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Young woman on a cleanse

Why is Everyone On a Cleanse?

In a quick scroll of Instagram you will see celebrities who had drastic results from a “detox cleanse” or “reset.”  They even link to the company bio, so buying is easy. Seeing the pictures or watching the interview makes you feel like you NEED it to be healthy. But do you really?

First, let’s review how the body normally “detoxes.” According to WebMD, the liver’s main job is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract. It also “detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs” to prevent excess build up in the body. Granted there are a variety of things that impact liver health, but that’s a different topic.

What is Cleansing?

Cleansing is a process where your body attempts to remove substances that are toxic or unhealthy. There are many proposed ways to achieve this: liquid diets, fasting, very low caloric intake, patches, pills, detox diets - there is no standard definition. This makes it hard to compare results.  Health claims for cleanses include: increased energy, weight loss, body reset and even better sleep. Let’s look at a few of the proposed benefits.

Most Cleanses Involve Fasting - Is that Beneficial?

Periodic fasting is where a controlled amount of calories are consumed during a specific time. Intermittent fasting is a popular eating pattern characterized by time restricted eating. There are some benefits that have been noted by research such as: improved insulin resistance, decreased body fat, lower inflammation, and metabolic improvements. Fasting research also shows improvements in stem cell regeneration. This includes benefits on aging and damaged DNA.

Cleanses and Weight Loss

Though there have been some noted benefits of fasting, the results are not always what people are looking for. There have been a few studies out there that have noted juicing promoted weight loss, but once a normal diet was resumed, the weight was regained.

Almost all fasting protocols have shown weight reduction immediately, likely due to severe calorie restriction and high water intake. Reviews note that patients who adopt a healthful eating plan can keep weight off or even continue to lose weight. A study of intermittent fasting in the primary care setting showed patient’s regained the weight they lost after the fast was stopped.

Follow These Steps if You Are Going to Try a Cleanse:

  1. Ask yourself “why” you want to do this and have realistic expectations.
  2. Do your research and look into the company. You must look past marketing tactics to see what is really being offered.
  3. Bring this information to your provider. That knows your health, medications and can help you interpret this research.  For example, if you are on blood glucose or blood pressure lowering medications, a fasting program may be risky for you.
  4. Be smart and work with your provider to find the best program for you.
  5. Keep a symptom journal for any side effects that might arise.

Everyone is looking for a “jump-start” and I’m not here to argue for or against it. However, if you don’t intend to change your lifestyle habits around eating, activity, stress, etc. can you really expect a big change?  What your body does every day is very complex. Nourishing it with good food, movement and sleep are just a few important steps to take.


Ellen Thomsen, MS, RD, LMNT, CDE, IFNCP™
Ellen Thomsen, MS, RD, LMNT, CDE, IFNCP™

Ellen Thomsen, MS, RD, LMNT, CDE is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist and Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner. She is the diabetes education program coordinator at CHI Health and sees patients at the Millard Clinic. She works with patients to identify root causes to health conditions and make changes to improve overall health. Ellen’s passion is to help others develop lifestyle habits that allow them to feel their best.

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