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Do Cleanses Work?

The Truth About Cleanses

For many, going on a juice cleanse, fast, or any other calorie-restrictive diet is no longer seen as unhealthy, but instead, is the thing to do. Celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow and Salma Hayek make cleanses seem fashionable, and trainers like David Kirsch give detoxes a healthy stamp of approval. Many of you have said that cleansing is a great way to flush toxins from the body, or that you'd at least like to try one out.

Proponents of cleansing say it's a necessity: we take in so much crap (environmentally, too) that detoxing is the only way to restore our bodies. These diets are a means to purify the digestive system, which rids the body of detrimental toxins. The bonus side effects? Weight loss, great skin, more energy, and a clearer mind. Are these claims for real, or just a state of mind by those hopping aboard this trend? With the help of Michael Gershon, M.D., a Columbia University professor who has spent his career researching the digestive system, and a few other experts in the medical field, Vogue examines the claims of juice fasts and detoxes to see if they hold any merit. The results are eye-opening and may make you think twice before plopping down $400 on a cleansing kit.

To find out what the experts say about cleansing,


  • You'll rid your body of a lifetime of toxic chemicals. Through the years I've seen all sorts of horrible pictures of bowel movements in support of cleanses. The theory is that detoxing is a way to let the digestive system rest so it can really push out all those toxins that have been building up. As a result, you'll be at less risk for developing illness and disease. Not so, says Gershon. The body, it seems, is fine at cleansing itself: "If you eat something that the body interprets as toxic, the liver gets rid of it. If it's water-soluble, the kidney pumps it out."
  • You'll drop two dress sizes. It's true you probably will lose weight doing a cleanse, but it's the wrong kind. Vogue reports: "Without enough protein, the body turns to muscle for fuel after about three days, which can make weight loss appear more dramatic because of muscle's bulk." Those pounds you're shedding may be valuable muscle, and not fat. Losing muscle slows down your metabolism too, meaning you'll probably gain more weight in the end.
  • You'll experience euphoria. While detoxing, it's not unusual to have participants describe feelings of euphoria or "intense joy." This may not be your body telling you it's happy, though, but the exact opposite. "The euphoria may actually be a sign the body thinks it's starving and is trying to prevent suffering."
  • You'll look 10 years younger. All that water and vitamin-rich juice you have during a cleanse does pay off after all, especially since you've cut out sugar, caffeine, and alcohol too. The extra hydration plumps up skin to give it a glow, but it's unfortunately "short-lived." Over time, robbing your body of needed calories can actually result in "volume loss in the skin," causing wrinkles.

Find out what other cleansing claims Vogue busted in its April issue, out on newsstands now.

