What’s the safest cleanse? I’ve been eating too much fast food and want to get rid of the toxins.

Great question. First of all, your insides aren’t dirty, and they don’t need to be cleansed! The human body already has systems, like the liver, kidneys, and gut, which get rid of environmental toxins.

Taking a break from fast food is a good goal, but try doing so in a less-extreme way. For example, eating more plant-based and protein-rich foods is much healthier and more sustainable than a cleanse.

Cleanses that promise purification and even rapid weight loss can be hard to resist.

The word “cleanse” refers to a range of diets that involve everything from cutting out sugar to living only on lemon-cayenne water for weeks. (To be clear: this is not healthy and can be very dangerous!) Most of the language around these diet plans is intentionally vague about what exactly is being “cleansed” or “detoxed.” That’s because they don’t have any scientific backing. A cleanse is really just a fad diet made to seem like it’s healthy. In reality, cleanses are often unsafe and unhealthy.

Getting enough calories is important, especially for teens who are often still growing.

Eating different foods to meet your nutritional needs is important for healthy development, and cleanses severely limit what you can eat.

If you’re trying to break your fast food habit, try experimenting with some new veggie-heavy recipes at home.

If weight loss is your goal, a cleanse is not a healthy or effective path. Any weight you lose through cleanses is mostly water weight, not fat. Water weight is regained quickly when you return to normal eating patterns.

Whatever your aims, chat with a medical provider or dietitian to make sure that you’re going about it in a moderate and sensible way.

Cleanses can promote an unhealthy relationship with food, and a flirtation with the dangerous extremes of binging and self-denial.

No foods are inherently “clean,” “dirty,” “good,” or “bad.” Avoid assigning moral values to foods. Instead, focus on building a healthy relationship with food. It’s better for your body and mind to work towards intuitive eating that makes you feel good, which can certainly include the occasional treat.

If you’re spending a lot of time feeling preoccupied about food and your body, talk with a medical provider. The goal is balance, and if you’re having trouble achieving this on your own, reach out for help.