After a period of indulging many women turn to a cleanse or detox to help them lose weight. The idea seems good. Ridding the body of all of the crap you have been eating and drinking sounds enticing. But is it necessary and does it even help?

What is a detox or cleanse?

The words detox or cleanse are often used interchangeably. The idea with both is to rid your body of toxins. The idea is that we are eating toxins all the time, that we are always exposed to toxins in the environment and that our bodies need help with cleaning out this toxic mess. These diets usually consist of drinking mostly juice (often sold by the person recommending the detox) and very little real food.

What exactly is meant by toxins?

A toxin is defined as something that is poisonous to the body. The problem with defining toxins is that many things are toxic under certain circumstances. Alcohol in small amounts is not considered toxic, larger amounts can kill you. Some vitamins are helpful in small amounts, but toxic in larger amounts.
Proponents of detox diets or cleanses often refer to foods containing sugar, other additives or pesticides as toxic. While these foods are not good for you, they are not toxic in small amounts. Some proponents of detoxing say that removing the build up of these toxins will help you lose weight. Most toxins (except for heavy metals) do not build up in the body and the diets suggested in a cleanse or detox will do little to help remove the toxins that exist.

How your body detoxifies itself

Toxins are removed naturally by the body through the liver, and kidneys. Waste is naturally expelled from your body when you urinate or defecate. A diet that is includes little added sugar, lots of vegetables and fibre will be more effective in helping the liver and kidneys do their jobs than a cleanse.

What a juice cleanse does

With a juice cleanse you are likely consuming mostly fruits and vegetable juices. These diets are very low in calories and fibre. Since fibre is actually beneficial for cleaning out your colon these diets have the opposite effect to what you are looking for. They can also contain high amounts of sugar (from fruit) and nitrates (from vegetables) which may not make you feel very good. You are also unlikely to eat much fat which means you are missing out on heathy fats and fat soluble vitamins.

Avoid the Colon Cleanse

A colon cleanse is thought to be a way of cleaning out stored fecal matter to eliminate toxins. I understand the appeal of a colon cleanse, but they can have the opposite effect that you are looking for. Fecal matter is not stored in the colon and a colon cleanse does nothing to help eliminate toxicity. Our colons contain an entire microcosm of healthy gut bacteria. If anything we want to encourage that gut bacteria, not try to clean it out. Taking a daily probiotic or eating foods high in probiotics will have a more beneficial impact on your intestinal health than doing a colon cleanse.

What about weight loss?

A cleanse or detox can lead to some initial weight loss. These diets are usually very low in calories so initial weight loss can be considerable. Colon cleanses which can induce diarrhea will cause initial weight loss, but this is likely due to dehydration. After the initial weight loss, if you stay on a detox diet for long your metabolism will start to slow down, negating the effects of the diet. Cleanses do not hep establish healthy eating habits which are necessary for weight loss and weight maintenance.

If you look for a detox or cleanse that does contain real food (not just juice) this will be a better choice and it may help kick start some healthy choices and some weight loss. But don’t expect it to have magical cleansing effects and don’t expect it work better than any other diet you might have tried.


A detox or cleanse might sound like a great idea, but it might not be as healthy as it sounds. For a healthier way to lose weight download this guide to weight loss during menopause.