Why You Shouldn’t Try a January Detox (and What To Do Instead)

Detoxing is a popular buzzword in the health and wellness space, and particularly at this time of year when many of us are trying to stick to our new year's health goals. But what exactly is detoxing and should you attempt it?

Detoxing refers to the process of eliminating harmful substances, known as toxins, from your body. In particular, it often refers to following a special diet or using a particular product (such as a pill, tea, shake, or supplement) that claims to remove these toxins.

Some claim that detoxing helps you to lose weight, while others claim it is a vital part of promoting overall good health. But do these claims hold up? 

Why You Shouldn’t Try a January Detox 

Attempting to detox through special diets or products is at best unnecessary, and at worst can be harmful. Here are 4 great reasons we don’t think you should do it. 

Your Body Has It Covered

Your body is already well equipped with everything it needs to remove toxins: namely, your liver and kidneys (as well as your intestines, immune system, and respiratory system.) This means that special “detox” diets or products are completely unnecessary. 

If these systems in your body are not working properly, you need urgent medical intervention, not a special pill or potion. 

There is No Medical Evidence for Detoxing 

According to the British Dietetic Association and the NHS, “detox diets are marketing myths rather than nutritional reality.” There is virtually no medical evidence to suggest that detoxing, either through a specific diet or with any of the available products on the market, actually works. 

In this article, Harvard Health Publishing takes a close look at five different popular methods that claim to detox the body. In all cases, evidence of effectiveness was limited to non-existent.

Similarly, though you may initially lose a few pounds on a “detox” diet, you’ll likely gain it all back again the moment you resume eating normally. 

Detoxing Can Be Dangerous 

The best case scenario when trying to detox is that it will not do you any good. But did you know that it can actually cause you harm? 

Some detoxes, particularly those that involve fasting or consuming only a prescribed product (such as a juice or shake) are no different than simply starving yourself. Doing this for any prolonged period of time deprives your body of nutrients and can lead to unwanted effects such as headaches, extreme tiredness, irritability, muscle cramps, and rebound binging when you start eating again. 

Many detox products also contain laxatives. These can upset your digestive system, causing diarrhea and stomach cramps as well as hindering the absorption of nutrients from food. 

Detoxing is a Waste of Money

We have established already that detoxing is unnecessary, has no medically-proven benefits, and can even be dangerous. Even so, the detox drinks market is projected to be worth $3.2 billion by 2030 as companies continue to cash in on this dubious trend.

So-called detox products often carry a premium price tag, tempting you to waste your hard-earned money. 

What to Do Instead

Resisting the call of the January detox does not mean you can’t take any steps to jumpstart your health goals. In fact, there are numerous things you can do that will be far more beneficial to your health, as well as easier on your wallet.

First, prioritize eating a healthy diet. This means consuming a wide variety of different fruits and vegetables, protein (such as meat, fish, pulses, or tofu), healthy fats (such as nuts, avocados, and some oils), and limiting additives, saturated fats, and refined sugars. Staying well hydrated is also vital. 

If you smoke, you should try to stop. If you drink alcohol, ensure that your consumption does not exceed the CDC’s guidelines of no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 per day for men.

Next, incorporate regular exercise into your life. If you currently do little or no exercise, try starting with a walk a few times a week. If you already have a good fitness baseline, step it up and push yourself. You could also join a sports club, try a new activity, train for a race, or make fitness a family activity by encouraging your loved ones to join you.

Finally, focus on sleep. Even moderate sleep deprivation can have a serious negative impact on your health. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and most of us are not getting anywhere near enough. 

You’ll soon be feeling happier, healthier, and ready to take on the year–no detox teas or pricey supplements required! 

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