Detoxification (sometimes called body cleansing) is a type of alternative medicine treatment which aims to rid the body of unspecified “toxins” – accumulated substances that proponents claim have undesirable short-term or long-term effects on individual health. Activities commonly associated with detoxification include dieting, fasting, consuming exclusively or avoiding specific foods (such as fats, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, juices, herbs, or water), colon cleansing, chelation therapy, and the removal of dental fillings.

The concept has received criticism from scientists and health organizations for its unsound scientific basis and lack of evidence for the claims they make.[1] The “toxins” usually remain undefined, with little to no evidence of toxic accumulation in the patient. The British organisation Sense About Science has described some detox diets and commercial products as “a waste of time and money”,[2] while the British Dietetic Association called the idea “nonsense” and a “marketing myth”.

Suspicions of the inefficacy of purging became widespread by the 1830s.[4] Biochemistry and microbiology appeared to support auto-intoxication theory in the 19th century, but by the early twentieth century detoxification-based approaches quickly fell out of favour.[5][need quotation to verify][6] Even though abandoned by mainstream medicine, the idea has persisted in the popular imagination and amongst alternative medicine practitioners.[7][8][9] Notions of internal cleansing had resurgence along with the rise of alternative medicine in the 1970s and following; it remains unscientific and anachronistic.