Can cleansing & detoxing make us fatter?

People wanting to lose weight often resort to body cleanses & detoxification to jump-start their program. While drastically reducing calories and drinking cleansing juices/shakes may result in speedy weight loss, these results almost always boomerang. Why?

3 reasons cleansing doesn’t result in permanent weight loss:

  1. Most people are nutritionally unprepared. When we stop caloric intake through a fast or reduce it to extremely low calories as is the case with juice or shake cleanses, the body has to recruit energy from our fat cells since we aren’t taking in adequate amounts to carry on all of our life sustaining functions (plus moving around, working, and possibly exercising). Besides providing energy, fat cells also store toxins such as DDT and PCB’s. When we cleanse, we free up the contents of these fat cells including all those toxins (detoxification). Toxins get stored in fat cells in the first place because the body wasn’t equipped to eliminate them. In a healthy body that has plenty of vitamins, minerals, co-factors and enzymes, toxins are eliminated rather than stored. It makes perfect sense that an overweight person has more stored toxins (they have more fat). If an overweight person starts their weight loss program with a cleanse rather than spending 6-12 months building up their nutritional reserves to be able to deal with all the toxins once released, their weight loss will be temporary as the body will have to re-store those toxins all over again. This often results in even more weight being gained.  The Catch-22 is that for cleansing and fasting to be successful and improve health (rather than a toxic burden), you already need to be healthy.
  2. Cleansing can throw your body into a hormonal tailspin through caloric deprivation. When calories are drastically reduced, it puts the body into energy conservation mode, slowing down your metabolism. However, the body is smart and our survival system kicks into place. One way it does this is through hormones. The hormones leptin (decreases) and ghrelin (increases) cause an increase in appetite and hunger signals, forcing us to seek out calories and “rescue” us from starving to death.
  3. Not having a long-term maintenance plan in place. Without making permanent lifestyle changes to maintain long-term weight loss, it’s not going to happen. The second you stop eating healthy foods, reasonable portions, and lose sight of other critical lifestyle factors like adequate sleep, stress reduction and optimal hydration, things fall apart.

Cleanses have the illusion of being a shortcut to weight loss and improved health. They aren’t. If you are healthy, eat the right diet, consume healthy portions, drink plenty of water, get exercise weekly, and reduce your stress, cleansing occasionally may make you feel even better. By taking good care of your health, your body will naturally cleanse itself. However, most of us are regularly exposed to many environmental toxins and need a little extra help in the detoxification department. If a trained wellness care professional tells you that you need specific cleansing (colon, kidney, liver, heavy metals, etc.), it is a good opportunity to give your body that extra attention. In general, we could all benefit from:

  • Choosing an organic diet free of toxins (pesticides, fungicides, antibiotics, growth hormones, etc).
  • Avoid foods you are intolerant or allergic too.
  • Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of clean water daily.
  • Sleep 6-8 hours each night.
  • Move your body every day.
  • Incorporate activities into your daily life that you enjoy and reduce your stress level.


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