Show of hands: who has ever gone online, listened to the radio, or seen an ad of any kind advertising a cleanse. Is your hand up? Because ours definitely is.
One of the most pervasive trends that we see nowadays is advocating for doing a cleanse. While the influencers and ads may make cleanses feel completely necessary for “optimal health”, we want to get the facts straight. First, let’s start off with what exactly a cleanse is.
What is a cleanse?
A cleanse or detox eating program involves a period of following a regimen of strictly restricted eating with the goal of ridding the body of toxins. These eating plans claim that they will improve your health, increase energy, and promote weight loss.
Examples of popular nutrition cleanses
- Drinking only juices or similar beverages
- Eating only certain foods
- Using dietary supplements or other commercial products
- Using herbs
- Cleansing the colon (lower intestinal tract) with enemas, laxatives, or colon hydrotherapy (also called “colonic irrigation” or “colonics”)
are cleanses effective?
At this point in time, there is no evidence in the research that cleanses deliver on their claims to clear the body of toxins or provide lasting health benefits.
While some people do experience weight loss while doing a cleanse because of extremely restricted intake, that weight is regained once they resume their normal diet. We do not have any studies on the long-term effects of detox programs (1).
are cleanses safe?
While the research shows that cleanses don’t just fail to provide measurable results, it also shows they are potentially dangerous. The undesired and harmful side effects of cleanses are as followed (1):
- Supplement based cleanses are often unregulated
- Juice based cleanses can carry bacteria risk due to lack of pasteurization
- People with health conditions such as diabetes can experience dangerous side effects from going on an extremely restricted eating plan
- Drinking large amounts of fluid in place of food or utilizing detox products such as laxatives can increase risk electrolyte imbalances
- Juice cleanses and detox plans that involve cutting out entire food groups are extremely low in calories and deficient in important nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Common symptoms while participating on a cleanse include nausea, diarrhea, headaches and dizziness
Even though the detoxes and cleanses are marketed as “wellness” practices, they ultimately crash diets and aren’t safe or sustainable. Weight cycling can cause stress to your body. Cleanses also promote an all or nothing mindset around food and can encourage disordered eating .
your body's detox system
The best part about the human body is that it has a built in detox system! Introducing your kidney and liver.
Your kidney is a vital organ that removes wastes and extra fluid from your body. The kidney is tasked with removing acid that is produced by the cells of your body and maintaining a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals - like sodium, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium - in the blood.
Your liver is another essential organ that regulates chemical levels in the blood and excretes a product called bile which helps to carry away waste products from the liver. It’s also in charge of metabolizing drugs into forms that are easier to use for the rest of the body or that are nontoxic. After breaking down harmful substances, the liver’s by-products are excreted into the bile or blood. Bile by-products enter the intestine and leave the body in the form of feces. Blood by-products are filtered out by the kidneys, and leave the body in the form of urine.
Your body is a pretty cool, complex system. And, even without promoted detoxes or cleanses - it is always going to strive to make sure it is functioning properly.
Intuitive Eating > Cleanse
It is possible to be healthy without being consumed with the pursuit of health. Without eliminating complete food groups. You do not need to “reset” or “detox” your body which is wonderfully capable every day of maintaining balance, utilizing food for nourishment and cleaning waste from your system.
It takes courage to be the one person who is not partaking in a fad diet or isn’t compensating for eating sugar by going on a cleanse. We believe in you and your ability to find freedom in eating without guilt. It’s worth it! And you are not alone. Social media is bombarded with toxic dieting messages but we can instead choose positive, science-based, body respecting, self compassionate nutrition truths.
Instead, you can opt in to something different. Say no to the empty promises of the diet and wellness culture. Identify and, where you can, distance yourself from sources of toxic food and body messages. Prioritize self care and find positive outlets for coping with big feelings.
how NourishRX can support you
Here at NourishRX we want to support you as we weed through diet culture together. There is so much information online, it is overwhelming trying to figure out what makes the most sense for your unique needs. With our team of dietitians, you don't have to do it on your own. Let us be there with you!
- “‘Detoxes’ and ‘Cleanses’: What You Need to Know.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nccih.nih.gov/health/detoxes-and-cleanses-what-you-need-to-know. Accessed 16 Jan. 2024.