The Real Truth About Health ‘Cleanses’

Q: Everyone I know seems to be on a “cleansing” diet of some kind. What are they?

A: Cleansing diets, also called detox diets, are all the rage right now. Most cleanses require liquid meals of either smoothies, shakes or juice. Some are food-based, but the type of food is strictly regulated either by type or portion size. Each cleanse has its own rules, and they can be quite complex.

People who try cleansing diets usually do it for one of two reasons: quick weight loss or a concern that the body has built up toxins that need to be purged.

Q: Can a detox diet really help reset my digestive system, clear up my skin, or give me more energy?

A: Maybe, but it probably won’t be the specific diet that helps. Instead, it may just be the effect of changing an unhealthy way of eating. The claim that any eating regimen will purge the body of toxins has no medical or scientific basis.

Q: How about weight loss? My friend says she lost 10 pounds in two weeks!

A: She probably did if she stuck with the diet that long, but that will happen because of dehydration and caloric restrictions.

Even if you lose a lot of weight during a cleanse, the water weight will return. And after a restrictive diet, you may reward yourself with sweets, causing you to gain more weight than you lost.

Q: But are cleansing diets safe?

A: People cleanse to reset the body, but you’re actually just denying it the nutrients it needs.

For the average healthy person, a cleanse is a relatively harmless exercise that won’t harm them all that much. But it’s a bad idea for others, such as those with undiagnosed kidney disease or a hidden heart condition.

Q: So if a cleanse isn’t the answer, what is?

A: Improving your diet. It may not have the spectacular results of a short-term cleanse, but it has real, long-term health benefits.

Try eating fruits, veggies, lean meats, yogurt and whole grains, and drinking a lot of water. That’s all the cleansing your body needs.