Ben Squires


Detox versus diet: which one is best?

Detox versus diet: which one is best?

Registered dietician, Maggie Radich, explains why detoxes are not as effective as a change to your regular diet.

Make no mistake many “detoxes” are no more than a quick fix with a low likelihood of long term affects. You could go as far to say that some are just crash diets wrapped in shiny green smoothies and a big kale bow.

A simple Google search of detox will provide inform you of with multiple ways to "cleanse your body," "fast track your health" and now, more alarmingly, cleanse your body from both ends (colon cleanse).

When I ask people why they have decided to do a detox, the responses I normally get are: "Because my friend lost four kilograms 4kg in the first week and I want to lose weight too", or "I have been drinking more alcohol than normal and want to give my liver a break", or "I'm not pooing as much as I normally do and feel yuck".

 These responses are valid reasons to make dietary changes but unfortunately detoxes generally don't address these issues in the long-term.  

The way detox programmes are marketed can be very enticing, especially if there are a few scientific words in the mix and if the one "'essential superfood'" missing from your diet happens to be sold on the very same website.

Luckily for us, our bodies are like very complex, highly efficient machines and are very good at dealing with what we throw at them.

Our digestive organs, such as the liver, work every hour of every day of our lives to keep us healthy by detoxifying our blood.

Drinking only juice or changing your diet for a week does not "allow your liver to have a 'holiday'." 

Signs your digestive organs are not working properly - such as your skin turning yellow, blood in your faeces, ongoing bloating, cramps or changes to your bowel motions-  warrant a visit to your general practitioner. They may request some nutritional blood tests to be done to give a picture of what is really happening. 

Colon cleansing (also referred to as colonics, colonic irrigation or colon hydrotherapy) is an extreme example of a detox but it is becoming more popular. The "cleanse" involves pumping water into your the bowels through your bottom and later passing a significant amount of faecal matter.  

Colon cleansing proponents advocate that periodically cleaning from the inside out removes waste stuck to walls of the large intestine (colon). This build-up supposedly releases toxins which enter our bloodstreams and are responsible for symptoms like fatigue, bloating, depression, lower back pain, and weight gain.

When reviewed by a scientific journal, colon cleanses were found to increase the risk of intestinal parasites, bowel perforation, pancreatitis, kidney insufficiency and heart failure - especially for those who have inflammatory bowel disease. Phew, scary stuff!

A lot of detoxes and cleanses promote passing bowel motions. But, just because you are pooing more, doesn't mean you are expelling harmful toxins. It does indicate that you have likely increased your fibre and/or fluid intakes and are passing the bowel motions that would have been expelled naturally (in time).  

I can understand wanting to be within a healthy weight range and wanting to see results as soon as possible. But, I am afraid to say, that if you are losing more than half to one 0.5-1kilogram a kg/week it is unlikely to be loss of your fat stores and more likely to be fluid or muscle mass. This means when you go off the detox is finished and people and start eating normally again (which is inevitable), the weight will come straight back on.

To increase the frequency of your bowel motions and lose weight, I would suggest limiting intakes of processed foods, eating high fibre breads and cereals, filling up on vegetables and fruit, watching your portion sizes, leading an active lifestyle, hydrating with water and (my personal favourite recommendation) enjoying -  allowing yourself an occasional treat. Follow these guidelines and it is likely you will also have increased energy levels will increase, improved sleep patterns, and be on your way to sustained weight loss. 

This article first appeared on

Related links:

What you need to know about the latest diet trends

‘Healthy’ foods that could be harming your health

Why it is hard to cut back sugar