The truth about cleanses: From detox to weight loss

Cleanses usually involve several days of little-to-no food, no caffeine and no alcohol. Are they worth it? (Thinkstock)

Josef Brandenburg
WTOP Fitness Contributor

WASHINGTON – Could you go three or more days with little-to-no food and nothing but juice?

Lots of Americans jump on the opportunity to detox, reset and maybe lose a little weight in the meantime with a cleanse. But is it really worth it?

There’s no doubt about it: cleanses are hot. And since the New Year, I’ve received questions, such as, “What’s the best Cleanse?” “How long should it last?”

If you like cleanses, I know how you feel. I started doing them as a teenager, and from the beginning, I loved how I felt while cleansing — especially when it came to the temporary relief from bloating and gas.

Then it occurred to me: Maybe I shouldn’t be bloated, gassy, tired and achy most of the time. Maybe my normal diet (which was 100 percent plant-based and endorsed by experts) did not agree with me. Maybe the reason cleanses make me feel better is because they give me a break from my normal diet.

My friend and fitness expert Mark Fisher sums up these realizations nicely with this saying:

“If eating food leaves you full of toxins, perhaps we should seriously consider the quality of the food you eat.”

What About Weight Loss?

Unfortunately, cleanses are often misconstrued as a diet. And while drinking nothing but juice will most likely leave you a few pounds lighter at the end of the week, it’s keeping those pounds off that’s the hard part.

Most people actually end up heavier than when they started, as the result of seeking a “quick fix.” And foregoing food for days can impact your metabolism in a negative way, making it easier for your body to retain fat.

Time To Detox?

Wanting to detox, or rid one’s body of toxic chemicals, is one reason many people turn to cleanses. However, this buzzword is powered with more marketing intent than health. After all, the “detox industry” is a booming one, with books, pills, plans and cleansing kits littering the shelves.

Here’s one of the best quotes I’ve read on detoxing. It’s from Alan Boobis, a professor and toxicologist in the Division of Medicine at Imperial College London.

The body’s own detoxification systems are remarkably sophisticated and versatile. They have to be, as the natural environment that we evolved in is hostile. It is remarkable that people are prepared to risk seriously disrupting these systems with unproven


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