Veronica14734723 Veronica14734723 4 years
Cleanses come in all forms. They are not just no food cleanses, you should make that clear.
Ashleysh22 Ashleysh22 6 years
I'm not really sure I agree with this post. I agree with Healthycait and Mippi above. Certainly, some cleanses are really really bad for you. You lose weight because you are literally starving your body. But other cleanses, ones like the shakeology cleanse or the Gwyneth Paltrow cleanse include real food. The idea then is that you are really honing in on what you eat for a few days, giving your body things that are easy to digest and providing adequate vitamins to really boost your system. Of course you do not NEED to cleanse because your digestive tract really is great. But if it was always working, there would not be so many cases of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). I know, for me, shakeology has significantly improved my IBS, where my GI doc could not. I think a few times a year, as long as you are still providing your body adequate nutrients (macro and micro) is safe. you just need to stay well hydrated.
dvardaro dvardaro 6 years
nice article! I'm in support of 3-day juice cleanses as a "healthy restart" and not a shock to ones system. it makes you really stop, slow down and regroup your body. Juice cleanses (or smoothie cleanses as i like to call them...because i consume fruit/veg juice AND all the fibers) are a "smart way" to still get the vitamins, with a slightly less calorie intake, AND adds the benefits of the "flush", in what i consider a healthy way. I don't believe that "real people with real lives/jobs/social scenes/daily demands/fitness routines, can actually successfully go on a cleanse the "right way" without being a drone. I also don't believe in fad diets because i think they create ridiculous extremes, that are so far from normal that there's no way that they actually can impact your life on the whole in the long run. The 3-day juice cleanse that i like, is fantastic IMHO, because i find that it truly restarts your bod after a weekend of boozing/gluttony (aka a food/wine vacation or a bender), AND it makes you think about food "the right way" and "respectfully" again. 3 days Juice/smoothies, that builds into a raw food diet, that build you back into "normal healthy eating". completely life practical and doable. with this method, i see myself revisiting it whenever i feel like i need a healthy restart. for me, it works, because my lifestyle requires fitness, and a sharp brain to operate at my job/in life, and anything that can negatively impact any of those things will not work for me. If you're interested in what got me into it check out "The 3-Day Cleanse: Drink Fresh Juice, Eat Real Food, and Get Back into Your Skinny Jeans". I think it's great, because it's real, and considers real life, and health along with it. I do a 3-day juice cleanse maybe once/year after big party/Vegas weekends, and it always sets me back on the right track. I still use a lot of their recipes in the back for smoothies and healthy meals!
Allytta Allytta 7 years
a lot of cultures had some kind of cleanse detox diet ages ago, especially slavic cultures. it's not that new in some parts of the world, but they don't take it to such extremes, it's usually once a week if you feel like it
faecloudy faecloudy 7 years
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LittleMzFit LittleMzFit 7 years
Vogue? Give me a break! Also, not all cleanses are alike & I have never seen one for $400. objective.
dunnonuttin dunnonuttin 7 years
I think it completely depends on the person in regards to "toxins". For example, I have a lot of food allergies which is why I went with a vegan diet. If I had any kind of dairy or eggs it makes me sick... which *is* toxic. The same thing goes for people who are gluten intolerant.... elimination of the foods that is toxic to you... eventually would be "cleansing" to the body because I agree that the body cleanses itself naturally. Providing you are eating a mostly unprocessed healthy diet. Excluding fast food, fried foods and the obvious things that are just bad for you... I also think that a "cleanse" is beneficial after long term medication use. Meaning fresh fruits and veggies with unprocessed juices and lots of water and exercise of course.
Spectra Spectra 7 years
When people do a "cleanse" where they basically don't eat for a week or whatever, they'll lose weight, but it's most definitely NOT permanent or lasting. You lose fecal material, water weight, and probably some muscle mass as well. "Cleanses" where you basically just eat clean for a few days are probably pretty safe because you're just eliminating the crap from your diet. And that's always a good idea anyway.
pixelhaze pixelhaze 7 years
healthycat, that just sounds like a healthy diet. What makes it a cleanse? The way I figure, the crazy ones we hear about (like that cayenne pepper one) are more "fasts," since there is no actual food. A cleanse would be going macrobiotic raw vegan or something for a week - eating extremely healthily in a way that isn't sustainable over the long term (because, you know, food that's cooked tastes good). Since we know that the whole "getting toxins out" part is bull, I guess people would do it more as a jumpstart after the holidays or just for general discipline. Fasts are a big part of some religions, too. Not a doctor or anything here, just my understanding. Thoughts?
inlove23 inlove23 7 years
I still really like the idea of it! I wouldn't do it to lose weight, but just to get rid of the junk in my body. But, I wouldn't want an all liquid diet, that would be horrible!
zabrow zabrow 7 years
what makes something a cleanse? i wouldn't consider simple healthy eating like healthycait described as a cleanse, but maybe others would? just an honest question.
BeamerCG BeamerCG 7 years
Great article
newshoesrunner newshoesrunner 7 years
thank goodness for this article. anything extreme is not worth it. I especially don't see how starving your body of all the nutrients that it needs for a week or two can be healthy.
Pistil Pistil 7 years
You know what else rids your body of toxic chemicals? Food poisoning. You'll get the same results.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 7 years
I would never do a cleanse that involves borderline starvation, but I do think there's some merit to "cleanses" that involve still eating an adequate amount of calories but eliminating caffeine, meat, processed foods, artificial ingredients, etc. I have a friend who did this sort of cleanse and had good results. Also, I eliminated a lot of "crap" from my diet a few months ago and feel so much better. Eating healthy really does make one feel great, it's just unfortunate that such programs have to be called "cleanses," thus getting lumped in to the category of bizarre pseudo-science. Oh, and I think that eating healthy and feeling good should be a goal in and of itself - I don't buy all the hype about "eliminating toxins."
TiVo TiVo 7 years
After a vacation or the Christmas season, I often feel like I need a cleanse, but I really just try to eat cleaner for a few days. I find it helps me loose a little of the extra water weight I gained. Nothing serious, not a cleanse, just healthier and closer to the Earth. If I tried to cleanse, I'd probably not make it past day 3 without having a binge breakdown. You know, a nice, big ole' pizza or something!
chequettex chequettex 7 years
One of my co-workers was doing a "cleanse" once and I had never heard of this so I went online and found a recipe and decided to try it myself - it was the lemon juice water, cayenne pepper, and molasses variety. You're not supposed to eat while doing the cleanse, and that didn't work for me - when my body got hungry, I had to eat! Being lethargic AND hungry all day just didn't suit me for any length of time. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly did wonders for me! Not so much the cleanse attempt.
Mippi Mippi 7 years
I agree and disagree with this article. Everything it says is true, but things are stated in such a way that it sounds as if cleanses are completely worthless. They're not. Will you lose weight? Yes, water weight. Will you feel better? Yes, after you get over the first few days of being hungry. Will you look better? Possibly, if you're drinking more water as you should on a cleanse which will hydrate your skin (you can always look that good if you drink enough water). The thing about cleanses, though, is that they WILL improve your health if you make them part of a routine, not a one-shot deal. It's like a facial: one will do you good, but the results won't be lasting unless you get them regularly. Cleanses allow the digestive system to heal itself. This is what happens at night when you're sleeping (most of your body heals itself at night). On a cleanse, the healing period is prolonged. Not completely necessary if you eat completely healthy all the time, but really helpful if you're not quite so Spartan with your diet.
kastarte2 kastarte2 7 years
Cleansing always did sound too good to be true.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 7 years
I was glad that I read that article in Vogue. I've read so many flippin' things about the fabulousness of cleanses lately that I was almost tempted to try one myself after years of thinking they were BS.
Merlin713 Merlin713 7 years
Finally...something I can get behind and show to a certain person who's been pushing cleanses on me. I have an autoimmune [or so they say] inflammatory bowel disease. As you can probably guess, just having ulcerative colitis alone seems to open up my e-mail inbox to all sorts of suggestions from family members on 'how I *should* be living my life.' The things I see in my e-mail border on absolutely ridiculous -- cleanses being the main source. I get tired of it. Yes, for some in the IBD/UC community, a bowel rest or 'cleanse' would be okay for the weekend or at least a day when we have a major flare or are just feeling all around sick. Other than healthy, be healthy, and take your proper prescriptions.
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