If you follow health trends, something you've no doubt seen before is the proliferation of detoxes. It seems like there are hundreds if not thousands of different detox plans out there, from minor to major. Some of them reduce your calories to almost nothing while you eat diuretics and laxatives to purge. Others simply cut a few common ingredients out of your diet, like sugar and corn syrup, and replace them with a detox brew. Still, others are just supplements you take along the way.
One trend in the detox world is "detox water." If that sounds a little sketchy to you, or if it sounds intriguing, you're right to want to learn more.
We're here to tell you all about it and help you decide if it's something you want to pursue.
What is Detox Water?
Detox water is water.
Surprised? Well, there's a bit more to it than that. Detox water is water that has additives in it, but those additives are natural. There are as many different detox water brews as there are detox programs out there, though, so it's truly a widely varied range.
Slice up some cucumbers and toss a couple of sprigs of fresh mint into a jug of water and let it sit for a day; you have made some detox water.
Slice a lemon and add a bit of honey to sweeten the deal; you have made some detox water.
Crush and soak some berries in a teabag, or strain them out of the water later, and you have made some detox water.
Getting the idea? Detox water is simply water that has been flavored with something natural, usually a fruit, vegetable, or herb combination. Sometimes they have minor amounts of sweetener like honey, and sometimes they add a little bit of salt as an electrolyte, but most of the time it's just flavored water.
There are as many recipes for detox water as there are flavor combinations, and it doesn't necessarily matter what recipe you choose. Some of them may use some spices with purported health benefits, like cinnamon or turmeric, but those are generally reserved for smoothies, teas, and infused kinds of milk. They don't go as well with something like plain water.
The idea behind detox water is that your body needs water, water is good for you, so why not accentuate the water you drink with some flavor? Organic fruits and vegetables presumably add some health benefits of their own, but honestly? Given the concentrations, it's more for flavor than anything. It's not strongly brewed like tea, it's like mixing a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice in with a gallon of water. There's so little there, it's not going to have a significant effect on your health. More on that later, though.
The Purported Benefits of Detox Water
Detoxes in general are meant to remove "toxins" from your body, help you lose weight, give you more energy, and make you feel better all around. They may have some benefits, in terms of supporting the liver and kidneys in their natural bodily functions while replacing less healthy things in your diet, but can the same be said of detox water?
There are a lot of different benefits that detox water supposedly brings to the table.
- Detox water can help you lose weight.
- Detox water can help your body shed toxins that build up over time.
- Detox water can help balance the pH level of your body.
- Detox water can improve your overall digestive health.
- Detox water can boost your immune system function.
- Detox water can improve your mood.
- Detox water can increase your energy levels.
- Detox water can clear up your complexion.
That's a lot of purported benefits, but are they real?
What Detox Water (Actually) Does
Detox water has a lot of actual, tangible benefits, but they're more connected to the fact that its water, not that it's flavored with fruit or "packed with phytonutrients" or whatever else you want to say about it. You want phytonutrients, eat a vegetable. You want vitamins and minerals, eat vegetables, or take a supplement. Detox water isn't necessary to get those.
Detox water is water. That's a great benefit! Your body needs water to live, and it needs a lot of water to function at peak performance. You might be surprised, actually, at how much water you should realistically be drinking every day. The common wisdom is that you should drink 8 glasses of water every day, but how much is a glass?
In fact, according to the United States National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, an adequate daily fluid level intake is 2.7 liters per day for women and 3.7 liters for men. One liter is about 33 fluid ounces. 3.7 Liters is almost 1 gallon of water, every day.
How many of you realistically drink that much water every day? Not all of you. I know I could drink more water every day myself.
Drinking more water is healthy for you. Drinking detox water is essentially just drinking water; nothing added to the detox water formula is going to actively hurt you, so it's all benefit.
Many people find drinking plain water to be boring, so they don't. Adding flavoring to it by adding fruits and vegetables, herbs, and spices, makes it more interesting and more varied, so you're more likely to drink more water.
Detox water replaces other beverages. One of the main selling points for detox water is that you can drink it as a flavored beverage in place of other beverages. Drinking detox water instead of a Starbucks frappe, a bottle of Mtn Dew, or an energy drink is going to be a lot healthier for you.
The reason, of course, is because of all the crap in those other beverages. They're piled high with saturated sugar and corn syrup, whether it's from creamers, syrups, or just pure sugar. Not to mention all of the other chemicals present in things like sodas, like preservatives and dyes. None of that is actually good for you.
