What to know about dietary cleanses

Dietary trends come and go. A trend that’s popular today could be gone tomorrow, leaving both advocates and adversaries in its wake.

Dietary cleanses, sometimes referred to as “detoxes,” have emerged in recent years. Cleanses are purported to help individuals cleanse their body of toxins while also helping them to lose weight. Women are urged to speak with their physicians prior to beginning a new dietary regimen, including cleanses. Women curious about cleanses also can learn more about them prior to speaking with their physicians.

What do cleanses entail?

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health notes that cleanses and detox diets may include one or any number of these approaches:

• Fasting

• Drinking only juices or eating only certain foods

• Supplementation

• Using herbs

• Using a sauna

Juice cleanses are one example of a cleanse or detox diet that has piqued the curiosity of many individuals in recent years. Juice cleanses differ, but many involve consuming only fruit or vegetable juices and water. Individuals engaged in juice cleanses may stick to that regimen for days or even weeks.

What does the science say about cleanses?

The NCCIH indicates a need for more substantive research before the efficacy of cleanses and detox diets can be confirmed. The NCCIH notes that, thus far, studies have been too small or too low-quality for scientists to say with certainty that cleanses and detox diets are safe and effective.

Women considering cleanses also should know that various companies selling cleansing and detox products have been accused by the Federal Trade Commission of making false claims about their products and/or producing products with potentially harmful ingredients. Such actions underscore how important it is that women discuss cleanses and detox diets with their physicians prior to beginning any new dietary regimen. When speaking to a doctor about a cleanse or detox diet, women should be as specific as possible, noting which products they are considering. Doctors can examine the products to determine any risks associated with them. For example, the NCCIH notes that juices made from high-oxalate foods such as spinach and beets could increase risk for kidney disease if consumed in significant quantities. Doctors also may note that some cleanses and detox diets that limit calories may produce short-term weight loss, but that any pounds shed may only be regained when women return to their normal diets once the cleanse ends.

Women considering dietary cleanses or other detox diets should discuss them with a physician prior to beginning a regimen. Doctors may recommend more proven dietary strategies that can help women get healthier and stay that way over the long haul.