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Detox Cleanse Diets: Do They Really Work … And Are They Safe?

By: Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

detox cleanse

Many people have tried, or at least considered, detox cleanse diets. But do they work? More importantly, are they safe?

It's true that toxins can build up in your body and negatively affect the way your body functions and the way you feel.

So … do detox cleanse diets actually work and are they safe, or is there a better way to lose weight and detoxify your body?

Read below to find out if detox cleanse diets are right for you!

It's time to rethink dieting. Check out these tips to change your mindset!

What Are Detox Cleanse Diets?

Detox cleanse diets are those that claim to rid your body of toxins or help you lose weight.

Common toxins you may encounter from foods, water, or the environment include cadmium, arsenic, mercury, and lead, many of which are neurotoxins and harmful for your body and brain in large amounts.

Some detox diets encourage you to:

  • Fast or severely restrict calories
  • Eat only certain foods
  • Drink lots of water or juices
  • Eat mainly soup
  • Drink apple cider vinegar
  • Drink lemon water
  • Take dietary supplements

Many types of detox diets are very restrictive and not designed for long-term use.

These diets usually tout full body detoxification, more energy, digestive system cleansing, and weight loss.

But should you try detox cleanse diets and which should you choose? It depends.

Are Detox Cleanse Diets Safe?

Detox cleanse diets might be safe short term, but it depends on which type of detox diet you try.

Certain components of detox diets are good habits to adopt, such as:

  • Drinking more water
  • Eating more fruits or vegetables
  • Drinking fruit and vegetable juices
  • Getting more exercise
  • Sweating more
  • Avoiding highly processed foods
  • Avoiding added sugar
  • Steering clear of alcohol

However, use caution when choosing restrictive detox cleanse diets, especially those that encourage you to follow detox diets for long time periods.

What Are the Drawbacks of Detox Cleanse Diets?

There are several potential drawbacks you might encounter when trying detox cleanse diets.

You may experience negative side effects, such as:

  • Increased urination
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Problems sleeping
  • Nutrition deficiencies
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

If you detox cleanse diet for long time periods, you may not feel your best.

Less restrictive versions of detox dieting are better options, as they're less likely to cause negative effects.

For example, if your detox cleanse diet consists of whole foods instead of highly processed foods, your energy levels will probably increase.

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Do Detox Cleanse Diets Work?

Detox cleanse diets often work for weight loss for numerous reasons, at least short-term.

Most detox diets encourage you to increase your water intake, which studies show is an effective weight loss strategy.

Furthermore, detox cleanse diets eliminate highly processed foods and other high-calorie junk foods.

Because detox cleanse diets are usually very restrictive, they're often classified as low-calorie or very-low-calorie diets, which are highly effective when weight loss is your goal.

However, many detox cleanse diets aren't safe to follow long term.

They are short-lived strategies to rid your body of toxins, help you eat fewer calories, and reset your metabolism.

Because detox diets can cause unpleasant symptoms, you don't have to choose them for effective weight loss.

In fact, well-balanced, reduced-calorie meal plans are a better bet for long-term success.

This simple eating strategy will help you eat healthily more often!

What's the Best Way to Detox and Lose Weight?

Some of the best ways to detoxify your body and achieve or maintain a healthy weight include:

Drink More Water

Drinking more water is a good way to flush out body toxins.

Many women need at least 12 cups of fluids (including water and other beverage) daily.

Carry a water bottle with you throughout the day to track your intake.

If your goal is weight loss, drink at least 2 cups of water before each meal.

Studies show that drinking water before meals can decrease your calorie intake for effective weight loss.

Drink water with ice or flavor it with lemon, chunks of fruit, mint, or 100% fruit juice.

Always hit your hydration goals with this one simple tip!

Sweat More

When you sweat, you eliminate body toxins in addition to fluids.

Studies show that sweating is your body's natural cleansing mechanism and helps rid the body of arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, and other body toxins.

Examples of ways to increase sweating including regular exercise, hot yoga, sauna use, or sitting in a hot tub (as long as your doctor gives you the OK).

If you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant, avoid very high temperatures.

Be Active Daily

Staying active is one of the best ways to increase toxin elimination through sweating.

Aim to exercise at least 30 minutes daily.

Participate in cardiovascular exercise (running, cycling, playing sports, rowing, using an elliptical machine, etc.) plus weightlifting or other types of resistance training workouts.

Keep your body moving for at least 45 additional minutes by doing house chores, grocery shopping, gardening, doing yard work, or completing other common activities of daily living.

Doing so enhances body toxin elimination and helps you achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

Is sitting the new smoking? Learn about the negative effects of sitting and how to reverse them!

Eat More High-Fiber Foods

Fiber passes through your body mainly undigested, so it keeps you full without the extra calories and lowers your risk of constipation.

Fiber keeps your digestive tract healthy, can lower cholesterol levels, and helps you achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

Try to eat fiber-rich foods at each meal.

Examples of high-fiber options include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, other legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Aim to eat at least 25-30 grams of fiber daily, and ask your doctor if a daily fiber supplement is right for you.

Eliminate Highly Processed Foods

Many highly processed foods contain sugar, salt, preservatives, or other additives, which is why these foods aren't included in detox cleanse diets.

Examples of foods to avoid when detoxing for weight loss include:

  • Ham, salami, hot dogs, high-fat ground beef, regular bacon, brats, deli meats, and other highly processed meats
  • White bread, white hamburger buns, white tortillas, regular pasta, white rice, plain bagels, baked goods, and other refined grains
  • Potato chips and other highly processed snack foods
  • Fried meats, fried cheese curds, fried mozzarella sticks, and other fried foods
  • American cheese
  • Cookies, candy bars, cakes, ice cream, and other sweet treats
  • Soda, diet soda, sweet tea, lemonade, sugar-sweetened sports drinks, and other sugary drinks

Instead, choose fresh meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and other whole foods without the additives.

Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol isn't included in detox cleanse diets for many reasons.

Alcohol itself is a body toxin, as drinking too much of it can alter the way your body functions physically and mentally.

Alcohol contributes to a higher calorie intake, which can make weight loss difficult.

Alcohol use is linked with certain types of cancer, including throat, mouth, voice box, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and breast cancers.

Even if you generally drink alcohol in moderation, steer clear of it when following a detox cleanse diet.

Find out if drinking alcohol and losing weight can be done at the same time!

Get More Sleep

Getting plenty of good-quality sleep is important for many reasons.

Sleep supports your body's natural detoxification process, enhances healing, and maximizes your energy levels.

Getting enough sleep is important for healthy weight management, as lack of sleep can alter hormone levels and make you feel hungrier.

Feeling tired because you're not sleeping well can make you less active throughout the day or cause you to skip workouts altogether.

Get at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to speed up toxin elimination.

Go to bed at the same time most nights, sleep in a cool dark room, and avoid consuming caffeine late in the day.

Don't go to bed hungry or too full, and use a white noise machine to block out loud sounds as needed.

Avoid looking at blue light before bed. Instead, read a good book or try guided sleep meditation.

Find out why sleep is important and how getting enough quality sleep can help you lose weight.

Consume Probiotics

Believe it or not, consuming foods rich in probiotics or taking probiotics supplements can remove toxins, such as cadmium, aluminum, arsenic, and lead, from the body.

Studies show that probiotics can bind to these harmful toxins and eliminate them from your body when you go to the bathroom.

Examples of foods rich in probiotics include kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, kombucha, and kimchi.

Ask your doctor which types of probiotics supplements might be a good match for you.

Use Dietary Supplements Wisely

Many types of detox diets encourage you to take dietary supplements but use such supplements wisely.

Some supplements can negatively interact with medications and they aren't as tightly regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as foods and medications.

If you're thinking about trying a detox diet and taking dietary supplements to speed up detoxification, check in with your doctor to make sure supplements are safe for you.

Popular and safe dietary supplements for women include multivitamins, probiotics, fiber supplements, omega-3 supplements, and protein-rich meal replacements.

When making protein shakes, mix protein powder with water or milk, ice, and fruit if you'd like!

Learn more about using magnesium for sleep, anxiety, and weight loss!

Avoid High-Mercury Fish

Some types of fish contain higher levels of contaminants, especially the neurotoxin mercury, than others.

In general, the larger the fish the more toxins it contains.

Ingesting too much mercury can cause problems with fetal development during pregnancy and in babies who are breastfeeding.

For this reason, the FDA recommends young children, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and women who might become pregnant avoid the following types of high-mercury fish:

  • Shark
  • Tilefish
  • King mackerel
  • Bigeye tuna
  • Swordfish
  • Orange roughy
  • Marlin

Lower-mercury fish and seafood to choose instead a few times per week include canned light tuna, salmon, shrimp, tilapia, catfish, trout, herring, and many others.

Reduce Stress

Stress hinders your body's detoxification progress in several ways.

It causes a variety of reactions in the body that increase inflammation, reduce your body's ability to fight diseases and infections, or cause you to overeat and crave unhealthy foods.

To keep your body as toxin-free as possible, keep stress at bay using a variety of effective strategies.

Examples include:

  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Take time off from work or school to relax
  • Schedule vacations
  • Consider massage, yoga, meditation, or tai chi
  • Get outdoors daily
  • Exercise most days of the week
  • Spend time with loved ones

Lighten up a busy schedule by saying no to too many activities.

Take time out of each day to unwind, and ask family members for help with kids or house chores when you need it!

Find out how stress is killing us as we reveal some important research about stress.

Try a Weight Loss Program

If the goal of your detox cleanse diet is weight loss, consider joining an organized weight loss program designed for busy women.

Doing so greatly increases the chance of reaching your goal weight and maintaining it long-term.

The Fit Mother Project offers motivational support, online coaching from medical experts, custom meal plans, fat-burning workouts, recipes, weekly newsletters, and much more.

Studies show that structured weight loss programs help participants lose greater amounts of weight than dieting on their own.

To get started on your weight loss journey, try a Fit Mother Project free meal plan and workout today!

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Should I Try Detox Cleanse Diets?

Detox cleanse diets can be helpful, depending on which type of diet you choose.

However, use caution when trying certain types of detox diets or taking unfamiliar dietary supplements.

Check-in with your doctor before you try supplements, especially if you have a medical condition or take medications.

Steer clear of highly restrictive diets, very-low-calorie diets (fewer than 800 calories daily) without a doctor's supervision, and long-term fasting.

Rather than adopting a detox cleanse diet you follow for a short time period, consider making healthy, long-term diet and exercise changes you can stick with for a lifetime.

Examples include:

  • Drink more water
  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep each night
  • Consume foods or supplements rich in probiotics
  • Increase fiber-rich foods
  • Reduce added sugars
  • Avoid highly processed foods
  • Work out regularly
  • Sweat daily
  • Limit or avoid alcohol
  • Reduce stress
  • Avoid high-mercury fish
  • Sign up for the Fit Mother Project

Replace very restrictive detox cleanse diets with healthy lifestyle changes.

Adopting the healthy habits above is the best way to avoid toxin buildup in your body, lose weight, and maintain the ideal body weight for life!

Erin Coleman

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on detox cleanse diets.

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