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Natural Liver Detox Diets (Liver Cleansing)

What Are the Benefits of a Detox Diet?

Proponents believe that occasionally cleansing the body with natural liver detox diets can clear the body of poisons that have built up. They also suggest that detox diets help with weight loss. Other claims range from greater energy and more clear headedness to the prevention and cure of chronic diseases.

Symptoms may improve with a detox diet, but there is no evidence that this is due to clearing toxins from the body. Instead, improvements may result from what is and is not eaten and drunk on these diets, such as:

  • more water
  • less alcohol and caffeine
  • less fat and animal proteins
  • fewer refined and processed foods
  • more healthful, whole, plant-based foods

As it turns out, a balanced, proper diet may be more helpful than a detox diet. Perhaps taking the best of the detox diets -- eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed, refined, and fatty foods, for example -- is the way to go.

What's the Problem With Detox Diets?

One problem is that most of these detox diets are so restrictive that you can't maintain them for long (most are designed to use for a couple of weeks). Also, any weight loss is usually from fluid and muscle loss. Most people quickly regain weight once they go off the diet. Worse, especially if used long term, detox diets can cause harm.

 

How Does the Body Naturally Detox?

The good news is that your body has its own natural detoxifying process that works quite well. The liver and kidneys do a good job of processing chemicals and eliminating them in sweat, urine, and feces. For example, the colon's natural bacteria detoxify food wastes and its mucus membranes prevent bacteria and toxins from reentering the body. The liver combines its own chemicals with other chemicals, making water-soluble compounds that your kidneys can excrete in urine. And some chemicals are also excreted through the lungs and skin. 

Are There Precautions to Take on a Detox Diet?

If you want to try a natural liver detox diet, be sure to talk to your health care provider first. Do not use a detox diet for longer than a brief period. The same goes for the use of any laxatives or supplements that have a laxative effect, especially if they're stimulant laxatives. They can cause dehydration, mineral imbalances, and problems with your digestive system if you use them long term.

Here are some other things you should know about natural liver cleansing:

  • Over time, fasting can slow your metabolism, making it harder to keep your weight off.
  • If you fast, make sure you get all the nutrients you need, including protein found in beans, milk, eggs, yogurt, and lean meat.
  • Fasting can be addicting because it causes a kind of "high." If overused, it can lead to eating disorders and other health problems.

Some people are more vulnerable to detox diets. Always check with your health care provider before starting a detox diet.  Do not go on a detox diet if you have:

  • diabetes
  • low blood sugar
  • an eating disorder
  • a heart condition
  • a chronic condition, unless cleared by your doctor

Also, detox diets are not appropriate for children, teens, seniors, or pregnant or breastfeeding women.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 20, 2013

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