"Lose weight fast."
"Get that beach body in only a few weeks."
"Detox your body of all the toxins and be healthy."
Sound familiar? Unless you avoided the internet for the past five years, you’ve heard those lines at least once.
They speak right to everyone's dream: have the perfect body and be healthy with minimal effort.
Still unsure what on Earth we're talking about? Cleanses, of course. You may also know them as detox diets. If you read the wrong sources, you'll believe they're the solution to all your problems.
So...are cleanses good for you? They're not all bad. But they can harm you if you're not careful. Plus, for most people, cleanses are not necessary. Your body does a pretty good job on its own. Here's the good, the bad, and the ugly about cleanses.
What exactly is a cleanse?
A cleanse or a detox is usually a short diet that promises to "flush" toxins out of your body. Depending on what type of cleanse you're on, there might also be the promise of "melting" some pounds.
People usually go on these diets to
- lose weight quickly
- compensate for a period of indulgence, such as after a holiday
- get healthier
Types of cleanses
There are many types of cleanses, so we'll focus on some of the most popular, such as
- juice/liquid cleanses
- colon cleanses
- eliminating certain food groups
The one thing they have in common is they are restrictive. You can expect to feel hungry while doing such a cleanse. Not only that, but you might also be missing some essential nutrients.
The exception can be the diets where you only remove certain foods or allergens. For instance, a diet that eliminates gluten, alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, or sugar can be healthy when done correctly.
Juice cleanses are more drastic. While on such a diet, you'll consume nothing but liquids. Usually, these are fruit and vegetable juices. Water and unsweetened tea are also allowed.
Fasting diets range from intermitted fasting – abstaining from food for a few hours – to complete fasting for 1-3 days.
Colon cleanses are usually required before a medical procedure. They can be very restrictive, but they’re a necessary evil. Make sure to follow your doctor’s advice.
Are cleanses good for you?
The answer depends on several factors such as
- the type of cleansing diet
- the duration
- any health conditions you have
- your overall lifestyle
A cleanse where you remove junk food from your diet will be helpful. Even a juice cleanse might be nice every once in a while. The key is to listen to your body.
It doesn't matter that you've eaten a lot of junk food during your vacation. The solution is not some crazy cleanse where you starve yourself for 3 days. That will do more harm than good.
It creates unnecessary stress in your body. It can even raise cortisol, which in turn can make you crave more food. The constant highs and lows in blood sugar can also cause an imbalance in your hormones.
Do cleanses remove any toxins?
Yes and no. Research gives little evidence as to what, if any, toxins are eliminated through such a diet.
And there is no evidence that these diets remove toxins more than your liver and kidneys already do.
The liver, for instance, can make a toxic substance harmless. Your body then continues its job and eliminates those substances.
Some foods and supplements may help your body function better. Acai, for instance, is a known antioxidant packed with vitamins and minerals. It can also help your liver and colon remove toxins faster. Remember, Acai and other supplements don’t replace a healthy diet, so don't rely solely on them.
Some toxins like BPA, phthalates, and persistent organic pollutants are harder to remove. They accumulate in fat tissue, and it can take years for them to be fully eliminated from your body.
Sadly, there is no evidence that cleanses help speed this process. The good news is that these substances are being used less and less, so it's easier to stay away from them.
Are cleanses effective for weight loss?
Yes, cleanses can help with weight loss. Unfortunately, this weight loss is usually short-lived.
That is a common effect of all restrictive diets. You might know it as the "yo-yo effect."
The acute calorie restriction helps you lose weight. But you'll gain it back as soon as you start eating normally again.
Also, a lot of the weight you lose during these cleanses is water weight.
Of course, a lot depends on the type of cleanse you're on. On juice cleanses, you're mostly losing water weight. And even if some fat is lost, it's a safe bet you'll gain most of it back sooner rather than later.
Intermittent fasting may be better at helping you keep the pounds off. But remember, fasting isn't for everyone, so make sure it is the correct lifestyle for you.
Benefits of doing a cleanse:
By now, you're probably wondering if a detox diet has any benefits. After all, many people swear by them. Are they all wrong? Or are cleanses good for you, at least partially?
There are some potential benefits. They include:
- avoiding processed foods
- reducing sugar
- avoiding alcohol
- temporary reduction of inflammation
- hydrating your body by drinking a lot of fluids
Benefits vary depending on the type of cleanse you choose. And they differ from person to person.
For instance, some people report sleeping better during a cleanse. For others, the extreme calorie restriction has the opposite effect.
Risks of cleanses and detox diets
The risks, like the benefits, depend on the type of cleanse you choose.
The dangers are minimal if you only eliminate sugar, alcohol, and other inflammatory foods. The one condition is that you eat a healthy amount of calories while you remove those foods.
Juice cleanses can be more drastic and pose more risks. They can mess up your metabolism, causing it to slow down. That, in turn, will make you gain weight faster in the future.
They can also impact your blood sugar levels. A lot depends on what juices you're drinking, but hypoglycemia while on a juice diet is not uncommon.
The risks are higher the longer you stay on such a diet. For instance, occasionally replacing one meal with a juice or a smoothie will not have any side effects on a healthy person. Replacing every meal for several consecutive days is a lot more dangerous.
Children and teenagers should avoid any detox diets that eliminate most food groups. The same goes for pregnant and lactating women, but also older adults.
People with diabetes should not attempt a cleanse without talking to a doctor first.
Finally, people with a history of eating disorders need to avoid cleanses. They can be triggering because many mimick the same restrictive behaviors seen in most eating disorders.
What should you do instead?
Eat healthily and move your body every day. Quick, restrictive diets do more harm than good.
You might get that beach body for one summer if you're lucky. But in the process, you could be messing up your metabolism. Slow metabolism means gaining weight quickly and losing it slower, so it's not something you want to strive for.
Do your best to eat a diet consisting of whole foods. Add some moderate workouts a few times a week. Make this your lifestyle, and you won't need to consider cleanses.
What if you splurge a little on certain occasions? Enjoy it! Then go back to eating your regular diet.
Do you feel like eating a little less the day following a bit of feast? Do you want to drink a few green juices? Then listen to your body and do it.
But if you feel fine, there's no need to torture yourself by doing a "detox." Your liver and kidneys will do their job.
Cleanses or detoxes are restrictive diets meant to help remove harmful toxins from your body.
Are they necessary? Generally speaking, no. Your body can do the job nicely through your liver and kidneys.
Are cleanses good for you? Sometimes. But not always. It all depends on the type of diet you choose, how long you stay on it, and your health in general.
If you decide to do a cleanse, remember to stay hydrated, be sure you don't start feeling weak, dizzy, or sick, and don't do it for more than 3 days.
Eating a healthy diet consisting of whole foods is much better in the long run. If you want to help your body, you can consider supplements like the Acai Natural Cleanse or the Acai Natural Burn. They can't replace a healthy diet, but they can sustain your body's natural processes.
This blog post does not provide health or medical advice. This blog post is for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional health or medical advice. Before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate medical and healthcare professionals. We do not provide any kind of health or medical advice. The use or reliance of any information contained on this blog is solely at your own risk.