Do Detoxes Work? Here’s What You Should Know Before Doing One

If you’re anything like me, you may have indulged a little bit more in the past few days than you usually do. That's just one of the hallmarks of the holidays, many people attempt to counteract that feeling by "detoxing," aka changing up how you get your nutrients for a short period of time to "reset" your system, after the holidays are over, but evidence shows that a lot of detoxes aren’t healthy, and don’t work as advertised.

There are many types of detoxes, and they aren’t all created equally. According to HowStuffWorks, "the goal of the detox diet is to help get the body back to a healthful, fresh state." But detoxing doesn't necessarily help people reach that goal, and in fact can backfire. “Fasts lead to muscle breakdown and a shortage of many needed nutrients,” Lona Sandon, a Dallas dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, told NBC News. Sandon also warns that a detox can "actually weaken the body’s ability to fight infections and inflammation.” If you experience nausea, low blood sugar, dizziness, or muscle aches while "detoxing," your body is trying to tell you to stop.

Here's the key reason detoxes don't work in the long term: your body is naturally ridding itself of toxins all the time. That's what your skin, your lungs, your kidneys, your liver, and a whole host of other parts of your body are busy doing day in and day out. “Your body does a perfectly good job of getting rid of toxins on its own,” Dr. Nasir Moloo, a gastroenterologist with Capitol Gastroenterology Consultants Medical Group in Sacramento, CA, told NBC News. “There’s no evidence that these types of diets are necessary or helpful.”

Instead of doing a "detox," you can let your body do the work it's designed to do. Dr. Caroline Apovian, M.D., director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at the Boston Medical Center told BlackDoctor.org, “If someone wishes to detox from pesticides, sugars, or any other unhealthy substance, the best thing to do is abstain from it, and let the body remove the unwanted substance.”

Rather than "detoxing" to reset after the holidays, there are a host of wellness habits you can try to implement to help make sustainable changes in how your body feels over the course of the year. Incorporating a lifestyle change into your daily routine will take a little longer to achieve your desired results, but the results will last, and your body will thank you for it.

If you want to help your body do its regular work of "detoxing," make it a resolution to drink more water in 2018. Invest in a big reusable water bottle and set up reminders on your phone to get up and fill it. Not only will you make sure to get your steps in, but you'll help your body literally flush out whatever's ailing it.

Another small, achievable, and powerful goal you can set is to remind yourself to stretch more regularly. Though stretching won't help your organs do the work of detoxing, if that's your goal, it feels good to be a little bit more flexible.

Lastly, awareness around what your body does for you will go a long way towards helping you live in sync with it. 2018 is the perfect time to test out a mindfulness practice, whether it's incorporating mindfulness into different parts of your daily habits or meditating for an hour a day for a month. Mindfulness is simply the practice of being aware of and acknowledging your surroundings — and it can help you live your life more intentionally, with a host of health benefits that go along with it. It takes some getting used to, but once you're in the habit, it'll come naturally.

There are plenty of ways to make sure your insides aren’t getting bogged down. Avoiding ingredients, practices, or habits that don't work well with your body is the best way to make sure you're feeling your best throughout the year. So if you’re wanting to detox for the new year, changing your wellness habits for the long term will lead to better results — that will actually last.