Stomach cleanses and detox cleanses for belly fat are growing in popularity, but are they healthy for the body? Although they may reduce calorie intake, alternative methods of losing belly fat may be the way to go.
What Is a Detox?
According to Harvard Health Publishing, the term "detox" once referred to the medical procedure that divested the body of dangerous toxins. Now the term has evolved to take on a different meaning and often refers to a type of diet that eliminates foods that cause uncomfortable symptoms, such as headache, bloating, joint pain, fatigue and depression.
One of the most popular detox diets is the Master Cleanse diet, in which dieters have a quart of warm salt water in the morning; consume a 60-ounce mixture of water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper throughout the day; and then have a cup of laxative tea in the evening.
There is no data that shows whether this cleanse is effective. Furthermore, the dieter will quickly regain weight once he or she begins eating normally. There are also risks involved in the diet, including dehydration and impaired bowel function.
Read more: A Safe 24-Hour Detox Diet
Risks of Stomach Cleanse
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that there's no convincing evidence that detox or cleansing programs truly remove toxins from your body or improve your health. The reason for weight loss is mainly because these diets are low in calories, although there are several healthier methods of losing fat and getting a flat stomach. Risks involved in a colon cleanse may include:
- Worsening kidney problems from drinking large quantities of juice with high levels of oxalate.
- Loss or lack of nutrients.
- Illness from juices that haven't been pasteurized or treated in other ways that kill harmful bacteria.
- Weakness, headaches, dehydration and hunger pangs from fasting.
- Severe diarrhea from laxatives.
How to Lose Belly Fat
There are other, healthier ways to lose belly fat that don't involve a colon detox or stomach cleanse, such as:
Lower your carbs instead of fats. Johns Hopkins researchers compared the effects of losing weight on a low-carb diet versus a low-fat diet and found that those who went on a low-carb diet lost an average of 10 pounds more than those on a low-fat diet over the course of six months.
The National Heart, Blood, and Lungs Institute (NHBLI) suggests that you give yourself nonfood rewards, such as an afternoon walk or a movie,
for meeting small weight loss goals.
Create an eating plan instead of a diet, says Johns Hopkins. Stick to a tried-and-true approach, such as a healthy low-carb plan, that cuts out foods high in empty carbs and added sugars.
Engage in physical activity: Exercise helps burn calories and work off belly fat.
Avoid or change cues that encourage unhealthy eating, per the NHBLI; for example, if you always overeat when you're with a certain friend, try meeting in a nonfood setting.
Avoid processed foods and read labels.
Don't focus too much on the scale: Instead of focusing on how much you weigh, you may be better off focusing on how your clothes fit.
Lift weights: Strength training helps build lean muscle mass.
Produce for Weight Management
You can be sure that eating the right amount of fruits and vegetables will help you manage your weight, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You don't have to necessarily eat less food; just make substitutions for lower-carb alternatives in your existing diet.
Fruits and vegetables provide benefits that go beyond helping you to lose weight and gain a flat stomach. They're also known to reduce the risk of some kinds of cancers and chronic diseases and provide vitamins and minerals.
Is This an Emergency?
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The Dubious Practice of Detox"
- Johns Hopkins Health: "8 Ways to Lose Belly Fat and Live a Healthier Life"
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Detoxes and Cleanses"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight"
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Guide to Behavior Change"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Chapter 3. Strategies for Action"
- Health.gov: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition"