lemon water

Flushing toxins out of your body sounds like a great plan. But do you really need to stop eating for several days and drink lemon water to do it?

Absolutely not, says Joy Dubost, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The best way to clean out your system is by drinking plenty of water and getting enough fiber to keep your digestive system regular.

She says the so-called “lemon detox” or “master cleanse” diets serve no real purpose other than to starve your body of necessary nutrients. “The idea of resting your body from digestion is ridiculous.”

What’s the Draw of a Detox?

It’s easy to understand why some people may be attracted to the idea of jumpstarting a weight loss plan with something that sounds as chic as a “detox.” Dubost says these so-called detoxes have been made famous by celebrities like Beyoncé trying to lose weight in advance of awards shows.

But mixing maple and palm syrups with lemon juice, water, pepper, and sometimes salt water, doesn’t really do anything to improve your health. “There is not any scientific evidence that it provides health benefits,” Dubost says of these cleanses. “The side effects of going through this five- to seven-day process would put me on edge.”

In fact, she said the effects could be quite the opposite of healthy. “You know how you feel when you skip lunch and get a headache? You are likely to be tired and have a lack of energy. You may not want to exercise.”

A Total Cleanse Skeptic

And as far as the cleanse part? “How is this going to clean out your gastrointestinal tract?” Dubost wonders. “There would be no fiber to help move things out. This is just a fad diet, or a quick fix.”

She doesn’t believe that a so-called cleanse will help rid your body of harmful substances.

“What do they mean by ‘detox'?” she asks. “Getting rid of toxins from food? From the environment? Your body naturally cleanses itself. Your gastrointestinal tract, liver, and kidneys all help you detox.”

She points out that anyone who takes medication would be unable to do so on an empty stomach.

Adding Lemon to Water Is OK

So, forget full-on “master” cleanses. What about claims that drinking a few glasses of lemon water, while on a normal diet, can help you detox?

Drinking water is a good for you. And if you’re more likely to drink it by adding lemon, go ahead and do so, says Vandana Sheth, R.D.E., C.D.E., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“If you enjoy the taste of lemon water over plain water, then this would be a good way of drinking more water,” says Sheth. “The added benefits of lemon water include vitamin C, antioxidants, and potassium.”

When you drink lemon water along with foods high in iron, your body will able to absorb the iron better, she adds.

Best Advice for Purifying

Instead of wasting your time on an unproven fad, Dubost says that the best way to clean out your gastrointestinal tract is to drink lots of water and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

You need more than just water, she stresses. You need fiber and nutrients, too. “That’s a better cleansing approach if you’re going to use the world ‘cleanse.’”

If you insist on trying the sort of cleanses made famous by Hollywood, check with a doctor first. “Your body has enough nutrients to sustain you over a short period of time, but you’re entering the danger zone if you’re going five to seven days [without food]. That’s just putting your body through stress that it doesn’t need.”