Is Detoxing Really a Myth?

As we go into the New Year, detox diets claiming to cleanse and purify the body are everywhere. But can you really detox - or is it a myth? Get-Fit Guy digs through the evidence to uncover the facts about detoxing.

Ben Greenfield
5-minute read
Episode #216


Last week, The Guardian released an article entitled, "You can’t detox your body. It’s a myth. So how do you get healthy?"

In the article, author Dara Mohammadi said:

“…detoxing – the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam. It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.”

So is this true? Is detoxing just a sham?

As we go into the New Year, when diets are all the rage, it’s important to know the truth about detoxing, and in this episode, you’re going to discover whether detoxing is really a myth.

What Are Toxins?

It’s important to begin with an understanding of what toxins actually are. No matter how “clean” you live your life, just about everybody shows some evidence of a build-up of toxins. When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted the Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, they found some pretty shocking results.

On average, the CDC’s report found 212 chemicals in people’s blood or urine, 75 of which had never before been measured in the U.S. population. The chemicals included:

  • Acrylamide - formed when foods are baked or fried at high temperatures and as a byproduct of cigarette smoke
  • Arsenic - found in many home-building products
  • Environmental phenols - including bisphenol A (found in plastics, food packaging and epoxy resins) and triclosan (used as an antibacterial agent in personal care products such as toothpaste and hand soap)
  • Perchlorate - used in airplane fuel, explosives, and fireworks
  • Perfluorinated chemicals - used to create non-stick cookware
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers - used in fire retardants found in consumer products such as mattresses
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - found in paints, air fresheners, cleaning products, cosmetics, upholstery fabrics, carpets, dry-cleaned clothing, wood preservatives, and paint strippers

When combined, these chemicals can potentially present a toxic burden to the human body and, as the CDC has found, can accumulate in your blood, urine, and tissues. While your body does actually have detoxification organs that can process many of these chemicals and toxins (your liver and kidneys), exposure to these chemicals can potentially cause medical problems if your liver and kidneys are not functioning properly or are overburdened with a poor diet.

How Do You Detox?

While the kidneys are indeed an important filtration mechanism for removing waste and excess water from the body, it’s the liver that has the crucial job when it comes to detoxification. Along with filtering your blood to remove toxins, your liver uses a two-phase process to break down chemicals and toxins. During phase 1, toxins are neutralized and broken into smaller fragments. Then, in phase 2, they are bound to other molecules, creating new non-toxic molecules that can be excreted in your bile, urine, or stool.

But in order for this liver detoxification to work properly, your body must have adequate nutrients. If not, the phase 1 and phase 2 processes may not work properly, which can leave toxic substances to build up in your body. There are specific nutrients that support both pathways.

For example......


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.