Cleanses have become a "celeb trend", but are they really safe?

April 13, 2011
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leaky-pipes-detoxGetty ImagesFrom Health magazineNO: Its risky—and you dont need it.
Glenn Braunstein, MD, professor and chairman, department of medicine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles

• Our bodies have built-in detoxifiers.
The liver, the kidneys, and the colon are naturally designed to remove toxins and eliminate them through our waste, so theres no need for additional help.

• Its potentially harmful.
Many extreme programs, like fasting, juice diets, and the Master Cleanse, can leave the body weak and devoid of vital nutrients, like protein and essential vitamins, even if you do them for a short time. Colonics—which flush the colon with warm water to remove a supposed buildup of waste there—carry the risk of dehydration, infection, and even perforation of the colon wall.

• Detoxes can create more toxins.
Plans that severely restrict food can cause the body to burn fat for fuel. Burning large amounts of fat releases chemicals called ketones into the blood—and a buildup of these can cause bad breath, loss of appetite, nausea, and in rare cases, coma or death.

YES: Some types may be healthy.
Cathy Wong, ND, naturopathic doctor and an American College of Nutrition–certified nutrition specialist

• A detox can help clear you out.
A cleanse that combines vegetable-based meals with green juices can get things moving in your digestive system, thanks to its high fiber-and-water content. It may even help flush toxins. (Dont do one for more than a week or so.)

• It might make you feel better.
Many people report that they have more energy, better concentration, less bloating, and fewer cravings after going on a detox diet.

• It gets you into a new groove.
Detoxes shift you away from bad habits (like excessive intake of coffee, alcohol, and fatty or sugary foods) and can help foster healthier habits even once were off them.

Our advice:
If youve been feeling bogged down by junk food, alcohol, additives, or extra weight, a diet of whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins is a good way to reboot healthy habits. But stay away from hard-core programs that require severe caloric restriction. Theyll only leave you nutrient-deficient and grumpy, not to mention slow your metabolism. Skip the colonic, too, and have lots of water and fiber-rich fruits and veggies instead to keep your digestive system moving safely.