A full body detox is a practice that some people believe can eliminate toxins from the body. Detoxing the entire body may involve following a particular diet, fasting, taking supplements, or using a sauna.

Detoxes can encourage habits that may enhance the body’s normal detoxification processes, such as eating a healthful diet, getting enough exercise, and staying hydrated.

However, there are also risks involved, and some detox products can be harmful.

This article looks at what a full body detox entails, the potential benefits and risks, and how to follow a detox safely.

A woman drinking green juice as part of a full body detox.Share on Pinterest
Hiraman/Getty Images

A full body detox, or cleanse, is a plan that people follow in an effort to eliminate toxins from the body.

Toxins, such as poisons or pollutants, are substances that negatively affect health. The body can already eliminate these substances on its own through the liver, kidneys, digestive system, and skin.

Proponents of detoxes claim that a detox can help with this process. There is no single definition of what a full body detox involves, but it may require a person to:

  • follow a specific diet
  • fast
  • drink more water or juices
  • use supplements
  • use colonic irrigation, enemas, or laxatives
  • use a sauna
  • reduce exposure to toxins in their environment

While some people believe that full body detoxes provide health benefits, they are not necessary for most people. The body already has its own highly efficient detoxification system to eliminate toxins from the body.

Sometimes, people have medical conditions that require help with detoxification. For example, people with heavy metal poisoning may undergo chelation therapy. This is a procedure that removes heavy metals from the body.

However, people who are healthy typically do not require additional help with detoxification.

While detoxes are not medically necessary for most people, under certain circumstances, they may offer some health benefits, such as:

  • Weight loss: A 2017 review notes that detoxification diets can result in weight loss. However, the researchers note that this is likely due to the severe calorie restriction of some diets.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Many detox diets may involve consuming fruits and vegetables. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, roughly three-quarters of people in the United States do not consume enough fruit and vegetables.
  • Hydration: Many full body detoxes also promote water consumption. Water is vital for health and helps the body remove waste through sweating, urination, and bowel movements.
  • Antioxidants: According to a 2014 review, some studies have found that certain detox diets can aid liver function and that certain foods can increase the antioxidant glutathione. Glutathione can help remove toxins, such as heavy metals, from the body. However, the researchers highlight that many of these studies had design flaws, involved a small number of participants, or were animal studies.

Many of the potential benefits of detoxes do not last long and end once a person resumes their normal diet. At present, research does not support the use of detox diets for either weight management or toxin elimination.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, some detoxes pose health risks by encouraging people to:

  • restrict food intake, leading to a lack of necessary nutrients
  • drink large quantities of juices or teas, which may lead to a dangerous electrolyte imbalance
  • drink juices that contain large amounts of oxalates, which may raise the risk for kidney problems
  • use detox products that contain laxatives, which may result in severe diarrhea and dehydration
  • try diet plans that exacerbate underlying conditions, such as diabetes

Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission have taken action against companies selling detox products, as some contain harmful or illegal ingredients.

People should always discuss supplements, detox products, and new diets with a doctor or dietitian before trying them.

If a person wishes to try their own version of a full body detox in order to feel healthier, there is a safer way to do so. In many cases, making simple changes to diet or lifestyle can improve general health.

Here are some ideas for how to support the body’s detoxification system.

Stop smoking or drinking

Tobacco smoke and alcohol both place strain on the body in various ways. Alcohol in particular affects the liver, which is the body’s main detoxification organ.

If a person smokes or drinks regularly, they can begin a detox by reducing these habits or stopping entirely.

Stay hydrated

Drinking enough water is important for general health and also for detoxification. How much water a person needs depends on their level of physical activity and age, among other factors.

Begin eating a nutrient-dense diet

Adequate nutrition allows the body’s detoxification system to work effectively. People should avoid refined carbohydrates, added sugars, and processed foods and try to include more:

Oily fish are another source of beneficial nutrients. However, it is important to note that some oily fish, such as tuna, can contain mercury. The FDA advise eating 2–3 servings of low-mercury fish or seafood per week.

Learn more about eating a balanced diet here.

Get enough sleep

Sleep allows the brain to remove toxic waste products that accumulate throughout the day. This makes adequate sleep an essential part of detoxification.

Learn about how much sleep a person needs here.

Improve indoor air quality

While it is not always possible for individuals to control pollution exposure outdoors, there are things people can do to reduce exposure indoors, such as:

  • asking household members to smoke outdoors
  • avoiding products that contain high amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as aerosols and air fresheners
  • keeping rooms well ventilated when someone is using solvents, household paints, and other DIY products
  • choosing carpets, couches, and mattresses that do not emit VOCs
  • addressing issues such as damp and mold
  • dusting regularly
  • using an air purifier with a HEPA filter

People can check the air quality in their area using AirNow.

Before a person attempts a full body detox or makes significant lifestyle changes, it is advisable for them to consult a healthcare professional.

It is also best to consult a doctor if a person is having ongoing symptoms that make them feel the need for a detox. These could be a sign of an underlying condition, which may require treatment.

If a person decides to try a full body detox and begins to feel unwell or experiences symptoms such as diarrhea, fatigue, dizziness, or vomiting, they should stop the detox and contact a doctor.

A full body detox aims to help the body eliminate toxins. However, there is not much evidence that they provide any long-term health benefits or that they are a sustainable way to lose weight.

Some types of detox recommend drastic dietary and lifestyle changes, while others involve using products that contain laxatives. These types of detoxes can be dangerous.

People can adopt a more balanced approach by using a detox as an opportunity to begin healthful habits, such as drinking more water, eating more fruits and vegetables, and stopping drinking or smoking. However, people should speak with a doctor before making any major changes.