Cleansing and Detox Diets (cont.)

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Are cleansing diets new?

Cleansing diets aren't new. "They've been around for years and years," Mangieri says. But they seem to get a lot of press from magazines and talk show hosts. And celebrities make cleanse diets popular every time they claim to lose significant weight on them.

"The terms 'detox' and 'cleanse' have become almost interchangeable and are thrown around almost as much as the words 'calorie' and 'carbohydrate' these days," says Keri Glassman, RD, CDN, founder and president of A Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice based in New York City.

Proponents of cleansing diets believe it's important to rid your body of toxins that you get -- like it or not -- from food, water and the environment. "The mistake most people make is equating detoxes and cleanses with weight loss," Glassman says. They are not the same.

So if you're considering a cleanse diet as a way to lose weight, you could be outsmarting yourself. "Cleanse diets can set you up for failure by slowing your metabolism and making you crave everything you just gave up," Glassman says. Cleanse diets don't help you or your body develop healthy eating habits. And what's worse, they could deprive your body of essential nutrients, Mangieri agrees.

Can your body cleanse itself?

Glassman says it's not necessary to go on a special diet to "clean" your digestive system. "Our bodies are natural systems built to detox all the time," she says. "Our liver, skin, urinary system, and gastrointestinal tract are constantly helping to cleanse our bodies through sweat, urine and feces."

Eating a diet high in fiber, drinking lots of water, and avoiding packaged and processed foods are major ways to keep your body working optimally. "Such a diet will ensure that your body is cleansing as naturally as it can," Glassman says.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/29/2013