What the Heck is a 'Detox'?

The word "detox" is now thrown around with words like "diet", "cleanses" and "juicing." It's all jargon combined to paint a healthy picture: your body, rid of icky toxins by ingesting juices, smoothies, and other supplements that wipe your kidneys and liver clean of any toxic gunk. But ten years ago, the word "detox" might bring to mind a person trying to rid themselves of a drug and alcohol problem while simultaneously coping with symptoms of withdrawal.

Kathleen M. Zelman wrote on WedMD that detoxes are gaining in popularity, but the problem lies with the fact that "they aren't proven to do what they say they'll do: flush toxins out of your system." But that doesn't mean that engaging in clean eating, including juices, smoothies and all around less-processed foods is a bad idea. In fact, it's quite a good one. Shape says that toxins already present in our bodies can cause us to feel sluggish, cause allergic reactions and lead to an increase in acne. While the body's own detoxifiers — the colon, kidneys and liver — work sufficiently to suss out these toxins, supporting your body with natural foods and lots of nutrients will only help those organs function at peak performance. A detox, perhaps a juice cleanse done right, will aid in the detoxification of your body while simultaneously promoting overall health and well-being. It'll help literally clear out your pipes, because you're not consuming solid food. And that's not the only positive: Drinking your juices on an empty stomach will make your bloodstream absorb highly-concentrated vitamins, minerals and enzymes.

Detox diets are usually rigid and you choose to consume much of the same thing over and over: juices, smoothies, or raw vegetables and fruits, and oftentimes supplements alongside. It gives your digestive system a chance to rest and recharge. Detoxes are only recommended for a short period of time, around a week, and are usually seen as a springboard that gives you a jumpstart back into eating a healthy and less-restrictive diet.

But to actually cleanse your kidneys and liver, you might need more than just juice. Christine Gerbstadt, author of "The Doctor's Detox Diet", said in an interview with Prevention that "to help speed the removal of plaques and cholesterol in your system and improve kidney and liver function, you actually need food, such as whole vegetables and fruits, as well as to drink plenty of fluids such as herbal tea and low-sugar vegetable juices." Jake Mabanta and Carissa-Ann Santos, the founders of the popular New York City-based juice cleanse company Love Grace recommend eating by the 90/10 rule, meaning that 90 percent of the time you eat whole, organic foods, raw vegetables and nutrient-rich dishes. The other 10 percent, treat yourself to breads, red meats and those other vices that you should sometimes indulge in.

A detox is not the end-all be-all, because your body cannot sustain itself for long with just liquids or minimal solid foods. But for a shorter period of time, a detox can be enormously beneficial in helping rid those environmental toxins from our bodies. A detox might also help you identify unhealthy habits in your life: Do you snack out of boredom, or eat in large portions? Taking a step back from the normal dietary routine may help you key in on those unhealthy practices.


But as your body needs healthy fats, essential nutrients and the fiber from solid foods, a detox should be a starting point that leads you back to that old fashioned healthy lifestyle: consuming natural foods, exercising regularly, keeping good hygiene and maintaining mental clarity.

>> Thinking of trying out a juice cleanse? Start here!