New Year: Time to Cleanse? (Part 2: Safety)

photo by Toa Heftiba
Last week, we discussed why it’s not necessary to follow a detox diet or a juice cleanse.

But, just because it’s not necessary, that doesn’t mean you won’t try one. 

Chocolate isn’t necessary, but many of us eat it. 

Everything comes with it's own risks and benefits…

Are there benefits to a detox diet or juice cleanse?


Supporters of juice cleanses report a wide range of benefits, from improved skin to unclogged arteries to improved brain functioning. 

There is not a lot of scientific evidence to support these statements. 

One study compared patients on a 7-day juice fast to patients who ate a vegetarian diet. Patients on the juice-only diet reported an improved “quality of life” and “improvement of their health.” Unfortunately, these are very vague results.

The study doesn’t say what the people were eating beforehand. Maybe they weren't consuming vitamins and minerals before the juice diet and their health improved as a result of consuming vitamins and minerals.

If you’re already generally eating healthy, you may not see results. If you’re not eating healthy, try working with a dietitian to improve your eating habits.

But, I heard you lose weight on a cleanse or detox. Isn’t that good?

You may lose weight, but you will likely gain it back. Talk to a doctor or dietitian about healthier weight maintenance solutions. Or, embrace your body as it is! There is research that weight loss and cyclic dieting do more harm than good.

What are the risks? 

  • ·         Headaches, fatigue, shakiness, and nausea related to poor blood sugar control.

  • ·         Kidney stones, especially if you have a history of them.

  • ·         Lack of nutrients. You’ll miss out on protein and essential fats.Your body may breakdown its own muscles for protein. 
  • ·         Interactions with medication.
    • Too many greens or green juices can interfere with the blood thinner Coumadin. 
    • Citrus-containing juices can interfere with many medications, including: amiodarone, buspirone, cyclosporine, nifedipine, and simvastatin.

Why might a medical professional recommend a detox diet or other restrictive diet? 

As a dietitian, I have never told someone to follow a juice cleanse or a detox diet; however, I have recommended restrictive diets, “elimination” diets, and “liquid” diets. People may confuse these with cleanses or detoxes.

But, there are differences between the mainstream, consumer view of these and the medical definition of these. 

I’ll try to spare you the science talk and keep it brief…
Elimination diet:Elimination diets are often recommended for clients or patients who have known or suspected allergies or intolerances.

Liquid diet: Liquid diets are common before and after surgical procedures and some medical tests. Liquid diets may be limited to clear liquids, like tea, apple juice, and white grape juice. However, that does not make them a juice “cleanse."

Restrictive diets:  Other restrictive diets are common in hospitals. Remember, people are usually in the hospital because they are sick. If you are not sick, you don’t need to follow the same restrictive diet as someone who is. 

Do not follow any restrictive diet without talking to your doctor, dietitian, or other healthcare professional. 

 And don't forget to come back next week for Part 3, when I share ideas for healthy eating and drinking without expensive "cleanse" or "detox" products.


The information provided in this blog is not intended to replace individualized medical advice provided by your own doctor, dietitian, or other healthcare professional.
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