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Cleanses: What Are They and Do They Work?

In our instant-gratification, fast-results and low-patience society (we’re guilty too), quick fixes sound awfully appealing. Between trying to keep up with life and the hassles sometimes involved with it, we may spread ourselves too thin. We know what we should and should not be eating (for the most part), that we need to be exercising and that we must always pay attention to our health. When faced with another time crunch or the allure of a “jump-start” to our health, an easy nutrition solution feels like the answer … welcome, “cleanses.” What are they all about? Are they as life changing as the ads and media suggest? Find out here.

Companies or nutrition enthusiasts weigh in on the idea of cleanses by marketing juices and powders, or encouraging fasts. Whole-food-based juices receive high ranks because they are a simple way to change bulky fruits and vegetables into a neat and tidy eight-ounce glass that you can drink while on the go. Many times these juices are “raw,” meaning they haven’t been exposed to heat above 118 degrees Fahrenheit, as high temperatures can degrade the bioavailability of some nutrients. Cold-pressed juice is also popular; juice is extracted through a cold press, or masticator, at slow speeds without exposure to oxygen or heat. On the other hand, juices or cleanses that have main ingredients like “raspberry ketones,” “slippery elm,” “senna” or “bentonite clay” don’t have much evidence in research to support their health claims. Another concern about cleanses is the high concentration of natural ingredients like cayenne pepper, peppermint leaf, lemon and maple syrup, which may induce an unnecessary laxative effect or give rise to other issues.

The concept of cleanses stems from the idea that our bodies build up toxins, pollutants and general “gunk” if we don’t regularly purify ourselves of this “body burden.” A purification regimen sounds legitimate; we’re bound to have too much foreign material lying around in our bodies somewhere that hasn’t been used properly, and may even be hindering our weight loss efforts. “Exogenous toxins” are disease-inducing substances of external origin such as chemicals and pollutants in the air or water, food additives or drugs. Exogenous toxins can come from our diet, medication, the environment around us or even topical products we put on our skin. “Endogenous toxins” are these same types of toxic substances but are end products of the metabolism that is constantly happening inside our bodies. These toxins are produced at a molecular level from hormones, enzymes, bacteria and other microorganisms, and many complex molecules.

Let’s talk detox. We know that there may be some truth to a buildup of toxins in our bodies, but don’t our bodily systems know what to do in these situations? The actual definition of detoxification is the biochemical process that changes non-water-soluble toxins and metabolites into water-soluble compounds to be excreted in urine, sweat, bile or stool. These processes greatly rely on good nutrition in the form of natural disease-fighting materials in plants known as phytonutrients, as well as minerals, amino acids and B-vitamins. 

When it comes to weight loss, reducing calories will decrease your weight. There are approximately 3,500 calories in a pound of body fat, and to eliminate this you must have a deficit of 3,500 calories — whether that be from decreased intake, more physical activity or a combination of both. Many times cleanses will be low-calorie, however, cleanses should not be a substitute for a well-planned, balanced diet on a regular basis. Keep in mind that if a cleanse involves juicing and getting rid of any pulp from the original food, this grossly limits the amount of fiber and several vitamins normally obtained from the whole food. Additionally, if you’re having problems with your colon, instead of turning to a “colon cleanse,” right away, ensure you’re getting the proper testing to rule out other conditions first. 

We propose that instead of approaching cleansing and detoxifying as a way to play “catch-up” with or “fix” our natural body processes, let’s just focus on putting the right things in via a well-balanced diet.  Start bridging the gap by adding some of these wholesome foods to your day, all of which are known to help rev up detoxification pathways:

•Simple Truth Organic Green Jasmine Tea
•Simple Truth Electrolyte Water
•Simple Truth Organic Vanilla Yogurt
•Simple Truth Organic Baby Kale
•Simple Truth Organic Broccoli & Cauliflower
•Simple Truth Organic Berry Medley or Mango

Do you think cleanses work? Tell us about a favorite juice you’ve made.‚Äč


Molly Hembree

Molly Hembree is a dietitian for The Kroger Company, providing nutrition, diet, food safety, allergen, and other health education to customers, partners, associates and the community.  She obtained her BS in Dietetics from Eastern Kentucky University and is a current graduate student at the University of Cincinnati towards her MS in Nutrition. 

Molly is a Certified Food Safety Manager by the FSP National Registry and holds two weight management certificates from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  In her free time, she enjoys Zumba, learning about vegan nutrition, and finding new, exciting ways to put fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes at the center of the plate!


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