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Posted: Monday, January 9, 2017

Are Cleanses Right For You?

It’s a new year, which means many people have set goals to lose weight and live healthier. Among the options for making those dreams a reality are, of course, diet and exercise. Historically, however, they don’t always work for everyone. After all, if it were that easy, we wouldn’t have to “resolve” to do it. We’re a “quick-fix” society, and while that has led to the creation of any number of amazing time-saving inventions, it also means we aren’t as accustomed to having to work as hard as we may need to in order to get what we want. Which won’t matter at all to those with the willpower and determination to buckle down, stick to their diet and exercise regularly. But, for the rest of us, quick fixes have a certain, undeniable allure. Maybe they won’t work, but if they don’t, what have you really lost, right? Unfortunately, it’s really not that simple, especially when it comes to one particular quick-fix trend – cleanses. You’ve likely heard of cleanses – they’re those juice-based liquid diets you drink for a few days that promise to rid your body of toxins. It’s a massive, $5 billion-industry, complete with celebrity endorsements. But, do they work and, more importantly, are they healthy?

Registered dietitian Heather Pierce with the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center says, unfortunately, the answer isn’t clear. “Research shows that around 60 percent of people who have tried a cleanse are convinced that the cleanse worked for them,” Pierce said. “However, there is no scientific evidence that really supports this. In fact, as long as you have good liver and kidney function, your body is cleansing and detoxifying every day anyway. What’s troubling about the cleanse fad is the idea that you’re told not to consume solid foods while you’re on certain cleanses. That approach doesn’t help you adopt a healthy lifestyle or diet. Sure, it’s easy to follow the directions that come with the cleanse, but it promotes eating patterns that can create more issues down the line, such as undereating to lose weight or overeating because we’ve denied ourselves certain foods we love that are bad for us,” she said. “This can set you up for long-term failure,” she added.

So, that addresses the healthy side of cleanses, but what about their effectiveness? “Whenever you cut calories – however you’re doing it – weight loss should occur,” she said. “Most of the weight loss you’ll see from doing a cleanse is likely water weight. Still, that may be enough of a motivator for some to feel successful and even proceed with trying to lose weight through other methods. What you have to think about, though, is how you’re going to go forward once you’ve finished the cleanse. You want to have a long-term plan to avoid going back to square one and regaining the weight you’ve lost,” she explained.

Pierce says if you do pursue a cleanse, do so with caution. “Remember that a cleanse is going to represent a radical change to your diet,” she said. “If it’s a cleanse that incorporates herbal supplements, you’ll want to do your homework and find out whether those supplements could have negative effects on your body. What works for some may not work for everyone, so you want to be careful. Even though it says ‘natural,’ that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe for you, particularly if you’re already taking medications for other medical conditions you may have. If you’re unsure, remember to seek medical advice before starting a cleanse,” she added.

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