Sure, your body needs some amount of sugar to survive and fuel itself, but it's far, far from the amount you get in those beverages. You can get that sugar from fruits naturally, and absorb it just fine from the carbs you eat otherwise.
Detox water facilitates organ function. Of course, regular water does the same thing. Adding a tiny bit of lemon or mint or cucumber or whatever to your water doesn't somehow many your kidneys and your liver suddenly work better. It gives your body the water necessary to fuel your digestive system, your endocrine system, your cardiovascular system, and so on.
To be clear, the human body doesn't need outside forces to "detox" it. Unless you have kidney disease or liver failure, in which case you need medical intervention and dialysis, not detox water. If your organs are literally failing, drinking flavored water won't help you. Seek medical attention.
Detox water helps with dehydration. Let's take a look again at the list of benefits up there. You have boosted energy levels. You have more energy in general. You have clearer thoughts and a better mood. You have fewer headaches and less fatigue.
Hmm. Low energy levels, fatigue, headaches, confusion, irritability… these all sound familiar. What are they? Oh, right. The symptoms of dehydration.
The fact is, the average person drinks nowhere near the appropriate amount of water they should be drinking every day. That means most people are chronically suffering from low-level dehydration. Of course, drinking more water is going to clear up those issues!
Detox water is blown out of proportion. Now, some of the claims made by people who sell detox water "infusions" or other "secret formulas" are going to be more than detox water – or regular water – can do. For example, balancing or changing the overall pH level of the body? There's no evidence yet to suggest that detox water can do that. You can make truly alkaline water, and you can drink that water or use it as a base for a detox water brew, but even that isn't necessarily going to do anything.
As it turns out, the body is fantastically complex, and something as simple as drinking slightly different water than pure water isn't going to have a massive impact. It would if you were adding a real medication to the water, or if it was packed with a concentrated nutrient or mineral, but that's not the case with detox water.
How to Use Detox Water
Detox water can be used in three different ways.
The first way is to replace less healthy beverages you drink regularly. Beverages like black coffee or tea are fine to drink. Beverages like cream-and-sugar cups from Starbucks or a soft drink from the grocery store cooler should be replaced. Drink water – detox or regular – in place of those beverages. This will help you lose weight by reducing the number of calories you're drinking and will help you feel better once you detox from the caffeine and make it through withdrawals.
The second way to use detox water is as an augment. Making sure to drink more detox water throughout the day puts you closer to the recommended amount of water you should be drinking. The goal is, of course, to get to that 2.7/3.7 liters of water depending on your gender, and drink enough every day to keep your body healthy.
The third way is to do a cleanse. Now, we're not necessarily big fans of cleanses here, because it's easy to do the wrong kind of cleanse and hurt yourself with starvation. However, if you're careful, you can use a cleanse as a way to "reset" your diet. Use it as a threshold to cut out something unhealthy that you eat and replace it with a healthy alternative. The soda thing is one good example, but you can also use it as an excuse to replace junk candy bars with healthier fruit products, or replace fatty meats with leaner meats, or whatever conversion works best for you.
Our biggest caution here is simply to take things slowly. Dietary changes are difficult. Changing the habits you form over decades takes a lot of willpower. This is why people call sugar addictive; it's extremely difficult to avoid and you crave it when you cut it out.
This is why we recommend taking things slowly. Don't try to convert from your current diet to a perfectly healthy diet all at once. Instead, identify one product or one ingredient you can drop or replace with something healthy. If you replace soda with detox water, so be it; that will help you a lot in your path to a healthy body. If you choose to replace something else, like fatty meat or candy or chips, with something healthier that fills the same role and flavor profile in your diet, you'll be a lot more likely to stick with it.
Every few weeks or months, look at your diet and choose something to replace. It takes a while to build up the habit of eating something healthy in place of something bad, so taking it slow helps with the adjustment. Over time, you will adjust your entire diet to something healthier.
Is detox water critical for this process? No. Water is, though, and if flavoring your water helps you stick with the habit of drinking more water and less junk, then, by all means, go for it.
If it helps, think of detox water as simply flavored water. Adding fresh fruits and vegetables helps infuse the water with their flavors, and can give you some small amount of additional nutrients depending on how long you soak them. Just be careful when you're making a detox water blend; whole fruits and veg can rot and soil in the water, and then your whole batch is ruined. Try to only leave your flavorings in for a day or two, then strain them out, if you haven't already consumed the entire container of water that is.