Is Detox a Dirty Word

Is Detox a Dirty Word
Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

Detox is often a dirty word in dietitian circles. There’s limited scientific support that your body must “cleanse”, there’s potential for medical issues, and going for a quick fix is often frowned on.

But is detoxing really that bad? What’s hot in detox? And what do you really need to know before you go for it after the silly season of ingesting far too much of everything?

In my 20 years of experience as a dietitian, I’ve seen many variations of detox diets come and go – from Liver Cleansing to the Master Cleanse (with the master of all side effects like headaches, fatigue, bad breath, nausea, constipation, and more from consecutive days drinking only lemon or cayenne pepper spiked fluids).

But times are a-changing. The surge in popularity of new nutrition terms like raw food diets, green smoothies, and clean eating has merged many approaches together. And the popular fasting diets of 2013, like the 5:2 Diet, have lent some scientific support to the idea of going without for 1-2 days per week. So what should you look out for if deciding to detox?


If you’ve definitely been overindulging at Christmastime it is time to pull in the reins. But there’s no need to go cold turkey. Ditch the alcohol and treats and focus on naturally nutrient-rich wholefoods close to the natural source, smaller portions, and mindful eating.

Monitor your caffeine intake and gradually decrease back to 2-3 cups of coffee a day or less. Or switch that daily double shot for green tea with a small level of caffeine to avoid those killer withdrawal headaches. If you do want to try fasting, go for a single day at a time with plenty of fluids, if you’re in generally good health.


Be careful with popular tea-based drinks and programs claiming to drop weight fast and “colon cleanse”. Many contain harmless herbal derivatives such as gingseng, yerba mate, goji berries, and acai powder. But others have additional offerings like senna leaf and root, psyllium, and rhubarb root, which are basically laxatives in disguise.

Teatoxes can be just like the dangerous diet practices of pill-popping 1960s housewives. Overdo a Teatoxes program and you may disrupt the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill, suffer medical side effects and tip over into seriously disordered eating patterns like orthorexia.


Did you get a new age blender or juicer for Christmas? Whether it’s a niche, cold-pressed concoction from a hipster café or your own homegrown combo, everyone loves juice. Just be mindful of too juicy to be true health claims of turning back the years or the pre-Christmas kilos.

Juicing can be a great way to slip in more plant foods if you go for at least 50 percent vegetable content – try kale, beetroot, cucumber, carrots, tomato, and spinach. Plus add in culinary aromatics like mint or fresh ginger for antioxidant activity and a fiber boost like soluble chia seeds.

Just remember a jumbo juice can add up to jumbo kilojoules and may not have the same hunger-busting effect of munching and crunching through the same quantity of fruit and veg.


Now we are certainly not suggesting you turn away from social media (or The Hoopla!)  but the coming New Year is the time to assess if your whole lifestyle is healthy. Remember that there is no miracle detox tea, supplement, or plan that will cancel out months of overworking, overeating, lack of exercise, running on anxiety or adrenaline, being disconnected with nature, and most importantly, real relationships in the real world.

Take the time to leave the phone at home, walk to the local park, and brainstorm your balance for 2021.

Ricarda Rutter

*Ricarda Rutter is a Ten News reporter. She’s an award-winning and Walkley nominated journalist. She has worked at the SBS, ABC, and Triple R.Rutter is a mother and a wife.