Diet Cleanses: Helpful of Harmful?
Written by: Brandy Baxter, MS, RD, LDN
There are hundreds of products or plans available today that promote a “cleanse” or “detox diet”. They promote benefits such as weight loss, elimination of toxins, and improved energy. But the real question is…are these plans beneficial or just another way for promoters to make money?
The answer is that these plans are not beneficial, and at times can be downright dangerous for your health. Your body already has a natural system for eliminating toxins from the body. In fact, that’s a major job your liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract already perform on daily basis.
Cleanses often are very low in calories, protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Because they are so low in these nutrients, it can wreak havoc on your metabolism. This puts your body into crisis mode, encouraging it to hold onto stored body fat and slow body processes down.
In turn, your body will break down muscle for energy, decreasing your lean body mass. Lean body mass can increase your metabolism and improve your strength, so decreasing this can really be a setback for weight loss and overall health.
Another disadvantage is that cleanses can disrupt the healthy bacteria in your intestines. Healthy bacteria help us ward off illness-causing bacteria, break down our food, improve vitamin and mineral absorption, and improve irritable bowel disease.
Those with medical conditions, particularly diabetes and kidney disease, should be particularly weary of cleanses, as they can cause dangerously low blood sugar or unhealthy electrolyte imbalances. Very active individuals should also beware, as cleanses often do not provide enough energy to support intense workouts.
It is best to save your money and your health by avoiding detox diets or cleanses. Focus on foods that are proven to boost your health such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Your body will thank you!
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