Detoxes & Cleanses: Breaking it Down
As a dietitian, I am often asked about detoxes, cleanses, and over the counter diet aids. The bottom line is that if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Many products sold online, in stores, at spas and through multilevel marketing companies (i.e. Advocare) promise to “cleanse” or “detoxify” your body. Dietary supplements are poorly regulated, and the people selling these products may not understand the science behind them or are just trying to make a profit. In general, detoxes and cleanses don’t promote health, and there is little evidence or research that “detoxification” actually occurs. The level of effort needed to follow certain guidelines is typically high, with strict limitations regarding what food may be consumed, how it needs to be prepared and in what combinations it needs to be eaten. Strong suggestions also accompany the use of pills, powders, tea, etc.
Our body, specifically our liver, does a fantastic job of “detoxifying” what we eat and drink and, thereby, making nutrients ready to be absorbed into the bloodstream. If you are generally healthy and free of disease, your body is detoxing itself around the clock.
Quick 3, 7, 10 or 24 day cleanses/ detoxes do not produce long-term health results. To improve your health, don’t follow a cleanse or detox. Instead, make a commitment to eat healthy by increasing fruit, vegetable and water intake. Exercise on a regular basis, and cut back on fast food and excess sodium intake. Take time to prepare more homemade meals using whole foods and healthy ingredients.
For most of us, a healthy diet, regular physical activity, adequate water intake, proper stress management and sufficient sleep are all we need to maintain good health. If the goal is to lose weight or just to feel better, don’t waste your effort on detoxing. However, if you are experiencing unexplained fatigue, gastrointestinal stress such as bloating, pain, changes in bowel function or unexplained weight loss/ gain, visit your doctor instead of trying over the counter remedies or following your friends advice to go “gluten-free”.
Source: Harvard Health Publications 2008.