5 Reasons Why Cleanse Diets Don’t Work

juice cleanse

Detox diets, cleanses, juice fasts…they’re all the rage!  But do they work?  Unfortunately, no.  And they can actually cause more harm than good.  Here are five reasons why you’re better off just sticking with moderation:

1.  You already have a built-in detox system. Your liver, kidneys, lungs, and skin work diligently everyday to prevent toxins and other harmful particles from settling into your body tissue.  What you eat and drink is definitely important for long-term health, but skipping meals, drinking homemade elixirs, or juicing your food won’t aid these organs in their efforts to “cleanse” your body.

2.  Diarrhea is not a sign of internal cleanliness. Many people believe that if they can rid their body of recent indulgences via “flushing,” their body becomes a clean slate.  But this isn’t how it works.  The only thing diarrhea will do is eliminate the stored vitamins, minerals, and beneficial bacteria that live in the gut and help body systems function properly. (Not to mention cause extreme discomfort and excessive time spent in the bathroom).

3.  You’ll gain any weight you lose back, and probably more. If you lose weight on a cleanse or fast, it’s due to severe calorie restriction.  When you start eating normally again, you’ll regain the weight.  And because your body is confused by the drastic changes in intake, your metabolism may change, making future weight loss and maintenance more difficult to achieve.

4.  It’s hard to function on a cleanse. If you’re only eating 500 calories a day, you’ll be very low on energy.  Exercise is nearly impossible and even everyday tasks are hard to complete on this little food intake.  Note: some people do report that they have more energy or “feel great” during the first few days of a cleanse, but this is probably because they’re off alcohol and caffeine, are well hydrated, and were eating so badly before that the body is welcoming a change of any sort.  But it won’t last.

5. Cleanses aren’t sustainable. Whenever you make a dietary change, it should be one that you would feel good about sustaining long-term.  That’s how healthy habits are established, and how they help you achieve good overall health.  Cleanses are so extreme that there’s really no chance you could (or should) maintain one for very long.  So better to take more moderate actions to clean up your diet; not only will you have more success with weight loss, but you’ll also enjoy your life more!

**image above from this site**


  • Willow
    August 8, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Really nice! I hope everyone reads this!!!!

  • Amelia
    August 8, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Thanks! Is there anything you would add to this, as an experienced RD?

  • Carolyn
    August 8, 2011 at 9:23 am

    I somewhat disagree with this posting. Cleanses by definition are only meant to be done for a short period of time, on average a week. The research I have done does not indicate that 7 days is enough time to negatively disrupt one’s metabolism. And of course, what is one’s intention to do a detox or cleanse? It should never be to lose weight, but to cleanse the organs, give the liver and kidneys a break from processing all of the junk/toxins that can filter through our bodies, and essentially press the reset button. My husband and I do a cleanse 1-2x a year that consists of taking some herbs that cleanse and support healthy function to the colon, liver, and digestive system. Throughout the week we eat as many raw fruits and vegetables as possible, up the water/herbal tea intake, and eliminate everything else: sugars, caffeine, alcohol, etc. It can be a challenge at times, but benefits after a week are well worth it. We experience better sleep and energy, cleansing effects w/o diarrhea, and possibly the best result: reset our palate! It allows us to keep the excess sugar and caffeine out of our diet after the cleanse, focus more on healthy balanced eating, and again push the reset button on our bodies. There are all sorts of “cleanses” available, and I don’t necessarily agree with them all, or believe that they are suitable for everyone, and at the same time I think there is a valid application for safely and wisely cleansing the systems of our bodies.

  • Amelia
    August 8, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Thanks for your thoughts, Carolyn! The cleanse info in this article is based on science and research. Our organs don’t actually get a “break” when we do a cleansing diet. However, I would agree that its beneficial to “reset” our palates every once in awhile via very clean eating. I would just recommend that people try a week or two of eating only wholesome foods (veggies, fruits, only whole grains, lean proteins, beans, nuts, only water) as opposed to a random concoction of liquids and/or supplements. This would encourage one to habituate healthy habits so that they’re more likely to last.

  • easy diets that work
    December 8, 2011 at 2:24 am

    Thanks , I’ve recently been looking for info about this topic for a long time and yours is the best I’ve discovered so far. But, what about the bottom line? Are you positive concerning the source?

  • Amelia
    December 11, 2011 at 8:51 am

    This info is research-based and the consensus of most nutrition professionals. Those who recommend cleanses or other extreme diets are likely receiving compensation from the companies selling these products.

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