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Are Detoxes and Cleanses Harmful?

The new year has come, and so has the tradition to improve one's health. Many individuals will be searching for a jumpstart to a healthier choice like a detox or cleanse. From the three-day juice cleanse to the Master Cleanse, many wellness seekers may be dismayed to learn that this might not help achieve improved health and may potentially be harmful.

Your body has a natural way to remove endogenous metabolic waste products and combat exogenous 'toxins.' Enzymes in the liver biotransform 'toxins' to products that can further be metabolized and excreted from the body. This process involves two phases that are in a delicate balance to cleave substances from the body and reduce toxin and carcinogenic effects. The kidneys, small and large intestine, brain, and lungs are vital in decreasing our toxic burden.

Fad health trends like juice cleanses could lead to blood sugar drops, electrolyte fluctuations and, if not from an organic source, may increase pesticide intake. Cleansing may cause interactions with medication that could be harmful. Reducing overall exposures to substances that do not promote health is preferred to so-called detoxing.

A much better plan to promote more efficient detoxification includes:

  1. Avoiding processed and fried foods

These foods can contribute to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia, and cancer. Eating a diet with high amounts of processed and fried foods can also contribute to poor mental health with increases in depression and anxiety. 

  1. Eat organic when you can

Following the EWG consumer guide, known as The Dirty Dozen may help to lessen your pesticide exposure. The Dirty Dozen guide goes through the top 12 fruits and vegetables that lead to the highest pesticide intake. Foods such as strawberries, spinach, kale, and grapes are recommended to always be purchased organic.

  1. A proper cleanse should consider mental health

Practicing mindfulness meditation can be beneficial at improving anxiety and depression and can be added to a health improvement plan. But it is strongly encouraged to seek out a trained therapist or counselor that can assist you with managing your mental health. Your mental health can impact your overall health and should not be overlooked when making better health choices.

  1. Scheduling regular visits with your physician can support your health more than a fad diet.

Regular eye, dental, and primary care exams can help prevent chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes and screen for common cancers. Your primary care physician can also assist with making lifestyle changes such as dietary habits or assist with smoking cessation. 

If you decide that an internet cleanse might be something you would like to try, we strongly recommend discussing this with your physician before beginning. The providers at Be Well Medical Primary Care can assist you with all of your health goals and discuss ways to make long-term positive lifestyle changes. No detox is needed. 



  1. Detox Dilemma: So-called detox diets and cleanses are not backed by science and can be harmful. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter. 2020;38(1):1-7. Accessed December 31, 2021.
  2. Do You Really Need to “Detox”? Starting the new year with a “cleanse” sounds healthy--but the science says otherwise. Get the facts before you try this fad. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter. 2016;33(11):4-5. Accessed December 31, 2021.
  3. Khalsa KPS. Head-to-Toe Detox Plan. Better Nutrition. 2019;81(3):28-32. Accessed December 31, 2021.
  4. Duvauchelle J. A life-balancing DETOX. Alive: Canada’s Natural Health & Wellness Magazine. 2016;(403):16-28. Accessed December 31, 2021.
  5. Duvauchelle J. A life-balancing DETOX. Alive: Canada’s Natural Health & Wellness Magazine. 2016;(403):16-28. Accessed December 31, 2021.
  6. WEIR K. “Clean Eating” SIMPLIFIED. Arthritis Today. 2017;31(1):16. Accessed December 31, 2021.
Nichole Shiffler, NMD Dr. Nichole Shiffler is a naturopathic primary care physician and medical director of Be Well Medical Primary Care. Dr. Shiffler focuses her practice on women's and pediatric medicine. Dr. Shiffler also has an extensive history of treating irregular menstrual cycles, thyroid disease, menopause, acne, PCOS, and diabetes. She utilizes nutrition and herbal medicine to deliver an effective treatment plan to her patients. Dr. Shiffler is available for patient care at Be Well Medical Primary Care. Call (480) 219-9900 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Shiffler.

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