Your body comes in contact with a vast number of chemicals, pollutants and unhealthy foods during a typical day. Normally the body is very efficient at flushing out toxins, but detox, or detoxification, programs have become popular as ways to help rid the body of toxins and help you feel lighter and more energized. Cranberry water is one such drink touted to help detox, yet limited data supports the necessity and effectiveness of this approach. However, cranberries contain components that, along with a nourishing diet, can help the natural detox process. Since there are risks to detox programs, speak with a doctor before starting a program to discuss the risks and benefits and to ensure all nutritional and medical needs are met.
About Cranberry Detox
In a cranberry detox program, the berries are crushed and infused with plain water, and this cranberry water is consumed up to several times each day. Usually cranberry water is consumed alone for the first few to several days of the program, after which healthful foods are added back into the diet. While this program claims to help flush toxins out of the body, there is limited quality research to support these claims. Several organs are involved in the body's natural ability to get rid of toxins, including the liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines and skin. However, plant chemicals -- known as phytochemicals -- from cranberries and the water consumed in this plan may play a role in helping the body naturally detox.
Drinking plenty of water, either plain or infused drinks such as cranberry water, is important to help the body filter out toxic substances, according to an article published in the August 2010 issue of "Nutrition Review." Cranberries are also a good source of fiber, which helps promote normal bowel movements -- a natural way for the body to get rid of toxins. In addition, cranberries are an excellent source of phytochemicals, which maintain health and reduce the risk of disease. Their presence in cranberries may offer numerous health benefits -- including antioxidant activity -- but specific human research about cranberry's role in detoxification is lacking, according to a review published in the November 2013 issue of "Advances in Nutrition."
Vitamin C-rich foods may increase levels of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant and detoxification agent made by the body, according to research published in September 2015 in "Preventative Nutrition and Food Science." The whole cranberries used in cranberry water are a good source of vitamin C, but much higher amounts are found in vitamin C-fortified cranberry juice.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, detox diets and regimens -- including cranberry water and other juice fasts -- are not universally recommended because there's no convincing evidence that they work and improve health. In spite of the limited scientific research demonstrating effectiveness, detox plans are becoming increasingly popular, and detox plans are often combined with vitamins, herbs or other supplements -- which may be responsible for some of the touted benefits. For instance, detox plans are often used with laxatives that cause the bowels to empty or certain supplements that decrease the appetite.
Whole cranberries, or cranberry infused water, can be a nutritious addition to a healthy diet. A food pattern that minimizes processed foods, curtails added sugars and emphasizes a variety of phytochemical-rich whole plant foods, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans, is one of the best ways to keep the body clear of impurities. A diet rich in fiber can help keep the gastrointestinal tract healthy and aid in removing toxins from the body. According to a December 2005 article published in the "World Journal of Gastroenterology," vegetables with high levels of antioxidants, namely green leafy vegetables, also enhance detoxification. With the popularity of detox programs and the increasing concern about exposure to toxins, more research is needed on how foods can enhance the body's natural detoxification processes.
Warnings and Precautions
One of the biggest risks to a cranberry water detox, if only consuming the water, is energy restriction and inadequate intake of nutrients, according to a 2015 review in the "Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics." Fasting can lead to headaches, dizziness, weakness and severe hunger. Severe energy restriction could also lead to health complications, such as nutrient deficiency and electrolyte imbalance.
It is important to speak with your doctor if you want to begin a detox program or juice fast. This is particularly important if you take any prescription medication or have any health conditions. Certain blood thinning medications, for example, may be affected by an increase in dietary cranberry intake. Medical conditions, such as diabetes, require careful monitoring with any dramatic diet changes. Children and pregnant or breastfeeding women should not perform a cranberry water detox due to the risks of severe calorie restriction and low nutrient intake. If you wish to discuss a healthy approach to natural detoxification, speak with your doctor and meet with a registered dietitian to discuss incorporating this into an overall healthy diet plan.
Reviewed by: Kay Peck, MPH, RD
- Preventive Nutrition and Food Science: Low Nourishment of Vitamin C Induces Glutathione Depletion and Oxidative Stress in Healthy Young Adults
- Nutrition Review: Water, Hydration and Health
- Today's Dietitian: Diet and Detoxification
- World Journal of Gastroenterology: Protective Effects of Asian Green Vegetables Against Oxidant Induced Cytotoxicity
- Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Detoxification in Naturopathic Medicine: A Survey
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: Phytochemicals of Cranberries and Cranberry Products: Characterization, Potential Health Effects, and Processing Stability
- National Institutes of Health - National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health: "Detoxes" and "Cleanses"
- Today's Dietitian: Spring Cleansing: Assessing the Benefits and Risks of Detox Diets
Linda Tarr Kent is a reporter and editor with more than 20 years experience at Gannett Company Inc., The McClatchy Company, Sound Publishing Inc., Mach Publishing, MomFit The Movement and other companies. Her area of expertise is health and fitness. She is a Bosu fitness and stand-up paddle surfing instructor. Kent holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Washington State University.