Hidden Dangers of Trendy Detox Diets

Chances are, at one time or another, you bought into a fad diet, pill, powder, or liquid cleanse that promised “amazing weight loss results!”  And when many of these trendy cleanses are backed by the results of stunning celebrities—I’m looking at your Master Cleanse, Beyoncé—they typically make regular people, like us, rush out and spend outrageous amounts of money on a diet that hasn’t been tested or health certified.

While many people might attempt a detox diet because they hope to rid their bodies of chemical toxins and processed ingredients as well as shed a few pounds; the problem is a sudden lack of calories and energy in your diet will leave you malnourished and starving.

While it might make sense that the less you eat; the more weight you’ll lose, depriving our bodies of adequate nourishment in order to achieve weight loss is just plain dangerous.

Here are 10 hidden dangers of trendy detox diets…

Vitamin Deficiency

When you’re ingesting little more than water infused with a little bit of fruit essence, the body is burning energy with no food to replenish from. What occurs is a vast absence of vitamins and nutrients, which can become dangerous if it lasts over a week. For instance, a lack of vitamins and nutrients can cause weakness, headaches, heart palpitations, irritability, memory loss, collapse, eyesight issues, and leave the body prone to infection.

Muscle Deterioration

Restricting nourishment over a long-period of time will eventually put your body in starvation mode, as if you were in a famine situation. This means that the body will preserve fat cells and start taking energy (calories) from your lean muscle tissue in order to function. As the body eats away at your muscles, your metabolism will slow down to a crawl and it will be even harder to burn calories once you start eating again.

Heart Palpitations

Detoxes or crash diets of any kind that limit caloric intake will often cause an irregular heartbeat due to a dangerous electrolyte imbalance. Electrolytes, which are responsible for powering the nerve and muscle functions in the body will often cause heart-related issues (i.e., arrhythmias) if levels are depleted over the long-term.

Hair Loss & Thinning

Depriving the body of essential vitamins and minerals will often cause the hair to thin, become dehydrated, brittle, and eventually fall out. A healthy diet plays a large role in the cycle of hair growth. Lack of nutrients will not only cause hair to grow at a slower pace; it will stop new hairs from forming to replace lost hair.


You’ll notice that missing a meal will often cause you to be irritable, moody, and downright ready to rip the closest person’s head off. This is a big reason why detox diets exacerbate low blood sugar followed by depressive symptoms if maintained over a long period. Lack of nutrients like folic acid and vitamin B12 will often cause low energy and melancholy.

Abdominal & Digestive Pain

Liquid diets that don’t factor in enough zinc, protein, vitamin A and vitamin B will often result in explosive, liquid diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal swelling, and pain in the intestinal lining. These particular nutrients help coat the intestinal lining to make bowel movements smooth and comfortable. Obviously, a lack of these same nutrients can make digestion and bowel movements painful and dysfunctional.

Reduced Immune System

As your body grows accustomed to depleting vitamin and calorie stores, it will naturally shut down certain systems—including the immune system—leaving you victim to exterior bacteria and viruses, infections, and illnesses.

Skin Health

In addition to risking those thick, shiny locks of hair, starving your body and depleting its nutrient stores will also wreak havoc on your skin. Sudden bouts of acne may crop up, and skin will become pasty, dehydrated, flaky, and void of healthy color due to severe vitamin A and E deficiency.


Restrictive diets and detoxes will often result in iron deficiency and lead to anemia, a deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood, due to limiting iron rich foods like lean red meat, or restricting yogurt, almonds, legumes, and nuts, which all encourage iron absorption.


Any severe change in diet that limits the intake of essential vitamins and nutrients can leave the body prone to gallstones. This occurs during periods of rapid weight loss when fasting or detoxing causes the body to excrete extra cholesterol as it produces bile, which may result in gallstones.

Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Julie Ching is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator in Los Angeles. She decided to become a Dietitian after traveling through Europe, South America, and Asia and discovered a passion for food. She now works with people of all ages and varying disease states to improve their health. She is passionate about teaching people about nutrition so they can live their best life while still considering their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.