Feeling strange and bloated? Maybe you’ve been binge-eating consistently for some time now, and just want to give your body a break. There are plenty of reasons why people go on juice cleanses and decide to drink detox drinks — but most of the time, they hope to get healthier and/or lose weight.
However, there is little to no evidence behind detox drinks. While many brands and influencers claim that detox drinks promote weight loss, studies show that they are just as helpful as regular water would be. If you’re going to be getting the same health benefits from drinking detox juices as H2O, then why bother at all?
Furthermore, detox drinks are generally connected to a very toxic diet culture. Many people who decide to go on detox juice cleanse struggle with a food and guilt relationship, and punish themselves for over-eating with a restrictive juice cleanse. This can have a harmful effect on the person’s well-being and self-confidence. The most effective and sustainable weight loss methods involve permanent lifestyle changes.
Here are a couple of the myths surrounding the benefits of detox drinks:
Myth 1: Detox Drinks Detoxify the body
The body has a self-regulating system of detoxification, and no amount of infused water can help in this process! Sure, cucumber water and other herbs will definitely add some vitamins and minerals to your body, but they cannot perform the detoxification process.
So where do detox drinks get their name from? Detox drinks first became popular as doctors prescribed drinks and foods for people quitting an addiction (such as smoking cigarettes, alcohol or hard drugs). During the quitting process (slow weaning or cold turkey), the body already performs the action of detoxification from all of the carcinogens and other harmful effects of the addictive substance in question. The drinks only added valuable minerals when the body was already performing the detoxification.
That’s why drinks are not capable of detoxifying the body on their own. They are only supplements to the body when it is undergoing detoxification already.
Myth 2: Detox Drinks Cause Weight Loss
Many people who are consuming detox drinks are doing so on the basis of social media suggestions and do so in the hopes of losing weight. And while detox drinks have been linked to weight loss, they are not directly responsible for weight loss either. Furthermore, it’s definitely not recommended to use detox drinks as your sole approach to weight loss.
Most people lost weight while on a liquid diet, juice cleanses, or detox drink diet because these drinks invariably have fewer calories than their regular diet. Constantly drinking fluids can also cause the stomach to feel full, and suppress appetite. All these factors point to a calorie deficit diet. When people end up losing weight on a detox drink diet, it’s because they consumed very few calories. It doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that they only consumed liquids. They could have achieved the same results by simply limiting food intake, instead of switching to fluids.
Furthermore, detox drinks can induce severe cravings. The body is not used to being deprived of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber so severely: and will go into ‘starvation shock’. This can actually lead people to bounce back into binge eating with how deprived they feel.
This boomerang weight of sudden weight loss and immediate weight gain is characteristic of fad diets, including detox drinks, and can be very demotivating for a person trying to lose weight in the long run.
Myth 3: Detox Drinks Hydrate and Replenish Body Reserves
This one is only partly true. Of course, detox drinks that are made from natural ingredients at home, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and regular water will have great minerals and vitamins for the body. As it is made from water, it will be hydrating for the body.
However, ‘the sum is greater than the parts’ is not true for detox drinks. Drinking a lot of water, infused or not, is good for the body. Most people spend their days under optimal hydration levels, and will immediately feel better once they start drinking more water (whether that’s in a detox drink or straight from the tap).
Drinking water and being hydrated also kicks the metabolism at a quicker pace, promoting weight loss.
Here’s the caveat: you’re actually missing out on a lot of nutrition by throwing away the fruits and vegetables after making the detox drink. While infused detox drinks are able to capture some of the vitamins and minerals from vegetables and herbs, they do not contain incredibly healthy soluble and insoluble fiber. This fiber is great for the body and will help in roughage, smoother bowel movements, and better gut health. These are all much better benefits than the alleged ‘detoxification’ that detox drinks bring the body.
The Good News
Of course, detox drinks are not all bad. The best part about detox drinks is that they contain water. For someone who struggles with drinking the recommended amount of water every day, a pitcher full of mint leaves, cucumber slices, and strawberries might be the much-needed incentive to get their H2O.
We strongly advocate drinking more fluids, as long as they are made from natural ingredients and do not contain added processed sugar or preservatives. Of course, it’s always going to be better to make your own drink at home versus buying pre-made detox drinks.
Lastly, we do not suggest ditching solid food to go on a ‘cleanse’. If you’re really craving a liquid diet, make sure to include lots of green juices, smoothies made from fruits and veggies to ensure that you have enough fiber in your liquid diet. Infused and strained liquids are not sufficient for the body.
Any liquid diet, or cleanse is not sustainable in the long run. If weight loss is your goal, try switching to a nutrient-dense calorie-deficit diet full of your favorite foods. As much as you might want to starve yourself, your body needs the fuel to survive. Good luck, and eat natural!