The Detox Downside

Detoxing your body is clearly hugely beneficial and can up your energy levels, make your eyes and skin brighter and help you lose weight; sounds great, right? Before you reach for the celery sticks and the juicer, just wait a second. Doing a full-on detox does have its negatives. There is absolutely no doubt that, if you stick with it, these will be heavily out-weighed by the positive gains, but it's important to be fully aware of what to expect when starting out on your detox journey.

What is a detox?

Shopping Bag(98302)Credit: Morguefile

In terms of the subject I'm addressing in this article, a detox refers to a period of time (anything from one week to three months depending on the plan you're following) in which you cut out any food or drink that is not from completely natural sources. This means nothing that contains wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, red meat, caffeine, alcohol or sugar and a serious increase in your intake of fruit and vegetables, particularly through fresh juices. Using a juice extractor is the best way to do this.

Detox side effects

As your body adjusts and begins to dispose of stored toxins via your elimination system, you may experience side effects such as headaches and tiredness. You can reduce these effects by starting your detox at a slow and steady pace; don't try to cut everything out at once to begin with. It's particularly common to suffer from withdrawal pangs when you cut out coffee; this should be one of the first things to go, so you can deal with it when your other symptoms are fairly mild.

Ok, let's get specific about the side effects you might experience on your detox.

Fatigue and head aches

  • You may feel very tired and have the occasional headache in the first few days of your detox. As I stated above this is particularly common when removing coffee or other stimulants from your diet. It may well be a case that you've masked an underlying fatigue by pepping yourself up with regular caffeine. Listen to your body and get a few early nights.
  • Tiredness and headaches can also occur when you remove food that you are intolerant to from your intake. If you have done this, drink plenty of water and give yourself plenty of time to rest. The withdrawal effects of removing food that you are intolerant to should pass within a few days.
  • Headaches can be relieved with head massages.
  • Energy should rebound by the end of the first week.

Feeling 'Spaced out' or light-headed

  • This is a sign that your blood sugar has fallen below normal levels. Make sure you are still eating three meals a day and healthy snacks in between to prevent this from happening. The best cure is to have a complex carbohydrate food combined with some protein (such as a dairy-free yoghurt with a banana and pumpkin seeds).
  • Feeling light-headed can be a sign that you are cleansing your body of toxins too quickly. Apply the detox at a slower rate to counteract the side effect.
  • Make sure you spend some time relaxing and avoid driving during any period of feeling 'spaced out'.

Changes in digestion

  • It's common to experience some changes in bowel functions during the first days of your detox. In fact this side effect is often very beneficial as it shows that old residues are being gently removed from your digestive tract.
  • Expect constipation for a couple of days after removing certain foods. Avoid laxatives and up your vitamin C intake as an alternative.
  • More frequent bowel movements should be expected if you are following a high-fibre detox. 2 or 3 bowel movements a day is normal.
  • It is also quite normal to have loose stools for a short time while your body adjusts.
  • Beetroot is high in minerals and vitamins and can work brilliantly as part of the detox, but be aware that it will change the colour of your stools.
  • You may have diarrhoea a couple of times during a detox. Again, this is perfectly normal. If you get diarrhoea more often, cut out psyllium, intestinal supplements, and MSM.

Changes in urine

  • If you take a multivitamin as a replacement for vitamins lost from meat, your urine may become more yellow. This is caused by the B vitamins and is perfectly normal.
  • You should be drinking far more water than normal so more regular trips to the toilet are likely.
  • Removing certain foods from your diet can shift excess fluid, meaning again that you will go to the toilet more often.
  • If you are prone to bladder infections, reduce the risk by drinking plenty of cranberry juice.


  • Although most detoxes are not designed to help you lose lots of weight, it is likely that you will. You should not cut down intake of food. Always eat three meals a day and plenty of healthy snacks.
  • Removing wheat from your diet will inevitably ease bloating, meaning that you will appear thinner.
  • Shifting excess fluid will result in weight loss, but this is not the same as fat.

Fruit and Veg(97371)Credit: MorguefileEmotional changes

  • Physical detox can result in emotional detox. Old emotions that have been buried under the surface may need to be dealt with and released. This doesn't necessarily happen to everyone; you may only experience positive changes.
  • Feeling irritable is normal as your blood-sugar level is dropping.
  • You may feel weepy. Allow yourself to have a bit of a cry and move on. It is positive to release your emotions in this way.

Further changes

  • Your tongue may become coated. This is a normal side effect when following a detox. Try using a tongue scraper to avoid bad breath.
  • Body odour may also become stronger. This simply means that your body is clearing waste through your skin and is normal.
  • You may have a bad taste in your mouth. Again, this is down to the toxins leaving your body. Use a mouth wash daily to cleanse the palate.

In this article I have very much focused on the downside of a detox. Most of the side effects of a detox are not negative. The benefits are normally massive and manifest themselves fairly quickly.