If your diet has comprised fast food and alcohol for far too long, you may be tempted to try a detox cleanse to help rid your body of toxic substances and jump-start your journey to a healthier you. However, not only is there no scientific evidence to support the claim that limiting your intake to only fresh juice or a special tea rids your body of harmful substances, but a chance exists that it might even make you sick. Before you fall prey to the detox cleanse circulating your office or circle of friends, consult your doctor to discuss benefits and risks of following such a diet.
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What Is a Detox Cleanse?
Detox cleanses come in a variety of forms, including drink concoctions made with lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper; fresh juice blends; or special detox teas. They typically require you to abstain from consuming anything other than your special drink. Cleanses can last from three to 10 days or longer, according to a 2008 article published in Today's Dietitian. Although calories vary depending on the type of cleanse you're following, they may provide 800 calories or fewer a day.
Hunger and Fatigue
You may not be surprised to learn that hunger is a common complaint in people following a very low-calorie diet similar in calories to a detox cleanse. According to a 2006 review article published in Obesity Reviews, hunger does not typically abate when following such a restrictive diet.
In addition to hunger, you may also feel tired when following a detox cleanse, which affects your activity level and may decrease your metabolism, says the 2006 article in Obesity Review.
Unhealthy Weight Loss
One of the positive side effects of a detox cleanse is weight loss. However, according to the same review article in Obesity Reviews, you're not losing fat weight on such a severe diet, but precious muscle mass. The loss of your muscle may make you feel weaker, which may in turn further decrease your overall activity level. Also, the less muscle you have, the lower your metabolism, which might make it even harder for you to lose weight once you stop your cleanse.
Gastrointestinal Side Effects
Diarrhea is a common side effect of a detox cleanse. In fact, proponents of these types of diet plans claim that the diarrhea is a sign your body is ridding itself of toxic substances. However, the diarrhea is more likely caused by the sugar from your fresh juice or an herbal substance in your detox tea, such as senna, dandelion or licorice, which can have a laxative effect.
Dangerous Side Effects
A detox cleanse can be harmful to your health. The Today's Dietitian article reports that a long-term detox diet that is not closely supervised by a medical professional may lead to a severe electrolyte imbalance, which may cause life-threatening heart problems. Additionally, long-term use of a detox tea with a natural laxative may affect your digestive system and create a dependency on laxatives for bowel movements.
Detox Cleanse Not for Everyone
Some people should avoid detox cleanses altogether because of its potential impact on their overall health. A detox cleanse for teens, for example, may affect growth and is not recommended. People with chronic illnesses, such as heart disease or diabetes, and pregnant women should also avoid detox cleanses.
- KidsHealth: Are Detox Diets Safe?
- Today's Dietitian: Spring Cleansing: Assessing the Benefits and Risks of Detox Diets
- Obesity Reviews: Fasting -- The Ultimate Diet?
- PDR Health: Diarrhea
- MedlinePlus: Senna
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Dandelion
- Purdue University: Licorice
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Very Low-Calorie Diets
- Live Science: 4 Myths About Juice Cleansing