Risks. The diet is lacking in protein, fatty acids, and other essential nutrients. Carbohydrates supply all the calories — an extremely low 600. The daily laxative regimen can cause dehydration, deplete electrolytes, and impair normal bowel function. It can also disrupt the native intestinal flora, microorganisms that perform useful digestive functions. A person who goes on this diet repeatedly may run the risk of developing metabolic acidosis, a disruption of the body's acid-base balance, which results in excessive acidity in the blood. Severe metabolic acidosis can lead to coma and death.



Purpose. Clinicians sometimes recommend nasal irrigation to rid the nose of environmental irritants, alleviate post-nasal drip, and reduce congestion from colds and allergies by flushing mucus, foreign particles, bacteria, and viruses out of the sinuses. Daily nasal irrigation is promoted for preventing sinus infections and headaches.


The detox programs now being promoted to the health-conscious public are a different matter. These are largely do-it-yourself procedures aimed at eliminating alleged toxins that are held responsible for a variety of symptoms, including headache, bloating, joint pain, fatigue, and depression. Detox products are not available by prescription; they are sold in retail stores, at spas, over the Internet, and by direct mail. Many are advertised as useful for detoxifying specific organs or systems; others are portrayed as "whole body" cleansers. Here is a review of some of the most widely promoted procedures and products.

Evidence of effectiveness. Pressurized oxygen has long been used in treating people with respiratory distress or chronic lung conditions like emphysema, because their lungs cannot extract enough oxygen from normal air. Since the late 1990s, detox spas and oxygen bars have been marketing a short version of the treatment to healthy people. There is no evidence that healthy lungs need more oxygen than is contained in normal air to supply the body with adequate oxygen. (The FDA has warned that it is illegal to administer oxygen from a tank without a prescription, but most states have failed to enforce the ruling, enabling oxygen bars to thrive.)

Purpose. To restore energy, lose weight, and relieve symptoms of chronic conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia.

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.




Before it was co-opted in the recent craze, the word "detox" referred chiefly to a medical procedure that rids the body of dangerous, often life-threatening, levels of alcohol, drugs, or poisons. Patients undergoing medical detoxification are usually treated in hospitals or clinics. The treatment generally involves the use of drugs and other therapies in a combination that depends on the type and severity of the toxicity.


Purpose. The aim is to eradicate parasites and expel fecal matter that allegedly accumulates and adheres to the intestinal walls.