Like the other 70 percent of Americans struggling with their weight, you've probably tried many diets to help you drop those unwanted pounds. But if you're thinking the salt water diet may be the one for you, you may want to think again.
Drinking salt water to lose weight may not produce the type of weight loss you're looking for and may lead to serious health complications. If you're seeking a diet to help you get to a healthy weight, consult with a registered dietitian for guidance.
The Salt Water Diet
The salt water flush is actually part of The Master Cleanse, which is a "detox" plan that promises to help you lose weight fast, rest your digestive system and help your body heal. Compelling scientific evidence to support salt water detox diets is lacking.
Though there are many components of The Master Cleanse, the detox plan primarily consists of a beverage that contains a mix of water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper that you drink for 10 days while abstaining from all other foods. The salt water flush is an optional portion of the Master Cleanse.
According to the official Master Cleanse website, the salt water flush is a laxative that produces an almost-immediate bowel movement. The salt water cleanse consists of 2 teaspoons of sea salt mixed with 1 liter of pure water. The website says you need to drink the entire liter of salty water within five minutes and be in close proximity to the bathroom. Once the laxative takes effect, you may have as many as seven bowel movements within two hours after drinking your salt water flush.
The salt water laxative isn't new. According to the Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, mixing Epsom salts with water is a good home remedy for constipation. The salt softens the stool to make it easier to pass, and the magnesium supports the muscle contractions in your bowels that help move the stool through.
That being said, drinking salt water to lose weight may not produce long-lasting results. The only weight you'll be losing from a salt water cleanse is water weight from your excessive bowel movements. Once you rehydrate, all the weight will likely return.
Read more: How to Do the Cleansing Diet for One Week
Salt Water Flush Dangers
Losing weight isn't easy, which is why so many people turn to diets that promise fast results with little effort, like the salt water cleanse. But in addition to being an ineffective weight-loss plan, the salt water flush dangers make it a bad choice for your health.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, diarrhea is defined as having three or more watery stools in one day. Your salt water flush weight-loss plan may lead to as many as seven watery bowel movements. All that water loss in such a short period of time can leave your body dehydrated and cause symptoms such as extreme thirst, dizziness and fatigue.
The diarrhea from your salt water diet may also disrupt electrolyte balance in your body due to loss of essential electrolytes, such as potassium, sodium and magnesium, in your watery stool. These electrolytes help maintain fluid balance and your body's pH level, and they help move nutrients into your cells and move waste out. Electrolytes are also needed for the proper functioning of your nerves and muscles.
A severe imbalance in electrolytes can have serious health complications, leading to seizures, muscle cramps, kidney damage or low blood volume, which can be life-threatening, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Read more: Symptoms You May Experience During a Cleanse
The Truth About Diet Cleanses
Although cleanses and detox diets promoted by celebrities and TV doctors, there's no evidence to support the health claims surrounding them, according to the National Institutes of Health. NIH admits that cleanses like the salt water diet may help promote weight loss due to a decrease in total calorie intake, but most people regain the weight they've lost as soon as they resume their usual diet.
In addition to weight loss, diets like the salt water cleanse claim to help rid your body of toxins and harmful substances. After spending so much time in the bathroom after drinking your salty beverage, you may not want to hear that your drink didn't "cleanse" your colon or help your body get rid of toxic chemicals.
In fact, you never need to follow a special cleanse or detox plan to help your body get rid of harmful substances. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, your body naturally detoxifies itself -- all day, every day -- and rids your body of the toxic substances through respiration, urination, feces and sweat.
If you want to improve these natural detoxifying processes, fill your diet with the nutrient-rich foods your body needs to run effectively and efficiently, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean animal proteins and healthy fats. You may also want to add fermented foods to your diet, such as yogurt, kimchi or kefir, to keep your gut healthy. Drinking plenty of water also helps your body run at its best.
Healthy Weight Loss
For long-term weight maintenance and better health, drinking salt water to lose weight isn't the way to go. The NIH says a good weight-loss program should focus on more than just what you eat or don't eat. To finally lose the weight and keep it off, you need to find a plan that focuses on your health and includes techniques that promote lifestyle habits you can easily incorporate into your life and stick with every day.
For healthy weight loss, look for a program that:
- Includes a variety of foods from all the food groups you enjoy eating
- Provides lifestyle counseling to help you create healthy, lifelong habits
- Promotes slow and steady weight loss of no more than 2 pounds a week
- Encourages physical activity
- Provides a plan that helps you keep the weight off
Though you may have high expectations when starting a weight-loss plan, it's important to set realistic goals and develop strategies to help you get through your weight-loss hurdles. Setbacks are common, even after you've reached your weight-loss goal. But developing a plan that includes tools and techniques that keep you on track can help you reach a healthy weight and stay there for life.
- National Institutes of Health: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Choosing a Safe and Successful Weight-Loss Program"
- The Master Cleanse: "How To Master Cleanse and Lemonade Diet to Detox and Lose Weight 'F.A.S.T.'”
- The Master Cleanse: "The Salt Water Flush"
- Jamaica Hospital Medical Center: "6 Home Remedies for Constipation"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Diarrhea"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Fluid and Electrolyte Balance"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dehydration"
- National Institutes of Health: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "'Detoxes' and 'Cleanses'"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "What's the Real Deal With Detox Diets?"