Should I Try a Cleanse?

feet checking scale weightCleansing diets have gained popularity in recent years, with many celebrities crediting the diets with helping them shed weight rapidly and improve their general health. Whether you should try a cleanse may depend on which of these considerations is most important to you.

If you're already lean and trim and simply wish to improve your overall health, you should know that a cleanse's benefits for this purpose are the subject of considerable debate. Some alternative health practitioners champion the diets as powerful tools in removing dangerous toxins from your body and helping it run at peak performance.

However, many doctors and scientists say your body does a perfectly fine job of removing toxins all on its own, and they say there are no proven scientific benefits that detoxifying the body through a liquid diet—the cornerstone of virtually every cleansing plan—provides actual health benefits.

That said, there is one benefit of a cleanse that few have questioned: rapid weight loss. If you need to drop some pounds fairly quickly for a reunion or some other upcoming event, a cleanse has been shown to accomplish this goal in most people. There's a reason why a number of actors have used cleansing to shed pounds before a role.

Much of that weight, some experts claim, is water weight. Because a cleanse requires a massive calorie restriction, the body tends to respond by releasing water. This also means the weight will come back if other dietary or exercise modifications are not taken.

"However, many doctors and scientists say your body does a perfectly fine job of removing toxins all on its own..."The key is not to believe that the cleanse has necessarily improved one's health in an overall sense, said dietician Dawn Jackson-Blatner of the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Wellness Institute.

"These diets can give people a false sense of security, a feeling that they've been protective of their health," Jackson-Blatner explained to WebMD. "Then, when the diet's over, they go back to their normal way of eating."1

One of the most popular cleansing products is the Master Cleanse, which is a juice fast, allowing the user to take in no solid food. It runs for a minimum of 10 days, during which the user generally drinks a type of lemonade made from spring water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and organic maple syrup.2

Medical experts contend that this cleanse, while effective for short-term weight loss, does not achieve a scientifically provable detoxification of the body. Any such heavy calorie restriction would prompt water weight loss, and some of the benefits claimed from the cleanse, such as increased energy or better skin, could be related to increased hydration or other results of caloric depletion.3

Additionally, experts caution those doing a cleanse or a related juice fast that the lack of balanced nutrition could be problematic if the fast goes on too long or is used too often. While a cleanse might provide a user a "kick start" toward reaching an optimal weight, it's not a sustainable eating plan that will keep off weight over time. Only a well-balanced diet and exercise can ensure a healthy weight over the course of time.4

If you're considering a cleanse, be sure to read up on related literature and reviews from users to know what to expect. If you're taking medication or under a doctor's care, it's important to speak with a doctor about how a cleanse, or anything else likely to produce rapid weight loss, might affect you.

In summary, an occasional cleanse may be a useful tool for you to lose weight for a particular occasion. However, as with any medical procedure, you should take all necessary precautions to ensure positive results and your good overall health.