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You Ask, I Answer: Fasts/"Detox" Cleanses

Posted Aug 24 2008 6:44pm
I’m getting into a rather heated argument here at work with my coworker who swears by Stanley Burrough's Master Cleanse .

He says it provides mental clarity and gets him "back on track" whilst cleaning out his system.

Admittedly, I've tried it before and went off after the 5th day due to headaches, extreme bitchiness, etc, etc. I also felt like my tooth enamel was being eroded due to all the citric acid.

I've read your blog entry on the topic , and was hoping you could go into more detail regarding liquid cleanses/fasts.

When are they healthy? When are they not?

Does cayenne pepper actually bind to the toxins/whatnot in your intestines and do anything beneficial?

Does the master cleanse actually make your body go into a starvation mode? What are the side effects of this?

Why is this "cleanse" still such a hot topic?! Why hasn’t it successfully been filed under crap to never try?

Are there any REAL physiological benefits?? What about juice fasts??

-- Brooke Green

Brooklyn, NY

Great questions! Let’s take them one at a time.

Fasts – of any kind – are not healthy in general.

This is especially true if they fall below 1,200 calories, are all liquid, restrict you to a handful of foods or only one food group, or simply do not enable you to get enough nutrients.

There is no logical reason, from a health standpoint, to go on a fast of any kind.

Even if someone were on a steady diet of Doritos, ice cream, and soda for months and suddenly wanted to “start fresh”, all they would have to do is replace those foods with healthier ones.

There is no need to stop eating or have only liquids in order to “cleanse” the body.

When you consider that these fasts are deficient in practically every nutrient, it is ironic that it is often “health conscious” people who go on them.

Cayenne pepper does not “bind” to toxins or perform any sort of miracle. If anyone tells you otherwise, direct them to the nearest bank so they can deposit a big, fat reality check.

I suspect your co-worker isn't experiencing the benefits of a "cleanse," but rather the power of the placebo effect.

We already have built-in “detoxing” organs, the kidneys and liver. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t urinate (one significant way in which we excrete, among other things, toxins).

If you want to keep things moving through the digestive system and take away some stress from those organs, getting sufficient insoluble fiber and hydration are two important steps you can take.

Many cleanses – including the Master Cleanse – cause your body to go into starvation mode.

When you are on these "plans", the majority of weight lost comes from water and muscle (so yes, you lose weight, but it is not permanent; even worse, your metabolism slows down, thereby slowing down your body's calorie-burning rate.)

The Master Cleanse always pops up as a "trendy" diet because people are thrilled with the idea of a quick fix. Also, scare tactics work.

Many cleanse companies tell stories of “years of fecal matter” being stuck to your intestinal walls. Get rid of these, they say, and lose ten pounds in just days!

Creative, but untrue.

However, these “facts” often fester in people's minds, enticing them to fork over money for these silly “fixes.”

Juice fasts are just as unhealthy and useless. You are talking about no protein, no fat, no calcium, no zinc, etc.

Remember, the different “food groups” offer specific nutrients. Fruits contain many vitamins, but they lack protein, heart-healthy fats, calcium, iron, etc, etc.

Additionally, high intakes of fructose -- the natural sugar in fruit -- are linked with intestinal distress in many people. NOT fun.

With that said, I fully and wholeheartedly recommend the Andy Bellatti cleanse.

No pills, no powders, no counting carbs. Simply purge all ridiculous and unhealthy weight-loss tactics out of your mind. It's a very refreshing experience!
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