Anyone who’s got Instagram and has liked even just one fitness or health account has likely seen an ad for some kind of cleanse or detox product. They’re EVERYWHERE. They claim that in very short periods of time you can rid your nasty body of all the toxins you ingested last weekend while you waded your way through a haze of pizza and beer. “One-day juice cleanse to rid your body of toxins!” they peddle. Or, maybe you’ve seen an article about the apple cider vinegar cleanse… or the packaged skinny bunny cleanse… or some other iteration of BS. The list goes on.
Here’s the thing: Your body comes equipped with its very own detoxification system. It’s called your kidneys, liver, colon, lungs and skin. Primarily your kidneys and liver are the natural systems that process toxins that enter your body. No amount of juices, chemicals, vitamins or fad products are going to accelerate the rate at which your kidneys and liver function. Sorry, sometimes the internet does lie.
Let’s take a couple of fad “cleanses” or “detoxes” you’ve probably heard about and break down why they don’t work:
The “Master Cleanse” – This is the one where you’re supposed to drink a lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper concoction in water. You’re supposed to drink six-to-12 glasses of this garbage a day (any time you’re “craving solids”) for at least 10 days. You’re also encouraged to take laxatives (because you’re not eating food and will get stopped up). Why it’s a problem: Well, for one, you’re not ingesting enough calories to function normally. You won’t have enough energy for exercise, you’ll likely be unable to work and you’ll be functioning mainly off of sugar, which will keep your blood sugar on a constant roller coaster. Why they say it works: I think this one’s pretty obvious; It’s because you haven’t eaten anything in a week and a half. You’ll probably lose water weight and a few pounds, but you’ll definitely gain it all back when you eat again and your body stores every precious calorie as fat, because it’s been in starvation mode. My hypothesis is you’ll actually gain weight after the experiment.
The “Liver Cleanse” – This one is slightly less horrible only because it doesn’t last forever. Apparently you can do this from one-to-three days, but there’s no consistent answer I could find. You make a drink containing citrus juices and olive oil (ew) in water and drink it every 15 minutes until you go to bed. The advice includes doing an enema when you get up. Why it’s a problem: Essentially this is a problem for the same reasons that the last one is a problem. Drinking sugary drinks consistently throughout the day will keep your blood sugar elevated. Additionally, consuming all of that olive oil will be calorically dense, meaning you’ll likely end up consuming more calories than you normally do anyway. Why they say it works: I’m honestly not sure. Something about gallstone removal. I thought we were detoxing the liver? Onto the next…
Juicing – I’ll start out by saying that I am NOT telling you that fruit juice is bad for you. I also don’t think that if you want to “juice” and include a blended vegetable/juice/vitamin drink in your daily diet it’s a bad idea. However, juicing as a means of “detoxing” or “cleansing” isn’t beneficial in my opinion. The idea here is that you use your very expensive juicer to mix tons of fruits and vegetables together (also expensive to buy enough for a cleanse). The juicing machines remove the pulp/stems/extras from the fruits/veggies leaving you only with the juice. Why it’s a problem… you’re removing the parts of the plants that keep you full. The stems/pulp etc. are fiber, which your body needs to stave off constipation, a spike in blood sugar and to stay slightly more full. Without it, you’re getting tons of sugar (and yes vitamins, too), and you’ll be hungry again in an hour if you’re lucky. Most fitness gurus/bodybuilders will tell you to stay away from any juice at all, because it’s high in calories, sugar and carbs and it doesn’t have more nutritional value than an actual orange. Why they say it works: They’re not wrong in saying all these fresh ingredients provide important nutrients. The plan is just devoid of all the things you need to stay full and keep your blood sugar steady. Plus, you’re getting zero protein, which is a HUGE problem.
Although these trendy cleanses and packaged detoxes seem like quick fixes for bad behavior, you probably already have many of the natural ingredients at home (or at least at your local supermarket) that have proven benefits to your health. Turmeric spice, beets, avocado, leafy greens and many more foods have proven benefits to liver health. Raspberries, pears, peas, broccoli, whole grains and other fibrous foods have proven colon health benefits.
So, my conclusion is probably going to sound pretty obvious… doing anything aggressive like the above isn’t going to help you. Taking “cleanse” or “detox” pills or supplements definitely won’t help you, because they’re full of preservatives on top of being overly sugary – and expensive. They’re also not scrutinized by the FDA, which means they might actually tax your kidneys and liver with additional additives. Clean, healthy food is easier for your kidneys and liver to process. Eating lots of fresh, healthy foods will arm your powerhouse of detoxification with exactly what it needs to process your weekend sins.