The Pros & Cons Of Detox Cleanses

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Cleanses are super-popular with celebrities and us regular people alike. But are they really safe? Are they really effective? Are there some that are better than others?

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Three experts tell whether doing a cleanse is right for you…

Go for it. Cleanses come in many forms-some are just juices, others are restricted-eating plans that last a day or even several weeks. But the goal is the same: to help your body flush out toxins and jump-start weight loss. Some aren’t helpful, because they are too low in calories or omit key nutrients. But a good cleanse, one that’s organic and vitamin-rich, acts as a reset button to help transform unhealthy eating habits and infuses your body with nutrients.

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A lot of my clients who find cleanses appealing have been subsisting on sugar and caffeine-they’re actually somewhat malnourished! They find that an organic-juice cleanse makes them feel sharper and more aware of bad habits that were sabotaging their health, like mindless eating. I know every time I do one, I get an energy boost.”

– Ashley Koff, R.D., Los Angeles dietitian and coauthor of Mom Energy: A Simple Plan to Live Fully Charged

No. Liquid cleanses, or severely calorie-restricted detox diets, are based on quack science, and the only weight you lose is water weight. They can even do your body a lot of harm: Because many cleanses cause you to go to the bathroom more than usual, you may flush out important electrolytes that help your heart function and maintain fluid balance in your body. That’s why some people experience muscle weakness and mental fogginess. Your colon isn’t dirty, and juice cleanses wouldn’t ‘clean’ it anyway, since they don’t contain much fiber, which is what actually ‘scrubs’ the colon.

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Plus, the idea that your body is better able to digest liquids is nonsense. Your stomach is built to cope with solid food, and it doesn’t need a break! If you really want to slim down, fill your plate with leafy green vegetables, fiber, whole grains and good fats in your everyday life.”

– Michael D. Gershon, M.D., professor of pathology and cell biology at Columbia University

Do it, but be smart. I don’t recommend cleanses that omit protein, good carbs or healthy fat. And watch out for ones that provide fewer than 1,000 calories a day. Skimping on nutrition can cause you to lose calorie-burning muscle, slow your metabolism, weaken your immune system and dull your skin and hair. Plus, it can lead to rebound binge eating. Do it right, though, and a cleanse has advantages.

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Many women do cleanses to drop pounds; while all of the weight loss may not last, it can be motivating. It’s inspired some of my clients to make lifestyle changes that do lead to long-term success. I recommend a solid-food detox-it’s more filling than liquid-only plans. Simply cut out processed foods and alcohol, and consider eliminating animal products and caffeine. A detox should feel like a tune-up, not a punishment.”

– Cynthia Sass, R.D., author of S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches

Also: remember to always consult a medical professional before starting any sort of cleanse or other diet program. Even if you feel fine, it’s better to talk to someone beforehand about potential adverse reactions that you may not be aware of.