There are many cleanses and diets that claim to help the body detox and achieve better weight loss results. This article will explain detox diets and cleanses, how they work, and whether they are effective.
What is Involved in a Weight Loss Cleanse?
Although there is no exact definition of a weight loss cleanse or what it should include, the general idea is to remove certain dietary or lifestyle habits that inhibit weight loss.
A weight loss cleanse adheres to specific instructions and dietary restrictions to achieve a certain weight loss or fat-burning goal over a short period, typically 30 days or less. Some cleanses are designed to help you lose weight in general, but some claim to target fat loss in certain areas of the body.
One example of a weight loss cleanse is the 10-day green smoothie cleanse, which requires you to eat non-starchy vegetables and drink specific green smoothies made of various fruits and vegetables instead of regular meals.
Detoxification diets are also intended for short-term use, but the goal here is eliminating toxins from your body.
These toxins may include:
- Heavy metals
- Industrial chemicals
Detox diets vary in duration and intensity, but most will require you to do some or all of the following things in an attempt to lose weight:
- Fast for 1-3 days
- Exercise regularly
- Abstain from foods that contain high levels of allergens, contaminants, and heavy metals, and then slowly reintroduce them back into your diet
- Abstain from alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, and refined sugar
- Drink certain drinks (some require fresh fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, tea, and water, and other detox diets require you to drink specific things like lemon juice or salted water)
- Take herbs or dietary supplements
- Use colon cleanses, enemas, or laxatives.
Does Weight Loss Detox really Work?
There is very little scientific evidence to support claims that weight loss cleanses and detox diets work and aid weight loss.
Weight loss cleanses are most comparable to very low-calorie diets (VLCDs), which consume 450-800 calories daily. However, VLCDs used in studies incorporate total nutrition needs, while weight loss cleanses are less likely to provide nutritional balance and address all nutritional needs. This makes cleanses unsafe because they can cause nutrient deficiencies.
VLCDs and weight loss cleanses may result in short-term weight loss, but they are unsustainable for long-term health and wellness.
Are there Side Effects of Weight Loss Cleanses or Detox Diets?
Short-term or long-term fasts often cause side effects of detox diets, colon cleanses, and overdoses.
Short-term fasting and severe calorie limitations can cause fatigue, irritability, and bad breath. Long-term fasting can cause electrolyte imbalances and deficiencies in energy, minerals, and vitamins. The VLCDs that often go along with many cleanses can increase your risk of developing nutritional deficiencies.
Risks and safety concerns of weight loss cleanses include dehydration and the development of gallstones due to rapid weight loss. Colon cleanses can cause side effects such as bloating, cramping, dehydration, nausea, and vomiting. If you have chronic kidney disease, juice and smoothie cleanse that involve consuming high amounts of green vegetables could cause increased kidney damage.
Overdosing on diuretics, laxatives, supplements, or even water can happen when you are on a detox diet. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements, so there may be inaccuracies in the ingredient labels of detox products.
You should not go on any detox diets or other calorie-restricting regimens if you are in an at-risk population, including if you are:
- An adolescent
- A child
- An older adult
- Pregnant or lactating
- Diabetic or have another blood sugar issue
- Have an eating disorder
Healthcare Professionals can Help You Lose Weight Safely
You can also work with a dietician while participating in a program such as Weight Watchers or Nutrisystem. Your dietitian can help you stick to your plan and incorporate healthy lifestyle habits.
There are also some things you can do to help kickstart your metabolism, such as:
- Eating healthy fats: Incorporating healthy fats into your diet in moderation can help you lose bloat and weight. Healthy fats also provide health benefits, such as protecting your heart and memory and improving bone health.
- Eating low-sodium foods: Reducing sodium intake can reduce bloat by ridding your body of excess water.
- Eating plenty of fiber and protein: Including fiber and protein in each meal and snack will help you maintain stable blood sugar levels and avoid feeling hungry. Good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Foods high in protein include animal products such as meat and low-fat dairy foods, legumes, and nuts.
- Eating plenty of vegetables: Eating high-fiber, high-water vegetables will help keep your liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal system healthy, in addition to helping you increase your intake of fiber and water. Examples of high-fiber-high-water vegetables include artichokes, asparagus, butternut squash, cucumbers, and spinach.
- Reduce sugar and alcohol intake: Cutting back on the empty calories in alcohol and sugar and replacing them with whole foods can help you feel better overall.
- Hydrating: Drinking at least two liters of water daily can reduce bloating toxins and sodium cause. Additionally, your body can confuse hunger and thirst, so drinking water before each meal and between meals can help you avoid overeating. You don’t need to just drink pure water – you can also incorporate water-rich drinks such as unsweetened teas or cold-pressed juices without added sugar.
A doctor can offer a referral to a registered dietician and weight loss support in other ways, like prescribing a weight loss medication like Wegovy.
Wegovy (semaglutide) is an FDA-approved, once-weekly injection that helps weight loss by regulating appetite, slowing stomach emptying (which helps you to feel full for a longer period), and enhancing insulin production. A 2021 study found that 86.4% of participants lost at least 5% of their body weight while using Wegovy as part of a weight loss program.
Wegovy is used in addition to a low-calorie diet and an exercise regimen to support weight loss and weight management for eligible individuals. Eligible individuals include people who have a body mass index (BMI) of 27 and above with at least one co-occurring condition that is related to their weight. Co-occurring conditions include hypertension and type 2 diabetes.
Many weight loss fads may seem like healthy choices, but they are ultimately unsustainable and ineffective. You should consult your doctor before trying any method that claims to cleanse or detox the body. Working with a medical professional is the most effective way of losing weight and keeping off the pounds for good.
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