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  • Writer's pictureMary Corso, RDN, CDN

Why Diet Cleanses or Detox Diets are Bogus

It’s that time of year again! The craziness of the holidays are over. Gone are the parties, cookie swaps, favorite holiday meals/desserts we just have to have every year. Something about a new year makes us all want to make improvements and that often includes cleaning up our diet and health. Over the years “detox diets” or “diet cleanses” have become super popular. The idea of “cleaning out” our bodies is appealing but is this necessary and most of all is it healthy?? (hint - Nope!!) Let’s take a close look!!


Detox or cleanse diets have grown in popularity due to their claim as a way to jump start a weight loss journey or to help clear the body out after over indulging. So what exactly is the definition of a true medical cleanse? The only approved “cleanse” in medicine is when chemicals are eliminated from the body. It has nothing to do with eliminating too much junk food or sweets we may have consumed. The FDA does not regulate any detox claiming to help with weight loss, energy levels, constipation, headaches, muscle soreness, etc.


Let’s break down some common detox or cleanse diets that are out there and that you have probably heard of.


  • Fasting - Fasting is when one abstains from eating for long periods of time. This detox claims that if you take a break from eating, harmful toxins will not build up in your body.


  • Liquid diets - This is when one only consumes specific juices or liquids for periods of time. The main idea here is weight loss due to calorie restriction.


  • Over exercising or saunas - This cleanse emphasizes “sweating it out” either by exercising excessively or utilizing a hot sauna.


  • Laxatives - Utilizing laxatives has been a long used technique where people feel that they are “cleaning” out their systems by trying to empty “oneself”.


Okay, so these are common detox or cleanse diets or practices that are currently out there. You may have heard from a friend or family member how great they worked for them. However there is currently no proven detox or cleanse proven to be effective.


What? How Come????


Well your body has its own detox system which includes several organs to help flush out toxins. No need to interfere with that! These detox systems include the following:


  • GI tract - which excretes waste products from the body.


  • Liver - The liver is your primary filtration system that processes and excretes waste from your body.


  • Kidneys - The kidneys excretes extra fluids that are removed from the body through the urine.


Some weight loss happens at first on a “detox” diet. This is usually just related to a decrease in calorie intake not because of a “cleanse”.


Why are cleanses/detox diets not encouraged?


  • Severe calorie restriction can cause negative health effects by compromising bone health as well as disrupting electrolyte imbalance.


Electrolyte imbalances can be serious as this can affect your heart health.


  • Overuse of laxatives can harm your colon. People who take laxatives can trigger inflammation that disrupts the natural function of the colon. Overusing laxatives can also cause colon infections, IBS and may increase your risk of colon cancer. There is also the risk of becoming dependent on laxatives, not being able to have bowel movements regularly without them.


  • Juice cleanses spike blood sugar. While on a juice cleanse you are not eating solid nutrient dense foods. This means your body does not have any form of long term energy. Instead juices cause blood sugar to spike briefly before dropping. This can be dangerous especially if you have diabetes, heart or liver problems.


So detox or cleanse diets promise health benefits like weight loss and getting rid of toxins from the body. However what they actually provide is quick weight loss that is not sustainable and can possibly be dangerous as well!


A better idea would be to adopt a healthier eating style by eating more fruits, veggies, and fiber. It also means staying away from highly processed, high fat and high sugar foods. Drinking plenty of water (8 cups per day!) helps as well. Our body has all the tools it requires to get rid of what it doesn't need! By feeding our body nutritious foods we help that process along!!


Until next time,

Mary Corso RDN,CDN


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