As Spring draws near, ads begin to escalate across social media promoting Spring cleaning for your body—as in “colon cleanse” or “detox cleanse.”
A variety of detoxification diets, regimens, and therapies have been suggested to remove toxins from the body, lose weight, or promote health. But are they healthy or simply a lot of hype?
What are “Detoxes” and “Cleanses”?
There are a variety of approaches to “detoxification,” including fasting, drinking only juices or smoothies, restricting certain foods, using dietary supplements or other commercial products, using herbs, cleansing the colon with enemas, laxatives, or colon hydrotherapy—also called “colonic irrigation” or “colonics.”
Does “Detoxing” or “Cleansing” Work?
Despite their popularity and health claims, there have been only a small number of studies on “detoxification” programs in people. While some have had positive results on weight and fat loss, insulin resistance, and blood pressure, the studies themselves have been of low quality—with study design problems, few participants, or lack of evaluation by other experts to ensure quality.
A 2015 review concluded that there was no compelling research to support the use of “detox” diets for weight management or eliminating toxins from the body. A 2017 review said that juicing and “detox” diets can cause initial weight loss because of low intake of calories but tend to lead to weight gain once a person resumes a normal diet. There have been no studies on the long-term effects of “detoxification” programs.
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Is “Detoxing” or “Cleansing” Safe?
Not all “detoxes” and “cleanses” are created equal. Here are seven reasons why you might want to steer clear of “detoxes’ and “cleanses.”
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have taken action against several companies selling detox/cleansing products because they (1) contained illegal, potentially harmful ingredients; (2) were marketed using false claims that they could treat serious diseases; or (3) in the case of medical devices used for colon cleansing, were marketed for unapproved uses.
- Some juices used for “detoxes” and “cleanses” that haven’t been pasteurized or treated in other ways to kill harmful bacteria can make people sick. The illnesses can be serious in children, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.