Also referred to as detox diets, cleansing diets are often promoted as easy methods of ridding the body of toxins and chemicals and for fast weight loss. Some cleansing diets will require you to consume natural food products, while others may require you to consume only a liquid diet.
Most cleanses are very restrictive and do not meet general guidelines for good nutrition. Following a cleanse for 10 days could leave you feeling hungry, fatigued and nauseous. In addition, there is no scientific evidence that cleanses actually work.
Cleansing Diet Types
Cleansing diets may be in liquid or solid food form, though all will restrict your diet significantly. The popular Master Cleanse Diet, for example, requires you to consume a mixture of lemon juice, cayenne pepper, maple syrup and distilled water only for as long as your cleanse lasts.
Others, like the liver cleansing diet, require you to remove all processed and junk foods from your diet, drink raw vegetable juice and eat potassium-rich foods. That's healthy enough. However, this diet also requires that you do coffee enemas, take costly supplements and consume liver.
Read more: Lemon Water Detox Diet
Effectiveness and Risks
There is no evidence that restrictive cleansing diets actually achieve what they are purported to do. Your body is already well-equipped to detoxify itself.
The risks, on the other hand, are well-known. Not getting enough calories and nutrients — even for 10 days — can cause you to feel weak and lethargic. You might experience headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, muscle loss and irritability. The negative effects depend on the restrictiveness of the diet.
While cleansing diets may be an effective means of losing weight quickly, it's short-lived. Fast weight loss is mostly due to water weight loss, which will come back as soon as you start eating your normal diet again.
Better Cleansing Diet
The best cleansing diets are those that encourage you to eat a range of whole, unprocessed foods, do not require that you take supplements, eat strange foods or carry out strange practices that you would not normally do. The best 10-day cleanse is one you can sustain, and even stick to, long-term.
A healthy cleansing diet aims to cut out unhealthy foods and drinks that may harm the body. This includes processed and refined foods, added sugars and artificial sweeteners, foods high in saturated fats, alcohol and caffeine.
A basic detox diet involves eating plenty of organic whole foods, such as fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Animal products such as meat and dairy should be limited or cut out, depending on individual dietary considerations. You may also choose to avoid foods with gluten, shellfish and other common food allergens. Plenty of water should be consumed.
Don't buy into claims that specialized detox diets will give you more energy, fight disease or make you look younger. Those claims are unsupported. If you want to try a cleansing diet for 10 days, eat clean, whole unprocessed foods and drink plenty of water. Regular exercise also aids in optimal physical functioning and energy levels.
If this makes you feel good, you might decide to do it long-term. As long as you are eating enough calories and a variety of fresh foods, this detox diet is safe to stay on indefinitely. If you are concerned about your calorie and nutrient intake, speak with your doctor.
Based in Los Angeles, Calif., Kiki Michelle has been writing health-related articles since 2007. Her work has appeared in "Environmental Science and Technology Magazine." Michelle holds a Bachelor of Arts in human biology from Stanford University.