Green kale smoothie overhead view, in a glass with straw on a striped cloth against aged wood

Green kale smoothie overhead view, in a glass with straw on a striped cloth against aged wood

Even if you didn’t hear about them during your childhood, cleanses have been around for decades, but they’ve recently have moved to the front of the pack when it comes being used as a diet aid and health strategy.  Many people think that with all of the junk we put in our bodies, we can have up to 25 pounds of “sludge” in our gut that needs to be cleaned from time to time.  Unfortunately, it’s a mixture of part pseudo-science and part myth that detox diets physically remove toxins from your body. If you Google search “detox diet,” you’ll get a range of results from fasting for days to extremely strict and absurd meal plans containing less than 500 calories per day. Let’s be honest, who actually enjoys restricting calories? I know I sure don’t, and it’s extremely bad for your body (and metabolism) as well.  Most of these detoxes use exaggerated science and make overblown claims promoting the benefits of detoxing. So what is the scientific based truth?

Our body has it’s own natural detox system that takes place in our liver. Although other systems of our body are involved, the liver is powerhouse of the natural detox system.

There are two main phases of detoxification that take place in our liver. The first phase, or functionalization phase, consists of enzymes partially breaking down of fat-soluble toxins that result in free radicals. In the second phase, or conjugation phase, free radicals are converted via enzymes into water-soluble toxins that can be excreted in waste (urine, bile, and feces). If one phase is not working properly or out of sync, this throws the whole system for a loop. Which leads us to the second part of the cleansing myth: a multiple day juice cleanse will “reset” your body. The reality is that there is no scientific evidence that drinking certain juices for a few days (whether it be 3-day, 5-day, or 7-day cleanses) will re-boot your entire digestive system.  Your liver (powerhouse), kidneys, lungs, colon, and skin are all organs of elimination. When we take care of these organs along with our entire body, these organs can function to the best of their ability. And how do we take care of these organs do you ask? You guessed it—proper nutrition and hydration! Depending on which cleanse you choose, you may make yourself even more deficient in the enzymes needed to keep your detoxifying ability efficient!

But before you go into your refrigerator and throw away all of your pricey juice cleanses, please know that some of these can easily be implemented into a balanced diet. What you want to be most conscious of is the sugar content.  Most juice cleanses contain large amounts of fruits and vegetables that have been juiced down into a small quantities of liquid. Some bottled juices have more than 60 grams of sugar per serving. Just to give you some perspective that’s 15 teaspoons of sugar (nearly twice as much of the daily recommended amount for women). No one in their right mind would drink 15 teaspoons of sugar when they are trying to detox, but unfortunately many consumers are unknowingly taking part.

What You Should Know about Sugar in Your Child’s Diet.

Some of my favorite juices are OLUS + and Evolution Fresh. For example: Evolution Fresh Green Devotion checks in at only 8 grams of sugar for the entire bottle. Lesson Learned? Make sure you are reading your nutrition facts labels and aware of what you are putting in your body.

These Are the Best Fruits for Your Face.

Now that you have mastered the science, here’s what you can conclude. Enzymes need the help of specific vitamins and minerals to breakdown toxins efficiently. Hear me when I say there is no end-all, cure-all instant detox that will be a remedy for poor eating habits.  A healthy, balanced diet along with proper hydration and sleep is all you need to naturally and continuously detox your system!

This article “The Truth About Cleanses” first appeared on and is reprinted here with the authors’ permission.

– By Mindy Black, R.D., and Samantha Pappas, R.D.

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