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Science 

Is There Such a Thing as Safe Detox with Supplements?

August 31, 2020 6 min read

Hand holding green vegetables for detox

At a glance

Limited evidence exists to suggest that detoxification diets are an effective way of removing toxins from the body(1). However, research does indicate that detoxing can have a beneficial effect on overall wellness. After all, embarking on a detox diet tends to mean cutting back on sugar-rich, processed and fatty foods, thereby boosting your body’s natural ability to function and eliminate waste. The end result is often that detox dieters lose weight and feel healthier and more energetic. Keep reading to learn more about detox dieting and how supplements can help you achieve your health goals faster and more effectively.

What is detox dieting?

Detox dieting isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. On the contrary, dieters follow various nutritional plans based on their current health conditions and goals. In general, detoxification diets aim to rid the body of toxins through specific eating and fasting practices. Most detox diets include one or more of the following features (2):

  • Fasting for one or more days
  • Consuming a liquid diet that includes juices, smoothies, water, teas or lemon juice
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Avoiding coffee
  • Avoiding foods known to contain large amounts of metals or allergens
  • Cutting out fatty and sugar-rich foods
  • Taking laxatives or practicing colon cleanses
  • Adhering to an exercise regimen

Because many detox diets involve fasting or cutting calories, dieters may find themselves suffering fatigue and other negative symptoms stemming from a lack of nutrients. With that in mind, taking vitamins and supplements is often a crucial part of the detoxing process. In fact, theAcademy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes that vitamins and minerals help support the body's natural detoxification processes, allowing dieters to achieve their goals faster (3).

How to undertake a safe detox diet

The good news is there are steps you can take to augment your body’s natural detoxification systems. Here are some tips for safely increasing your body’s ability to eliminate waste and toxins while boosting your health:

1. Reduce alcohol consumption

A glass of red wine can confer numerous health benefits. However, if you’re drinking to excess, you might suffer damage to your liver that impairs its ability to function appropriately, filtering out toxins and waste from the body. Over time, immoderate alcohol consumption can lead to liver inflammation, fat buildup and scarring, among other negative effects (4). If you want to improve your body’s ability to eliminate toxins, consider limiting your alcohol consumption to one drink a day for women and two drinks for men (5).

2. Drink more water

It’s no secret that many of us fail to drink the recommended daily amount of water. However, you might not realize that neglecting to drink enough water (15 cups for men and 11 cups for women) can negatively impact your body’s ability to eliminate waste. In fact, research shows that water has a crucial role to play in detoxing the body by removing waste products (6). By staying hydrated, you can do your part to ensure toxins are removed naturally through sweating, breathing, and urination.

3. Consume less sugar

The news that sugar is harmful to your health probably doesn’t come as a big surprise. Along with leading to weight gain, excessive sugar consumption can boost your odds of developing serious illnesses like cancer, diabetes and heart disease (7). Additionally, consuming foods with added sugar can lead to fatty liver and other conditions that impact your body’s ability to detox naturally (8). If you want to ensure your organs do their part to filter out waste and toxins, start by swapping out processed foods and sugars in favor of fruits and vegetables.

4. Focus on gut health

It’s tough to be happy when your stomach is upset. If you want to improve health, taking steps to boost gut wellness is a good first step. Intestinal cells utilize their own detoxification and excretion system to rid the body of toxins (8). Moreover, fasting or consuming an unhealthy diet can cause the bacteria in your gut to become unbalanced. Fortunately, you can improve your gut’s effectiveness by consuming foods that are rich in fiber. If your detox diet means you aren’t getting enough of this all-important substance, consider supplementing withprobiotics. Along with easing stomach issues, probiotics can improve nutrient absorption and even help strengthen your immune system.

Should you take supplements while detoxing?

There’s no substitute for consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, protein and healthy fats. Still, the reality of daily life means many of us are too busy to prepare healthful, balanced meals on the regular. Additionally, a detox diet can affect your ability to consume the requisite amount of vitamins and nutrients on a daily basis. For this reason, nutritionists recommend taking supplements to make up for any deficits in your nutrition (9).

Best supplements for a safe detox

It’s clear that supplements can help you stay healthy while detoxing. Still, debate exists about which vitamins and minerals are most important for eliminating toxins and maintaining health and wellness. Along with a daily vitamin, here are some of the best supplements to take when embarking on a detox diet.

Chlorella

A kind of algae, chlorella yields a wide range of nutritional perks. In fact, animal studies have shown that taking this supplement increases the body’s ability to eliminate heavy metals and other toxins (10).

Magnesium

Many of the foods we consume are rich in magnesium. However, if a detox diet is affecting your nutritional intake, you might want to add a magnesium supplement to your daily routine. Known for promoting healthy bones while boosting energy, magnesium is also crucial to muscle and nerve function (11). Additionally,magnesium can help improve sleep, thereby restoring some of the energy lost as a result of dieting and fasting.

Iron

Iron is an essential mineral, providing benefits like increased energy and healthier blood. However, numerous factors may impact the amount of iron you’re getting, including pregnancy, menstrual cycles and dietary habits. Additionally, the fact that you’re taking a multivitamin doesn’t mean you’re consuming the requisite amount of iron on a daily basis. If you’re beginning a detox diet, you may want to consider adding an iron supplement to your vitamin regimen. You can also increase the amount of black beans, broccoli, turkey and salmon you’re consuming to boost iron levels naturally.

Apple cider vinegar

The popularity of apple cider vinegar has risen significantly in recent years, and for good reason. Research and anecdotal evidence both show that apple cider vinegar may help with weight loss. In fact, studies have demonstrated that rats who drank apple cider vinegar every day lost more weight and fat than those in the control group (12). Studies involving human participants suggest that consuming apple cider vinegar after eating can make users feel fuller — a valuable effect when detox dieting — and lower LDL and cholesterol levels (13, 14).

Despite the health benefits associated with apple cider vinegar, those interested in this supplement need to exercise caution. If you’re drinking apple cider vinegar in its liquid form, be sure to dilute it with water. After all, ACV is highly acidic, and consuming it undiluted can burn your mouth, irritate your throat or even erode your tooth enamel.

Luckily, there’s an alternative to drinking apple cider vinegar straight from the bottle. Easy to take and transport,apple cider vinegar pills are rich in antioxidants known to counteract cell-damaging reactive oxygen species, or ROS. In this way, they act as a natural detoxifier. For best results, choose an ACV supplement that contains organic ginger root, which also acts as an antioxidant. As a bonus, apple cider vinegar may help mitigate the harmful effects of type 2 diabetes and boost immune health.

In summary

Though the body can remove toxins and other waste naturally, it doesn’t mean you can’t help the process along. You can support your body’s natural detoxification efforts by consuming a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water. Strive to stay away from alcohol and sugar, both of which can hinder your efforts. Additionally, a detox diet can confer a number of benefits when executed safely, including expedited weight loss and increased health and wellness.

Detox dieters can also protect their health — and achieve their wellness goals faster — by taking supplements. The fact is that embarking on a detox diet usually means cutting out foods and significantly limiting calories. As a result, you might be lacking the hydration and nutrients needed to protect your health. If you’re planning to detox diet, think about adding supplements like iron and apple cider vinegar to your daily routine. Whenever possible, strive to get the majority of your vitamins from whole foods and avoid following any weight loss routine that seems extreme. When it comes to diet and health, moderation is key. Consider speaking to your doctor before detoxing to ensure you’re making the right choices for your specific nutritional needs and goals.

April Maguire - Contributing Writer, Physician's Choice