Cleanses, Detox and Fast

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After the holidays – or any time you may not have been eating a healthy diet – a cleanse or fast may sound appealing. But be sure to do your research before trading in solid foods for days of green juice or lemon water. These trendy diets may not be right for everyone. “People want the short cut,” says Joel Rush, a clinical nutrition specialist at MD Anderson. “Cleanses and fasts give us rules that are easy to follow. But as a weight loss method, they tend to fall down.”

Cleanses, detox diets and fasts have a wide range of guidelines, depending on which plan you follow. Cleanses may require that participants drink only juice or abstain from certain foods. Fasts may require patients to give up food for certain periods of time. And while a cleanse or fast may help you lose weight initially, there are many risks associated with these trendy diets. Here are four things you should know about cleanses, detoxes and fasts.

Your body does a pretty good job of cleansing on its own

Toxins are the chemicals that don’t have a place in our diets. You may take in toxins through food, your skin or the air. Usually, your body removes them on its own. Most people don’t need to cleanse to remove them from their bodies.

“Our kidneys do a very good job of removing toxins. Our livers do a very good job. Our colons do a very good job,” Rush says. Before you start a cleanse or detox, talk to your doctor to see if it’s something you really need to do.

A cleanse or fast can help you lose weight, but is hard to sustain over time.

A cleanse or fast may help you lose weight initially.

“Any time you eliminate certain factors from your diet you’re likely to lose weight in the beginning,” Rush says. But after the cleanse or fast is over, you may gain the weight again.

“These types of diets aren’t sustainable over a long period of time,” he says.

Participating in a cleanse or fast may make exercising more difficult.

Exercise plays a key part in maintaining a healthy weight and reducing your cancer risk. But if you’re fasting or cleansing, you may not be getting all the calories and energy you need to exercise as usual.

If you’re drinking your calories during a juice cleanse, make sure you’re drinking nutritionally complete juices. In other words, consider if you’re getting enough carbohydrates, fiber, protein and electrolytes. If you’re not sure, talk to your doctor. They can help you figure out if a cleanse is safe for you and your life style.

You’re more likely to maintain weight loss through diet and exercise.

“Cleanses and fasts may seem like a quick fix,” Rush says. “But a better way to control weight is to develop healthy eating habits.”

To build a healthy diet:

Fill two-thirds of your plate with plant-based foods, like vegetables and whole grains. Try to avoid high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, especially when it comes to snacks.

Eliminate sweetened beverages from your diet. Drinking more water throughout the day can replenish your body without adding calories.

“You’re likely to see more long-term success following these tips than using a cleanse or fast,” Rush says.