Detox Diets: Juice Up Your Health?
Fasting and "Cleansing" Not Necessary, Some Experts Say
It's a compelling argument: The very veggies we eat, the air we
breathe, even our drinking water is full of toxins. So ridding the body of
toxins is surely a good thing, right? Not everyone agrees.
That's the premise of detoxification diets, better known as detox
diets. For many people, detoxing is a ritual form of spring cleansing. However,
while the theories behind detox diets may sound beneficial, they are
controversial. Some experts say they're pointless, sometimes even
"There's no scientific evidence to support the claims made
for [detox diets]," says alternative-medicine guru Andrew Weil, MD, host of
drweil.com and director of integrative medicine at the University of Arizona in
Tucson. "But there are things you can do to rev up the body's own
elimination systems," he tells WebMD.
Spring Cleansing: No Vacuum Needed
It's true that our bodies naturally eliminate toxins we ingest
or inhale, explains Linda Page, author of the book Detoxification.
"Detoxification is a normal body process of eliminating or neutralizing
toxins through the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph glands, and skin.
"Just as our hearts beat nonstop and our lungs breathe
continuously, so our metabolic processes continuously dispose of accumulated
toxic matter," she explains.
Page has her own theory as to why there is a need for detox
diets. She tells WebMD the environmental toxins of modern-day life that we're
exposed to -- the pollutants, chemicals, other synthetic substances -- are more
than the average body can handle. "The body doesn't know what to do with
foreign substances, so it will store them outside of the regular elimination
system, so we don't get poisoned. Those poisons start building up in our body
Her weekend detox program involves drinking fruit juice -- a
whole lot of juice and little else -- which, according to her, pushes
these toxins out of your system, Page says.
She also recommends taking "cleansing boosters" such as
herbal laxatives and colonics, as well as probiotics (that replenish healthy
bacteria) and antioxidants during the weekend-long program. Relaxation
techniques -- massage therapy, sauna, aromatherapy baths,
deep-breathing exercises, walking -- help round out the cleansing, she
Vegetarian Eating and Fasting
Richard DeAndrea, MD, ND, has developed a 21-day detox program.
During the first week, you follow a strict plant-based vegan diet -- no meat,
no dairy. The second week is raw fruits and vegetables only.
The third week, you're drinking fruit juices and special
smoothies some call "green sludge." According to his web site, the
smoothies contain a "superfood" supplement specially blended for
detoxification -- pulverized alfalfa, barley grass, algae, herbs, enzymes, and
But for purists like Chris Strychacz, PhD, a research
psychologist at the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, fasting
("water only") is the way to go. He's been fasting for at least 25
years now, an annual week-long ritual every spring.
Although there are no studies of juice-fasts diets, water
fasting does have some scientific evidence behind it, "but very scant,"