Your body is capable of cleansing itself without detox diets. However, other aspects of cleanses, including eating nutritious whole foods, may have benefits.

Detoxification (detox) diets are more popular than ever.

These diets claim to cleanse your blood and eliminate harmful toxins from your body.

However, it is not entirely clear how they do this, what specific compounds they’re supposed to eliminate, and if they even work.

Read on for a detailed review of detox diets, including their benefits and side effects.

Detox diets are generally short-term dietary interventions designed to eliminate toxins from your body.

A typical detox diet involves a period of fasting, followed by a strict diet of fruit, vegetables, fruit juices, and water. Sometimes a detox also includes herbs, teas, supplements, and colon cleanses or enemas.

This claims to:

  • rest your organs by fasting
  • stimulate your liver to get rid of toxins
  • promote toxin elimination through feces, urine, and sweat
  • improve circulation
  • provide your body with healthy nutrients

Detox therapies are most commonly recommended because of potential exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment or your diet. These include pollutants, synthetic chemicals, heavy metals, and other harmful compounds.

These diets also claim to help improve your immune system, digestion, energy levels, and aide in weight loss.

However, human research on detox diets is lacking, and the handful of studies that exist are significantly flawed.

There are many ways to do a detox diet — ranging from total starvation fasts to simpler food modifications.

Most detox diets involve at least 1 of the following:

  • fasting
  • only drinking juices
  • using dietary supplements
  • using enemas or laxatives to cleanse the colon
  • using herbs
  • avoiding all allergenic foods, then slowly reintroducing them
  • using a sauna

Detox diets can vary in intensity and duration.

Detox diets rarely identify the specific toxins they aim to remove. The mechanisms by which they work are also unclear.

In fact, there is little to no evidence that detox diets remove any toxins from your body.

What’s more, your body is capable of cleansing itself through the liver, feces, urine, and sweat. Your liver makes toxic substances harmless, then ensures that they’re released from your body.

Despite this, there are a few chemicals that may not be as easily removed by these bodily processes, including persistent organic pollutants (POPs), phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), and heavy metals.

These tend to accumulate in fat tissue or blood and can take a very long time — even years — for your body to flush.

However, these compounds generally are removed from or limited in commercial products today.

Overall, there is little evidence that detox diets help eliminate any of these compounds.

Some people report feeling more focused and energetic during and after detox diets.

However, this improved well-being may simply be due to eliminating processed foods, alcohol, and other unhealthy substances from your diet.

You may also be getting vitamins and minerals that were lacking before.

That said, many people also report feeling very unwell during the detox period.

Effects on weight loss

Very few scientific studies have investigated how detox diets impact weight loss.

While some people may lose a lot of weight quickly, this effect seems to be due to loss of fluid and carb stores rather than fat. This weight is usually regained quickly once you go off the cleanse.

An older 2015 study examined Korean women who had overweight while on the lemon detox diet. This diet limits you to a mixture of organic maple or palm syrups and lemon juice for seven days.

The results showed that the diet significantly reduced body weight, BMI, body fat percentage, waist-to-hip ratio, waist circumference, markers of inflammation, insulin resistance, and circulating leptin levels.

If a detox diet involves severe calorie restriction, it will typically cause weight loss and improve metabolic health. However, it is important to remember that it is unlikely to help you keep weight off in the long term.

Detox diets, short-term fasting, and stress

Several varieties of detox diets may have effects similar to those of short-term or intermittent fasting.

Short-term fasting may improve various disease markers in some people, including improved leptin and insulin sensitivity.

However, these effects do not apply to everyone. Research shows that detox diets can lead to increased stress and binge eating.

A few aspects of detox diets may have health benefits, such as:

  • avoiding dietary sources of heavy metals and POPs
  • avoiding processed foods
  • drinking more water

However, these aspects are generally linked to improved health, regardless of whether you are on a detox diet.

Before doing any sort of detox, it is important to consider the possible side effects.

Possible side effects of a detox diet include:

Severe calorie restriction

Several detox diets recommend fasting or severe calorie restriction. Short-term fasting and limited calorie intake can result in fatigue, irritability, and bad breath.

Long-term fasting can result in energy, vitamin, and mineral deficiencies, electrolyte imbalance, and even death.

Colon cleansing methods, which are sometimes recommended during detoxes, can cause dehydration, cramping, bloating, nausea, and vomiting.


Some detox diets may pose the risk of overdosing on supplements, laxatives, diuretics, and even water.

There is a lack of regulation and monitoring in the detox industry, and many detox foods and supplements may not have any scientific basis.

In the worst cases, the ingredient labels of detox products may be inaccurate. This can increase your risk of overdosing, potentially resulting in serious and even fatal effects.

At-risk populations

Certain people should not begin any detox or calorie-restricting regimens without consulting a doctor first.

This includes at-risk populations, such as:

  • adolescents
  • older adults
  • those who are malnourished
  • those who are pregnant or breastfeeding or chestfeeding
  • those who have blood sugar issues, such as diabetes
  • those with an eating disorder

What foods to eat when detoxing?

When detoxing, it is typically suggested to eat foods such as vegetables, fruits, lean protein, seeds, and nuts. A detox diet may also involve avoiding highly processed foods.

What is the 3 day detox diet?

The 3 day detox diet involves only drinking beverages such as specific smoothies and herbal teas for 3 days. While this diet claims to help improve your overall health and energy levels, there is little to no evidence to support this.

What is the best way to detox your body?

The best way to detox your body is to let it flush out toxins naturally. The body is equipped with its own effective detoxing processes. Methods that support these natural processes include exercising, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and limiting processed foods and alcohol (if you drink).

Your body is frequently exposed to toxic substances. However, most of the time, it can remove them without additional help.

While detox diets may seem tempting, their benefits likely have nothing to do with removing toxins, but rather with eliminating various unhealthy foods.

A more beneficial approach can involve eating healthier and improving your lifestyle rather than going on a potentially dangerous cleanse.