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How many of you made big promises to yourself about what you were going to do in the new year and have already broken them?

I came into the office on Monday, refreshed and ready for a new year with the decision I was going to quit sugar. I was going to have glowing skin, shiny hair, heightened mental agility and life would be just that bit more perfect. That day, all I ate was lolly cake (I don’t even like lolly cake.)

Lots of my friends started 2017 with similar goals and failed just as quickly.

The most popular resolutions revolve around weight loss and of those, detoxes are startlingly popular.

Every year hundreds of thousands of people around the world buy juice cleanses, pill detoxes, green smoothie diets and all sorts of other crazy programs.

The idea that we are constantly exposed to toxins (defined as a substance that causes harm to cells), is perfectly true. Smog, alcohol, smoking (second hand smoke is almost as bad), exhaust fumes, drugs (the legal & illegal kind), pesticides on fruits & veges, additives in food and much more all end up in our bodies and could cause harm on a cellular level.

However, unless you are in truly bad shape, imbibing large amounts of alcohol, sugar, junk food and who knows what else on a daily basis, chances are, your body is doing just fine at keeping itself ‘toxin free’. Your liver, kidneys & intestines are pros at removing substances your body doesn’t want and if you are otherwise healthy, it’s very unlikely you need to do anything drastic at all. Your body does need to be given the right nutrients & proteins for this process to be at optimum efficiency, but a healthy balanced diet should cover this.If there are serious problems, a detox isn’t going to help and you need to see a doctor.

Keen to avoid toxins in the first place? Don’t smoke, avoid spending great periods of time in built-up city environments, limit your alcohol intake, stop eating processed foods, avoid using synthetic fragrance sprays around the home and keep an eye on your personal care ingredients.

Five myths about toxins & detox diets:

“The fastest way to lose weight is by going on a 7 day juice cleanse and then I’ll just eat healthily afterwards.”

You will undoubtedly lose a significant amount of weight if you religiously drink juice for a week. But the majority of it is water, alongside muscle (the first thing your body turns to for energy when deprived) meaning your body composition will be worse off after you finish, usually leading to a slower metabolism. You will also miss out on vital nutrients and vitamins and you’ll probably feel feel pretty horrendous throughout.

Chances are you won’t be able to keep the weight off either, as soon as you start eating (healthy or otherwise), you will just put the majority off it back on again.

Not to mention, how many plastic bottles does a 7 day juice cleanse use!?

“Cosmetics & body care products contain toxins that are absorbed into your bloodstream and accumulate in your body tissues.”

Firstly, as I said above, your body is perfectly capable of ridding itself of the vast majority of ‘toxins’.

Secondly, the idea that you absorb more than 60% of what you put on your body is pure nonsense. It varies per substance as some are better at penetrating the various layers of your skin than others, but a blanket statement such as the above is scaremongering. If it was true, every time you showered you would drown.

There are certainly some ingredients I recommend people look out for and try to avoid in their personal care products (see here for the list of stuff we don’t use) but often this is due to the havoc they create on your skins surface, or because they are produced unsustainably. A few ingredients do have some indications that they can cause harm in some situations. But the vast majority of ingredients are perfectly safe, your body doesn’t absorb them anyway, and they certainly don’t tend to accumulate in your bodily tissues.

“Juices & pills are a great way to get my daily fix of fruit & veges.”

Oh how I wish this was true. How much easier would it be to juice 3 carrots, a few spinach leaves, an apple or two or pop a couple of pills, then spend the rest of the day eating chocolate cake? Unfortunately, juicing removes fibre (which helps keep you regular by moving things along in your gut), which some evidence suggests removes a group of nutrients called polyphenol phytonutrients. You are also getting a hefty dose of sugar and in prepared juices your vitamin content will be down due to exposure to oxygen and UV light.

Vitamins & nutrients in pills are often synthetic and have a poor bioavailability, meaning if your body can use them at all, they are poorly absorbed. The cofactors and enzymes in a whole food are necessary for a cells healthy function and these are not often found in pills and powders.

“Detox diets remove toxins.”

Undoubtedly, there are people out there who will go on an extreme short term diet and feel better. There are also plenty who don’t. But the evidence that these diets actually remove toxins simply isn’t there. They won’t remove ‘mucoid plaques’ from your bowel (not a thing by the way) or heavy metals (if you are unlucky enough to have problems with the latter, again, you need proper medical treatment and chelation, not a couple of green juices.)And they certainly won’t do anything for your health long term.

‘You need to unclog your organs and give your body chance to cleanse”

If your organs are physically clogged, you need a hospital, not a bottle of juice.

I absolutely get the desire to refresh, renew and restart, particularly around this time of year and particularly if you’ve had a really indulgent Christmas. And there is evidence to suggest that fasting is medically beneficial (under the supervision of a medical professional.) But, by-and-large, the key to being happy and healthy long term is a healthy balanced diet, regular exercise, a supportive, enriching environment and being surrounded by those you love. Not a short but intense course of juices, pills or ghastly green potions which deplete your body of nutrients, water and often muscle.