Are Detox Diets Good for You?

You know when it’s time to clear out clutter and streamline your closets. But do your liver and lymph nodes need a good purging, too?

You know when it's time to clear out clutter and streamline your closets. But do your liver and lymph nodes need a good purging, too? It's true that some detox regimens—like herbal supplements, spa treatments, and special diets that are designed to mop up pollutants, chemicals, dietary waste, and even unwanted pounds—can actually do you some good. But how to know whether you should be trying any of them? Health checked with traditional and alternative medicine experts to find out which regimens might be worthwhile—and which ones just aren't.

Detox? Maybe for a day
Pop music icon Beyonce reportedly chugged a maple syrup mix to cleanse her famous curves and shed some weight for her role in Dreamgirls. (Read about her fasting diet and other celebrity stay-slim secrets here.) No doubt, she skipped the pancakes, and that's the point. Detox diets—whether syrup (which goes by the name Lemon Detox or Master Cleanse), juice (Martha's Vineyard Diet Detox), or protein shakes (Fruit Flush Three-Day Detox)—often revolve around a fast that's heavy on liquids. Almost all pack a wallop of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber that nutritionists agree delivers full-body benefits. But if you're tempted, think short-term. Victoria Maizes, MD, executive director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson, suggests a one-day fast of fresh-pressed juices. (Not juiced about DIY elixirs? Many health-food stores and juice bars press their own for $3 to $7.) Definitely consult a nutritionist if you want to live la vida liquid for longer. Extended detoxing (more than three days) can actually rob your body of vitamins and nutrients.

Another option: Skip liquid diets altogether, and try a gradual approach to detoxing. Cindy Moore, MS, RD, director of nutrition ther­apy at the Cleveland Clinic, recommends adding one fruit and one vegetable a day until you reach the recommended daily allowance (check for customized guidelines). You'll reduce the gassiness and discomfort that can accompany a sudden rush of roughage from liquid diets. Plus, by avoiding a quick fix, you'll up your chances of sticking with a healthy diet over time. After all, it's common sense: If you put lots of good things into your body, you won't need to worry about clearing bad things out.

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Alicia Potter
Last Updated: May 11, 2008

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