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Why Your Cleanse Could Actually Be Toxic to Your Body


I immediately noticed the cayenne pepper and grade-B maple syrup in her cart. My friend, whom I ran into at the grocery store, saw me stare at her shopping basket and coyly remarked that she needed to do a pre Valentine's day cleanse.

"You're not detoxing!" I playfully reprimanded her. "You're going for fast fat loss after indulging too much over the holidays."


Whether you're considering the master cleanse or some other detox du jour, you are probably aiming to ditch those stubborn pounds you put on during the holidays quickly, just like your favorite actress did for a movie role - or the Oscars.

And there's nothing wrong with wanting to get healthier or back on track. One study found both short- and long-term benefits for fast fat loss. But fast fat loss done incorrectly can become really dangerous, and many popular  detox programs do not utilize healthy ways to lose fat fast.

Most cleanses and detoxes are almost entirely made up of sugar, and provide little if any nutrients. Even worse, they lack protein. Without protein, your body can't effectively detox.

I'll spare you the biochem lesson, but essentially you should know that the body has a built-in detoxification system. Unfortunately, people throw away money and their health on store-bought and homemade concoctions.

Your liver is detox ground zero. Everything that detoxes goes through your liver in two phases. During phase one, your liver converts fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble substances. In phase two, your liver excretes these toxins via urine, sweat, and other bodily fluids.

Without sufficient protein, your liver can't perform that second phase, since many pathways require amino acids. That means highly toxic metabolites hang around and wreak havoc in your body.

I've got more bad news. You'll probably lose weight on these super low-calorie, near-starvation diets - ahem, I mean, cleanses - but most of that weight loss comes not from the loss of fat, but rather the loss of water and lean muscle tissue. You're literally wasting your body away. If you really want to lose weight, you'll want to choose a smart plan that includes plenty of protein and nutrients to help your body effectively detox.

You'll begin by dumping the processed foods, potential food intolerances like gluten and soy, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, and caffeine. If you turn into a monster without your morning dark roast, switch to organic and gradually taper off the coffee.

Yeah, I know, your friends will think you're no fun for a few weeks. But you'll be burning fat, feeling better, and looking like a million bucks!

Detoxification does not mean starvation: You need to get the right nutrients for your liver to effectively detoxify, which include:

1. Clean, Lean Organic Protein
Have four to six ounces of grass-fed beef, cold-water wild fish, or free-range organic chicken or turkey at each meal. Vegan (but not soy) protein powders make excellent meal replacements blended with chia or flax seeds, frozen berries, raw kale or other leafy greens, and unsweetened coconut or almond milk.

2. Sulfur-Containing Foods
Your liver demands optimal amounts of this mineral to properly detoxify. Organic or barnyard eggs (if you don't have food sensitivities), broccoli, garlic, cabbage, and onions make excellent sulfur sources.

3. Green Veggies
Enjoy loads of organic leafy and cruciferous greens. If you're not meeting your veggie quota, throw some raw kale or spinach into your protein shake. And add some cilantro, a natural heavy metal chelator (AKA detoxifier), in your meals.

4. Fiber
Legumes, raw nuts and seeds, berries, apples, and lentils come packed with fiber. Especially while you detoxify, buy organic. If you're not getting 50 grams of fiber from food (this is my personal recommendation - the U.S. government guidelines typically recommend 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men), add a scoop of freshly ground flax or chia seeds to your protein shake.

5. Water
Filtered spring water first thing in the morning and in-between meals supports proper elimination, flushes toxins, and keeps your metabolic machinery flowing smoothly. Ideally, you'll drink half your body weight in water ounces. Keep a BPA-free canteen nearby and sip liberally throughout the day.

– JJ Virgin

Readers - What do you think? Have you tried the Master Cleanse or a juice cleanse before? What was your experience? Were you aware that your body needs protein in order to detox? What are your go-to detox tactics? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Celebrity Nutrition & Fitness expert JJ Virgin is author of NY Times bestseller The Virgin Diet and the bestselling Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy. She was also co-host of TLC's Freaky Eaters. JJ frequently blogs for The Huffington Post, LIVESTRONG.COM, and other prominent media outlets. She created the 4 x 4 Burst Training Workout and regularly appears on TV shows like Rachel Ray and The Today Show to discuss topics such as fast fat loss, weight loss, and food sensitivities.

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