There are a ton of different detox kits available in the wide, wide world. Some of them make promises to remove toxins, help you lose weight, and assist with liver function. Some of them promise to heal damaged organs or make you more resistant to disease. Some of them even promise to remove signs of drug use or help fight drug addiction.
The kinds of detox kits we're talking about today are not related to drug use. Drug detox is a legitimate process, and should be closely supervised by a rehab facility.
The detox kits we're discussing today are the healthy kits, typically a mixture of supplement pills, fiber capsules, and other nutrients. While the specific composition of a detox kit will vary from kit to kit, they tend to have a similar range of effects.
You will often be able to classify a detox kit based on the ingredients and the promises they make. The more extreme the promises, the less likely they are to be legitimate. If a kit promises to improve circulation, stimulate your liver, or help purge your colon, it's probably fine. If a kit promises to help heal cancer or align your chakras, it's probably mostly snake oil.
To be clear, the beneficial detox kits we're talking about are the kits filled with powders and capsules, shake mixes and dietary instructions. Anything that's asking you to put a patch on your skin or sliced onions in your socks is more likely to make you feel ashamed than anything else. Oh, and make sure to stay away from fake and troll "cleanses" like drinking bleach, which is going to put you in the hospital or kill you, not purge toxins.
The Danger of Detox
There's one primary danger with a detox kit lifestyle, and that's the failure to take in enough nutrients to live.
Some detox kits are simply a set of supplements you take with your meals, and these are fine. Others have you fast or restrict yourself to a pressed juice diet or another restricted calorie diet while you detox. These can be fine, and even beneficial, in moderation. However, if you attempt to string along a detox after detox after detox, your body will begin to notice the lack of specific nutrients you get from the foods you normally eat. It might be protein, it might be fat, it might be a certain vitamin or mineral, all depending on the composition of the kit you're using.
Always use a detox kit as directed. Typically, kits will recommend using for a day or two each month and no more often. They're a supplemental treatment, not a lifestyle.
As always, if you notice any adverse effects on your health while taking a detox kit, make sure to see a healthcare provider. You may be allergic to the ingredients of the kit, or you may have another health condition that makes the kit disruptive or dangerous to use.
Now let's talk about the specific range of effects a detox kit might have. We'll start small and work our way up.
Enhancing Natural Detoxification
First up, one thing to recognize is that your body already has a natural set of processes that detoxify the body. This includes several organs, including the kidneys, liver, intestines, skin, and lungs. Under normal circumstances, these organs are enough to handle pretty much anything you throw at them.
Abnormal circumstances may overwhelm your existing system. For example, extreme exposure to environmental hazards can damage your body. Excessive alcohol consumption damages the liver, making it less able to readily handle other toxins it should be filtering out. These are circumstances where you may be able to enhance the function of your existing organs with beneficial supplements.
Of course, if you are experiencing organ damage, you may need to take more extreme measures. If your kidneys have decreased function, you may need dialysis. If your liver is damaged, you may need to restrict consumption of certain kinds of foods, like alcohol. In these cases, a cleanse may do more harm than good, if it's taxing on those organs to begin with.
A cleanse on its own is unlikely to help much, but as a means of assisting your existing organs, it can enhance their function. For example, there is some evidence to suggest that some sulfur compounds found in foods like garlic and onion can help your body expel heavy metals that would otherwise build up and poison you, such as cadmium. This still remains to be truly tested, but preliminary evidence points in favor.
Sleep is incredibly important for the long-term health of your body. Getting enough sleep, and making sure that sleep is restful, is a hugely beneficial thing to do.
How could a detox cleanse help with sleep? There are a few different ways.
First of all, some detox cleanse kits include ingredients that facilitate sleep. For example, if they include a tea you are meant to drink and that tea includes chamomile, it can help assist with restful sleep. Other kits might include sleep-aids directly, such as melatonin, the brain chemical that regulates proper sleep.
Some kits also take the place of consuming other foods or ingredients that might harm sleep. For example, if you're meant to fast during the detox kit, your fasting will prevent you from consuming beverages full of caffeine and sugar, which will serve to keep you awake. By shrugging off those ingredients, you may find yourself better able to sleep longer and more restfully.
Increasing Water Intake
Clean, healthy water is an incredibly important part of any diet. Water is essential to life. It quenches your thirst, yes. It also helps lubricate your joints. It aids digestion. It helps your body ferry nutrients through your blood. It makes your skin healthier and more radiant. It facilitates the absorption of good nutrients and the excretion of bad chemicals. It helps regulate body temperature.
Oh, too much water can be dangerous, of course. Ever heard the phrase "too much of a good thing"? Water intoxication, or water poisoning, can occur when you're drinking too much water. The thing is, "too much water" is on the order of multiple gallons in a few hours, so casual consumption is unlikely to reach dangerous levels.
How does a detox kit help with water intake? Well, detox kits typically include powders or teas that are meant to be consumed as a liquid. If you're drinking tea, you're drinking flavored water. If you're mixing a powder into a beverage, chances are that beverage is water, juice, lemonade, or another primarily water-based drink. This often increases the amount of water you're drinking, and helps hydrate and encourage healing.
Water intake is also great for helping regulate sodium in your body. If you consume too much sodium, your body needs to contain it, and it does so by retaining water. Water retention is a contributing factor to a lot of weight gain. While it sounds like "drink less water" is the solution to retaining water, it's actually the opposite. Drinking more water allows your body to expel more sodium, and thus retain less water.
Detox kits tend to include ingredients that have both laxative and diuretic effects. In other words, you're going to be going to the bathroom quite a bit. Detox makers and salespeople use this as evidence that they're working; look at all the toxins you're expelling! Of course, you're not likely to do any testing of what you're getting rid of to see if it's any different, chemically, from what you normally expel.
This is one element of a detox kit that might be dangerous if taken to the extremes. There's nothing wrong with facilitating your body's digestion a little, but if you do it too regularly, you might harm the function of those relevant organs.
More importantly, your body needs to keep processed food in your intestines for a while, so it can fully extract the nutrients out of it and put them to use. If you are, ahem, "facilitating" the function of your intestines, you're shortening the amount of time your body has to extract nutrients.
While you might think that you can make up for that by taking nutritional supplements, unfortunately, it doesn't really work that way. Nutrient absorption is a problem with supplements; if you aren't providing the right balance of nutrients and you aren't letting those nutrients rest in your body long enough to be absorbed, they simply pass through you. You'll end up flushing a bunch of nutrients down the drain.
One of the elements that most detox kits share is the instructions. They often call on you to fast, or at least highly restrict your caloric intake while you use the kit, typically to facilitate purging everything in your digestive system without taking in more.
Fasting is a practice that goes back millennia, so it's not exactly something new. It's also fairly well understood. Fasting lasting anywhere from 24 to 72 hours is common, and intermittent fasting – the act of cycling between eating and fasting for either a few hours at a time or a few days at a time – has been studied quite well.
There are tangible benefits to fasting. It can help improve blood sugar issues. It can help reduce inflammation. It can benefit your blood pressure. It can help fight against degenerative neurological diseases. It can facilitate weight loss.
Now, fasting while also consuming a nutritional shake or other supplement included in the detox kit might fight against some of these benefits. That really depends on the composition of the kit.
Restricting Harmful Consumption
Along the same lines as fasting, detox kits work best when you accompany them with some healthy habit changes. Primarily, you want to minimize your intake of toxins while you maximize getting rid of them.
So what do you do? Well, you don't just take a detox kit and hope it works. You want to make changes to what you're eating all month long, not just in the days surrounding the kit.
Cut back on alcohol. Some evidence suggests that something like a single glass of red wine each day can be beneficial to the body. Drinking an entire bottle every night, or going out and drinking a six pack of beer or any of the wide range of mixed drinks available is, well, the opposite of that. Alcohol is a poison, it's just a poison with some effects we consider pleasurable. While it might make you feel good for a while, the side effects – ranging from the hangover to liver damage – are very much not pleasant.
Reduce processed foods and, more importantly, processed sugars. Sugar masquerades as a lot of different ingredients on the foods list. Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, and so on are all just names for sugar. Cutting out processed sugars under any of their many names is an important element for health.
And, of course, you have the less savory habits. Smoking is one of the most culturally accepted ways of putting a ton of toxins into your body, and a detox kit alone isn't going to get rid of them. For full effectiveness from your detox kits, you'll need to quit smoking as well.
Tell Us Your Experiences
Have you taken our detox kit, or one of the other detox kits on the market? If so, we'd like to hear your experiences, both good and bad. Drop us a line in the comments and let us hear your story, as well as your opinions on the various kits available on the market.