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Is a Cleanse Fit Fuel for Your Body?

By Stephanie Booth
WebMD Feature

girl drinking a bottle of water

Sipping nothing but water with maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Taking supplements that “clean out your colon.” Fasting for days. These are all popular cleansing diets that promise to help you detox your body, lose weight, and give you tons of energy.

Sound too good to be true? That’s because they often are.

What’s a cleanse?

It’s true that every day, your body absorbs chemicals that can be harmful, called toxins. You can get them from water you drink or air you breathe. They can also get into your body from less-than-healthy foods.

A cleanse is supposed to give your body a chance to get rid of these toxins. How? By drastically cutting back on the foods you eat for a while. Some cleanses last a few days, others as long as a month.

Sometimes, a cleansing plan will tell you to eat no food for a few days, followed by only fruits and veggies. Many detox diets also say you have to take special herbs or supplements that make you poop more. This is supposed to get rid of toxins faster.

Is a cleanse good for you?

Think about this: Your body needs food every day to give you energy -- to move, think, and even stay in a good mood. So what happens when you cut off that fuel source? You won’t get what you need to do all the stuff you do every day.

Cleanses are low not only in calories, but protein, vitamins, and minerals. Doing one might lead to a big drop in your energy. Plus, the herbs that many detox diets push can be dangerous.

Lots of people swear that they feel better after doing a cleanse. This might just be because they’ve cut out processed foods that are high in sugar and salt and can make you feel gross.

“Despite all the hype, there’s no proof that cleansing will remove toxins or make you healthier,” says Alissa Rumsey, a dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

That’s because your liver and kidneys do a great job of cleaning your system on their own. This is especially true if you eat healthy, meaning that you get plenty of fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats every day.

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