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Side Effects of the Detox Diet and How to Stop When Very Sick

author image Jennifer Andrews
Jennifer Andrews specializes in writing about health, wellness and nutrition. Andrews has a Master of Science in physical therapy from the University of Alberta as well as a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. She teaches yoga and pilates and is a recent graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.
Side Effects of the Detox Diet and How to Stop When Very Sick
A couple is ill, drinking tea. Photo Credit: AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images

Detox diets are intended to cleanse the body of toxins and waste products that accumulate from your environment and your poor lifestyle habits. Detoxes are increasingly marketed as a way to help you lose weight quickly while jump-starting a healthier lifestyle. Although they may assist in weight-loss, initial losses are usually water weight and results are not sustainable for the long-term. Furthermore, prolonged detoxing can result in nutritional deficiencies from poor nutrients and caloric intakes. Healthy adults who have medical consent and supervision may do a short-term detox to rest and cleanse the body from poor dietary habits. However, if you experience adverse side effects and get sick during a detox, it is imperative to see a health professional immediately and stop the detox program.

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Detox diets may risk dehydration from inadequate fluid intake. Although many detoxes recommend drinking water and other clear fluids to help fill you up and prevent hunger cravings, dieters may still meet their individual needs. Since caloric intake is restricted during detoxes, the body may retain more water to use in body processes, such as maintaining fluid and electrolyte balances and digestive processes. Detoxes also may increase the frequency of bowel movements to eliminate toxins and undigested foods. Water is lost during this process which may lead to dehydration. Illness and not feeling well during a detox increases risks of dehydration. Drink eight to 10 glasses of water daily and consume clear-based soup broths to meet your fluid intake needs during a detox and if you fall ill. Gradually, break your detox if you do fall ill and increase your intake of fluids with electrolytes to replace lost minerals and soothe an upset stomach.


Detox diets commonly lead to fatigue and lethargy, particularly if you are not meeting your daily caloric needs. Most detoxes are low in calories and have restricted fat and carbohydrate intakes. Carbohydrates are the body and brain's main source of fuel for daily physical and mental tasks. Inadequate intake can lead to fatigue, difficulty concentrating and a slowed metabolism from energy conservation. Consult with a health professional to determine your daily nutritional needs. If you fall ill during a detox, increase fluid intake and start adding back in higher carbohydrate foods such as whole grains, including whole wheat toast and oatmeal. Grains may be restricted in favor in favor of low-carb and calorie foods, such as raw vegetable salads.


Detox diets typically center around low-calorie foods such as fruits, vegetables, natural juices and whole grains in moderation. Meat and animal products are eliminated to give the body and digestive system a chance to rest and recover from breaking down heavy foods. However, meat is also a high source of protein and dieters may not meet meet their protein needs during a detox. Inadequate protein intake can lead to weakness and muscle wasting over time as protein is the nutrient that assists in the growth, development and repair of muscle and body tissues. If you fall ill during a detox diet, you should still avoid eating heavy foods that can irritate the gastrointestinal tract and increase nausea and vomiting. However, increase protein intake gradually by eating grains that are a source of protein such as quinoa, millet and whole wheat bread; peas and lentils; and lean chicken or turkey breast that has been boiled or grilled with no added oils or fats.

Stopping When Sick

If you fall ill during a detox diet, seek medical consult immediately to avoid any further health risks and for proper treatment. Illnesses may vary from a cold or flu to a gastrointestinal illness with vomiting and/or diarrhea. Each of these conditions may require specialized treatments and individual attention. Avoid stopping the detox and returning to normal dietary habits which may be high in calories, sugars and fats that can lead to further nausea and stomach pains. Consume lighter foods that are nutrient dense such as vegetable and minestrone soups, protein smoothies, oatmeal, brown rice, dry toast and whole grain crackers. Eat every few hours to keep energy levels up and combine with adequate fluid intake. Furthermore, adequate rest is needed to allow the body to rest and recover.

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