Juice cleanses pose risk for kids

Juice cleanses have been popular for losing weight and “detoxing” the body. But what about juice cleanses for children and teens? Are they safe? Dr. Mark Corkins, chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology at Le Bonheur, weighs in on this topic.

What are your thoughts on juice cleanses for children? Are they safe?

The idea of a juice cleanse is that you clean out the colon because it makes all sorts of “toxins.” In reality, we are designed to have a symbiotic relationship with the bacteria that live in our colon. These bacteria are beneficial for a number of reasons, including:

  • They create short chain fatty acids that the lining cells of the colon use for energy and also to make vitamin K.
  • The colon bacteria also have role to protect from disease-causing bacteria that might find their way into the colon.

If you cleanse the colon, the colon will quickly re-colonize with bacteria. So what is the purpose? Many people who use juice cleanses tout the rapid weight-loss benefit. The loss, though, is short term and mostly fluid. In younger children, we really worry about the risk of dehydration with the quick flush of fluid. Children have a lower body fluid volume and become dehydrated much faster than adults.

What do you think of juice cleanses or meal replacement as a weight-loss technique for kids? Teenagers?

The best approach to weight loss is a sensible, balanced diet with appropriate caloric intake. Juice cleanses teach a quick-fix mindset. In pediatric patients, we believe in regular healthy habits daily for a lifetime of good health.

Children become dehydrated more easily than adults, so juice cleanses for children pose a risk. If our bodies were supposed to cleanse regularly, then we would have a natural cycle to do so, and we don’t.

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