Delaware, is to aim for slow and steady weight loss with a diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins such as chicken and fish, nuts, seeds and essential fatty acids such as those found in avocados and olive oil. They also recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 75 minutes of intense exercise, along with resistance or weight training at least twice per week.
Addressing Inflammation Issues
One of the side effects of being overweight is inflammation, which is a natural immune response that can sometimes kick into overdrive, explain researchers Norbert Leitenger and Vlad Serbulea at the University of Virginia. Inflammation can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and clogged arteries as well as increasing your risk of stroke, heart disease and some types of cancer.
Leitenger and Serbulea go on to explain that the free radicals caused by exposure to environmental toxins and as the byproduct of natural metabolic functions such as breathing and metabolizing food can bind themselves to lipids, or fat molecules. Your immune system does not like this and kicks into high gear to remove the free radicals.
According to Harvard Medical School, the best anti-inflammatory detox is to avoid foods that cause inflammation, such as refined sugar, starchy carbs, fried foods, red and processed meats, sugary sodas and margarine. That is the first, and for some, the hardest step. The second is to eat a diet high in antioxidants, which scour your cells clean of free radicals. These include fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, fruits such as berries and citrus, tomatoes, leafy green vegetables such as kale and nuts.
Detox for a Drug Test
More and more corporations and even small companies are demanding drug tests as a condition of employment, which has prompted an entire industry devoted to products designed to help you cheat these tests. There are many THC detox juice products available over the counter and on the internet which claim that they can scrub all traces of marijuana out of your system.
According to the Columbia University's Go Ask Alice! informational advice website, most kits sold commercially to help you cheat a drug test are not designed to force your body's natural detoxing systems to work faster or harder because this is not possible. What they are designed to do is either invalidate the test to possibly buy you more time to get all drugs out of your system naturally, or to mask the presence of drugs in your urine so that you can fool the test.
Alice notes that while table salt and bleach will mask the presence of cannabis in urine, and drinking 2 quarts of the herbal tea sold as a drug detox drink can result in a negative urine test, neither of these methods is foolproof. Neither will help you lose weight and neither will actually remove drugs and their byproducts from your system. You also run the risk of being caught if your attempt to mask the presence of drugs in your system doesn't work.
Popular Detox Drinks
The most famous diet detox drink is water mixed with lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. The theory is that the water flushes out your system, the lemon juice provides vitamin C to detox your liver, the maple syrup provides energy, and the cayenne revs up your metabolism. Water is good for your kidneys and general hydration, and vitamin C supports your immune system, but the rest is nonsense.
Another type of diet detox drink is a so-called diet or detox tea. These generally contain guarana, which is a natural stimulant much like caffeine. These teas also may contain a powerful, natural laxative such as senna and a bulky fiber like psyllium or methylcellulose. Use of any laxative over a long period can produce a dependency on them.
Herbal detox concoctions are also available in the form of kits and mass produced shakes. As with any other food, beverage or supplement that claims to forcibly detox your body, this is simply not born out by science. Many also have added sugar, caffeine or other stimulants as well as artificial colors and flavors, which would seem to defeat the purpose of a detox.
The Wonders of Water
The absolute best detox diet drink is plain water, according to Washington State University. The more water in your system, the more efficiently your blood flows, carrying oxygen and nutrients to your organs and carrying waste away. While it has no calories or other nutrients, staying hydrated with plain water can:
- Help keep your energy levels up
- Combat brain fog
- Keep your joints lubricated
- Protect your spine
- Nourish your skin to keep it supple
- Ease hunger pangs
Drinking a lot of water throughout the day will not forcibly speed up the rate at which your liver and kidneys do their jobs, remind the health enthusiasts at Syracuse University's Equal Time, but staying hydrated will help support your body's natural detoxing systems.
Terrific Green Tea
Many detox drink instructions advise you to avoid caffeine, but this is not strictly necessary and could be keeping you from one of the most beneficial detox drinks around. Green tea, which comes from the Camellia sinensis plant just as black tea does, is full of polyphenols and catechins, according to the health experts at Emory College.
Polyphenols, the college explains, are micronutrients that occur naturally in plants, while catechins are powerful antioxidants that help protect your cells from the damage caused by exposure to free radicals. A study published in the January 2018 issue of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that the powerful catechin Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, had a positive effect on cardiovascular disease as well as on diabetes and inflammation.
Green tea is available in both caffeinated and decaffeinated forms as well as being offered plain and in a wide variety of flavors, such as honey lemon, jasmine, blood orange and lavender. Green tea can be enjoyed both hot and iced, and can also be used to flavor such disparate foods as ice cream, rice and fish. Bottled green tea may not have all of the same benefits as fresh tea, so consider brewing it yourself.
Sensible Detox Drinks
If plain water just doesn't do it for you, there are many ways to liven it up. Add lemon, lime or orange slices for a little extra vitamin C and a refreshing citrus tang. Muddled berries add color, flavor and texture as well as powerful antioxidants.
Adding cucumber slices may seem strange, but they add a refreshing, savory flavor, especially when paired with melon or mint. Cinnamon sticks add a bit of spice and are also excellent paired with lemon or lime and mint.
Don't be afraid to get creative. Blackberries and basil go surprisingly well together, as do strawberries and basil. If you don't like things floating around in your water, an infusion pitcher keeps add-ins contained while allowing their flavors to permeate the water. Freeze fruit into ice cubes and add them to plain or sparkling water for a detox drink that is as delightful to look at as it is delicious.
- Rush University Medical Center: "The Truth About Toxins"
- Northwell Health - "The Well: Detox Diets Are All the Rage. But Do They Work?"
- Baylor College of Medicine: "Expert Advises Against Detox Diets"
- Columbia University - Go Ask Alice: "Marijuana and Drug Detox Kits"
- Syracuse University - Equal Time: "Detox Water Is a Myth and Here’s Why"
- University of Virginia: "Discovery Reveals How Obesity Causes Disease – and How We Could Stop It"
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology: "Study Suggests Healthy Weight Loss Is More Than Just Math"
- University of Delaware: "The Skinny on Fad Diets"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Foods That Fight Inflammation"
- University of Washington: "Hydration 101 - It's More Than You Drink"
- Emory University: "Superfoods - Green Tea"
- Journal of Ethnopharmacology: "Molecular Understanding of Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) in Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases"