- Detoxing by drinking juices, going on cleanses, or using other formulas is unnecessary and may be dangerous.
- Juicing fresh fruits and vegetables also strips them of some of their most beneficial ingredients.
It’s no surprise that detoxes and cleanses are all the rage this January. Who didn’t spend the holidays wishing for a way to rid their bodies of some of 2017’s toxic content?
The idea of a food or drink that can detoxify the body has a practical ring to it. Plenty of foods and beverages can speed up our digestion. But simply ingesting large amounts of these products – not to mention skipping out on solid foods altogether – doesn’t result in a cleaner system.
The original detox diet, called the Master Cleanse, was thought up in the 1940s by Stanley Burroughs as a “natural” way to treat stomach ulcers. It consists of a daily regimen of 6-12 glasses of water mixed with lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup, plus a laxative at bedtime. The method was never substantiated by any research.
Still, new versions of the classic cleanse have been popping up since the 1980s. The 2004 book “Take Charge of Your Health with the Master Cleanse,” promised dieters that after one week of abstaining from food, they would begin to feel “euphoric” and “serene.”
We could think of other words to describe the sensations of incipient starvation.
Other less-extreme alternatives to the Master Cleanse include juicing, but studies suggest that the costly regimen is has not been linked with any significant health outcomes and may instead be bad for you.
Juicing removes some of the healthiest parts of fresh produce
Practices like juicing remove the most nutrient-dense components of fruits and vegetables and may even set some people up for disordered eating habits.
When you turn produce into juice, you remove all of its fiber, the key ingredient that keeps you feeling full and satisfied until your next meal. But you keep the natural sugar – a bottle of one type of bottled green juice has more sugar than a can of Coke.
The effects of a diet that’s high in sugar, low in protein, and low in fiber can be felt quickly. You’re constantly hungry because there’s no fiber to fill you up. Meanwhile, the sugar you’re consuming temporarily raises your blood sugar, but with no protein to stabilize it, you wind up on a roller-coaster ride of high and low energy. And since your muscles feed on protein for energy, not ingesting any of it for long periods may cause you to lose muscle, according to an article in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.
Juicing is not cheap
Just a few days’ worth of juice on some cleanse plans would have you spending roughly $120 at the grocery store. Take the list of ingredients for this three-day juice cleanse from the “Dr. Oz Show”: four carrots, four apples (type not specified), two golden delicious apples, two 1-inch pieces of ginger, three cucumbers, six celery stalks, 14 kale leaves, half a lemon, one lime, four plum tomatoes, two red bell peppers, one-fourth of a small red onion, two cups of parsley, one large sweet potato, two large red beets, one orange, eight Swiss chard leaves, and six clementines.
That’s roughly $40 – and it represents just a single day on the three-day plan.
Premade juices cold-pressed juices also exist. They cost up to $8 for a 16-oz serving, putting your daily juice expenditure at $72.
Cleanses can mimic other dangerous eating habits
Another concern with detoxes is the way they can mimic unhealthy eating patterns. Some psychologists and dietitians worry that by having people severely restrict their eating or refrain entirely from some food groups, cleanses and detoxes can set people up for an eating disorder or worsen one that already exists.
“Maybe a patient tried it and became obsessed, or maybe the eating disorder was already there and the juicing became part of it,” Debbie Westerling, the director of nutrition services at a New York City eating disorder treatment clinic, told Marie Claire. At least half the patients in her clinic reported having tried a juice cleanse, she said.
Eating nothing but juice for several days may also bring back past eating problems, according to Megan Holt, a registered dietitian who wrote about cleansing in a recent post on her clinic’s website.
“I tend to discourage fasting because it can reactivate disordered eating behaviors, whether that’s restriction or feeling out of control with food or feeling disconnected from hunger and fullness cues when one does start to eat again,” Holt said.
You already have a natural detox system
Fortunately, detoxes and cleanses aren’t necessary.
Our kidneys filter our blood and remove waste from our diet. Our liver processes medications and detoxifies any chemicals we ingest. Together, these organs make our bodies natural cleansing powerhouses.
“Unless there’s a blockage in one of these organs that do it day and night, there’s absolutely no need to help the body get rid of toxins,” family physician Ranit Mishori of the Georgetown University School of Medicine told NPR. Mishori has spent years reviewing the medical literature on cleanses.
So in 2018, skip the detox and commit to healthy eating patterns that you can sustain.