Do Detox Diets and Cleanses Work?
Dec 30, 2019 Katie Rosenblum
On the lifelong journey to health and wellness, it can be tempting to look for quick fixes and easy solutions.
There are juice cleanses, liquid-only cleanses, cleanses that require fasting, or cleanses that include specific foods. The shared component of these different cleanses is that they are all restrictive, limiting calories and nutrients.
"The best approach is eating whole foods, drinking water, and getting regular exercise."
Are there health benefits from a detox or cleanse?
These diets often sound like a good idea and claim to offer easy, attractive results. Supporters say they can rid the body of toxins, help you lose weight, and lower blood pressure or cholesterol.
But the truth is there is little to no research to support most of these claims. There's also no evidence to suggest you need to flush toxins from your body. Your body already has built-in processes to do this.
"There is little evidence to suggest that cleanse diets or products are beneficial for your health and can, in many cases, be harmful," says Cedars-Sinai primary care physician Dr. Teresa Dean.
"Calorie restriction tends to lower your metabolism when sustained longer than a few days," she says.
"Juicing diets or vegetable-only diets without healthy fats or proteins can lead to suppressing your metabolism and making it harder to keep losing weight in the long run."
Additionally, some detox products can cause damage to your intestines.
"Avoid colon cleanse products that are stimulant-based. Those can be really dangerous," says Dr. Dean. "It can worsen colon issues in the long-run because it can cause the colon to become overstimulated."
How to make healthy changes
If you really want to try a cleanse, there are some safer alternatives.
"A safe cleanse focuses on cutting out the bad stuff while still giving your body the stuff it needs," says Dr. Dean.
"Focus on whole foods. Taking time off from refined sugars and fast food or red meat is a safer option and still gives your body nutrients and sufficient calories to function properly."
Try focusing on a vegetable-based diet for a week or cleaning out your cabinets to get rid of processed foods and products with refined sugars, such as chips and cookies.
Instead of looking for a quick fix, Dr. Dean suggests making meaningful, long-term lifestyle changes to improve your overall health.
"Moderation is key in all things," she says. "The best approach is eating whole foods, drinking water, and getting regular exercise."
And remember to talk to your doctor before trying any new diet.