Here's Why You Really Don't Need To Do a Juice Cleanse

Pro tip: Ditch the juice cleanse and follow a whole foods plan instead for a diet reset.

If you feel like some back-to-basic eating is in order, do yourself a favor and forget the "detox" soup or juice cleanse plans. As it turns out, juice cleanses don't actually work. In fact, some may even be dangerous and lead to serious issues, such as electrolyte imbalances or kidney problems.

Learn about the dangers of juice cleanses and the healthy alternatives experts recommend.

Can You Detox Your Body?

There's not enough evidence that suggests that juice cleanses are beneficial, despite their popularity.

"A myriad of 'detoxification' regimens have flooded the market based on the traditional but unproven concept that our body needs help getting rid of unwanted toxins," Sharon Horesh Bergquist, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the Emory School of Medicine, told Health. "The reality is that your body is a detoxification machine, fully built with its own elaborate way of ridding toxins and unwanted chemicals."

In fact, you may be surprised by the body's innate mechanisms for nixing unnecessary materials from your systems.

"Residing in your digestive system, respiratory tract, and skin, immune system mediators are ready and armed to catch invaders and turn them over to your liver," explained Dr. Bergquist. "Your liver then filters and neutralizes toxins and hands them over to your intestines and urine to eliminate them from your body."

As it turns out, the best way to support those systems is by feeding your body the right way. Adequate calories, sufficient hydration, high-fiber foods, and healthy fats help support your body.

Are Juice Cleanses Healthy?

Juice cleanses limit your caloric intake by design. However, a calorie deficit doesn't make juice cleanses healthy or even weight loss-promoting. Diets low in calories can leave you feeling weak. And, if you do them for too long, low-calorie diets may negatively affect your metabolism.

"Without adequate protein and calorie intake, your body may switch to breaking down muscle for energy," Dr. Bergquist said.

 A review published in 2017 in Current Gastroenterology Reports found 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 regular diet.

Dangers of Juice Cleanses

While on a juice cleanse, you may not give your body the necessary nutrients. Some evidence suggests that juice cleanses link to eating disorders and an increased risk of serious health issues.

Trying a detox plan may increase your risk of blood sugar spikes, dehydration, and kidney problems.

Blood Sugar Spikes

Also less-than-ideal: "When we juice foods, we remove all of the fiber from the fruits and vegetables, leaving the sugar behind. That can, in turn, create blood sugar spikes and leave you 'hangry' with a headache," Amy Shapiro, RDN, founder and director of Real Nutrition in New York, told Health. "People often say headaches are a sign of detoxing, but they aren't. You're just hungry."

Dehydration and Electrolyte Imbalances

Cleanses meant to flush out the intestines are equally bad. 

"While [cleanses] intend to clear out retained stool, they may inadvertently clean out the healthy, good bacteria in the gut as well," said Dr. Bergquist. "Without adequate fluid intake, the loose, watery bowel movements can leave you dehydrated and depleted of essential electrolytes."

Some detox products may also contain laxatives, which cause severe diarrhea that results in dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Kidney Problems

Some juices are made from foods, such as spinach and beets, that are high in oxalate, a naturally occurring substance. Drinking large amounts of high-oxalate juice can increase your risk for kidney problems.

Alternatives to Juice Cleanses

Another problem with "detoxes" is that they're meant to be quick fixes. In other words, juice cleanses are unsustainable in the long term.

Instead of choosing a liquid-only meal plan, experts suggested a regimen that eliminates processed foods to help you cut back on salt, added sugars, and saturated fats.

For example, nutrient-dense meals like smoothies, loaded salads, roasted veggie bowls, and fruit and nuts as snacks may help, recommended Shapiro. Tea and water are allowed all day long. In contrast, soda, coffee drinks (other than organic black coffee), and alcohol are off-limits.

Also, try eating simply when you want to reboot your diet, encouraged Dr. Bergquist.

"Reintroduce foods closest to their natural form," said Dr. Bergquist. "We know from an abundance of studies that the healthiest dietary patterns in the world are those that include whole or minimally processed, plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and spices."

After a Cleanse or Dietary Change

"Many cleanses don't provide support on how to eat after you finish the program," said Shapiro. Without that guidance, you may have feelings of failure post-detox. Also, you may be likely to binge after finishing your juice cleanse.

So, go gentle on yourself if you feel like your diet is off track: "What's done is done, remove the guilt, enjoy the experience, and then go back to healthy eating," said Shapiro. "Take a break from desserts every night. Or don't open a bottle of wine at home. Only enjoy a drink when you're out. Make sure half your plate is filled with veggies at every meal and aim for three to four workouts a week."

"We get results from the choices we make most of the time; small blips or indulgences don't mean we have poisoned our bodies and need to detox them," added Shapiro.

A Quick Review

There is little evidence that juice and "detox" cleanses are beneficial. In fact, juice cleanses increase your risk of serious health risks, such as dehydration or kidney problems.

Instead of trying a juice cleanse, focus on staying hydrated. Opt for a plant-based diet with high-fiber foods and healthy fats and limit processed food.

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  2. Klein AV, Kiat H. Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidenceJ Hum Nutr Diet. 2015;28(6):675-686. doi:10.1111/jhn.12286

  3. Drummen M, Tischmann L, Gatta-Cherifi B, et al. High Compared with Moderate Protein Intake Reduces Adaptive Thermogenesis and Induces a Negative Energy Balance during Long-term Weight-Loss Maintenance in Participants with Prediabetes in the Postobese State: A PREVIEW StudyJ Nutr. 2020;150(3):458-463. doi:10.1093/jn/nxz281

  4. Obert J, Pearlman M, Obert L, Chapin S. Popular Weight Loss Strategies: a Review of Four Weight Loss TechniquesCurr Gastroenterol Rep. 2017;19(12):61. doi:10.1007/s11894-017-0603-8

  5. Bóna E, Forgács A, Túry F. Potential relationship between juice cleanse diets and eating disorders. A qualitative pilot studyOrv Hetil. 2018;159(28):1153-1157. doi:10.1556/650.2018.31090

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