Do You Need a Spring Cleanse?

May 5, 2016 ,

The word “detox” or “cleanse” sounds so powerful, right? Like it will work some serious magic. Advocates of the “cleanse diet” say it will reset your body; improve energy, digestion, metabolism etc. But does it? What is involved in this drinkable concoction and is it worth your hard earned cash?

As a society, we are still easily drawn in by the “quick fix” – especially for weight loss. After all, with advancing science, there must be something that actually works, stays true to their big (empty) promises and actually keeps the weight off? Sorry folks, spoiler alert, still no magic bullet for weight loss.Cleanses are gaining traction in a world filled with more food “fear mongering” than ever before! This leads people to worry that suddenly our bodies are at risk for buildup from chemicals in our environment and food supply. Today, we will take a look at this expensive, strict and potentially dangerous diet.

What is a Cleanse?

Although a cleanse can mean different things to different people (from drinking lemon juice and cayenne pepper to reducing processed foods), these are generally “fad” or short-term programs lasting two to 10 days. Most often, a cleanse or detox, involves limiting your intake to only drinking (sometimes eating) certain supplements for a designated period of time. The promise from these cleanses is that the body will be purified of toxins and wastes that have accumulated from unhealthy eating habits.

Cleanses may involve:

  • Severe calorie restriction
  • Fasting
  • Drinking only juices
  • Replacing meals with shakes
  • Taking herbal supplements
  • Taking laxatives
  • Ingesting large amounts of water
  • Consuming less processed foods (including whole grains, eggs, nuts, beans and less sugar)

Example: One of the most popular cleanses (Master Cleanse) is a 10-day program where you drink six to 12 glasses of maple syrup/lemon juice/water/cayenne pepper lemonade along with a daily laxative. Does this sound appealing to anyone?

What does the Science Say?


There is no scientific evidence or peer-reviewed studies to show that cleanses speed up the removal of toxins, improve bowel health, or achieve lasting weight loss. Despite the fact that we want to aim to eat well and fuel our bodies with the good stuff – less processed foods and more foods made at home – our liver and kidneys, intestines and lungs are already well equipped to remove toxins every day.

Abbey Sharpe has a great video on cleanses where she talks about how bodily functions remove toxins naturally. This is funny; be sure to subscribe to her channel for more entertaining and informative videos!

Cleanse Side Effects

Since these diets tend to be very low calorie and restrictive there are potential side effects include:

  • Low energy (hungry)
  • Cramping, bloating, nausea
  • Headaches or dizzy
  • Slows metabolism since body breaks down muscle
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low or high blood pressure
  • Interaction with medications
  • Inability to focus or think clearly

Those with diabetes, eating disorders, children, pregnant women and older adults are at higher risk for poor outcomes on a cleanse diet.

A Better Alternative?


If you feel the need to cleanse your body, why not start eating better all year long? After all, the best diet you can be on is the one you can keep up indefinitely! This is the main reason “fad diet” DO NOT work. Choosing to increase your dietary fibre, eating more vegetables and fruit, hydrating with water and eating less processed foods are all great things. Focusing on eating well and incorporating regular physical activity will also promote regular bowel movements, which is something many people struggle with.

Not only will a healthy (and sustainable) eating pattern help prevent chronic disease (like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure) but you will have more energy and vitality to do the things you enjoy. That’s a bandwagon we can all hop onto!

Bottom Line:

Your body does not need help removing toxins; it’s already equipped with organs to do the job. Feed your body well all year long; and work with dietitian if you need support individualizing a plan to fit your lifestyle and health conditions.

Let’s vow to eat and enjoy our food. Let’s choose wholesome, fresh foods with care for their nutritional quality and care for our bodies as a machine that requires fuel to run smoothly and allow us to be active and productive. And, let’s let our organs do the cleansing!

Click to discover SOSCuisine: Healthy with Pleasure Meal Plans


Andrea D'Ambrosio
Andrea is a Registered Dietitian and owner of Dietetic Directions, a nutritional counselling and education company. Andrea's mission is to inspire clients through motivation and guidance to achieve life-long health behaviour changes. She has taken continuing education in the areas of Food Allergy and Food Hypersensitivity, Health Research Literacy, Motivational Interviewing & Coaching for Behaviour Change.

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