Cleansing diets – also known as detoxes or cleanses – are quite a controversial wellness strategy. While some people swear by this method for eliminating toxins from the body or kickstarting weight loss, others caution against it due to unnecessary risks and side effects. What should you believe? Is this the type of strategy you should be using.
What Are the Claims About Cleansing Diets?
There are many claims made about the potential benefits of cleansing diets. These include:
- Toxin elimination
- Improved energy
- Weight loss
- Constipation relief
- Solving issues such as fatigue, muscle aches, and headaches
Do Cleansing Diets Work?
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, there is more chance of harm than good from these types of practices that often include fasting, drinking only water, teas or specific supplement mixes, and other extreme forms of dieting.
According to a report from the Cleveland Clinic, citing registered dietitian Kate Patton, Med, RD, CSSD, LD, detoxing isn’t often what most people expect. To begin with, the digestive tract and organs such as kidneys, liver, and even the skin naturally break down toxins in our bodies and send them out using urine, stool or sweat.
Cleansing diets are supposed to eliminate more of these toxins by removing solid foods or specific food groups from the diet for certain lengths of time. This is somehow meant to give the digestive system a break so that it can heal up and improve its nutrient absorption. However, Patton pointed out that there isn’t any conclusive medical evidence to suggest that this happens. There are some specific medical exceptions, such as in the case of gastroparesis or Crohn’s disease, but in the absence of those digestive disorders, there isn’t any reputable science to back the claims.
The Opposite May Be True
At the same time that there isn’t any quality evidence to indicate that cleansing diets help heal up the digestive system and improve nutrient absorption, Patton indicated that there is evidence that the opposite may be true. She underscored the importance of solid foods.
The reason is that fiber, found in fruits, vegetables, and many other plant-based foods, helps to slow digestion and boost nutrient absorption. It also helps to keep up regularity so that toxins are removed more steadily through the stool. These foods also help to feed probiotics and prebiotics to the digestive tract’s microbiota. These beneficial bacteria are vital to nutrient absorption as well as immune health.