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If mindless instagram scrolling has ever led you to come across a post about the benefits of starting your day with a healing glass of celery juice or embarking on a 28-day cleanse to remove pathogens and toxins from your body, you’re probably familiar with the work of Anthony William, more commonly known as the Medical Medium.
Medical Medium has more than two million followers on instagram, is popular among celebrities, and William has written numerous New York Times bestselling books where he touts the powers of celery juice and other natural healing remedies. While many of William’s theories clearly pique a lot of interest among the public, he isn’t a medical doctor or registered dietitian. In fact, he doesn't carry any healthcare credentials at all, and many of his ideas aren’t supported more broadly by science. Instead, his “About Me” page on the Medical Medium website says that he “was born with the unique ability to converse with the Spirit of Compassion, who provides him with extraordinarily accurate health information that's far ahead of its time.”
Whether you believe in the possibility of a connection to a so-called spirit or not is up to you. But either way, we figured we'd shut down any dangerous claims this diet claims, and shed some light on the positive elements to tweeze out. To get a better understanding of how William’s claims stand up when looked at from a more scientific standpoint, we reached out to a few registered dietitians about the Medical Medium 28-day cleanse (also known as the Medical Medium Diet) Keep reading for more on what we learned about the Medical Medium Diet and it's risks.
What Is the Medical Medium Diet?
Also known as the Medical Medium 28-Day Cleanse, the Medical Medium Diet is a highly criticized program created by Anthony William, and focuses on eating mostly fruits and raw vegetables—no protein, carbs, fats, or processed foods.
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner on the Medical Medium Diet
Remember, the claims made by the Medical Medium are unproven, so be sure to read what dietitians and nutritionists have to say about this diet in the next six sections of this article before you try this out. In this section, we'll just be outlining what a typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner looks like on this diet.
The 28-Day Cleanse is low in fat, heavy on raw vegetables and fruits, and doesn’t include dairy, animal products, or any kind of processed foods. We reached out to William for more information on this diet, which is also more thoroughly outlined in his books, but our requests for comment went unanswered. Online, he describes the cleanse as a health reboot of sorts that can strengthen your immune system, remove toxins from the body, allow you to regain energy, “clean things out,” and even help you recover from disease. To be completely clear, none of these claims have been proven scientifically.
As detailed on the Medical Medium website, a morning on the 28-Day Cleanse would start with what he calls a cleansing beverage, which might be celery juice, cucumber juice, lemon water, or something similar. Next comes a fruit smoothie for breakfast, followed by another fruit smoothie or drink for a snack.
Lunch might be a salad made of raw fruits and vegetables, and an afternoon snack of raw fruit or vegetables or a dollop of raw honey.
Dinner could be a raw spinach soup, with some more fruit for an evening snack. Many cleanses are very low in calories, but William urges people to make sure not to go hungry, saying that is not healthy. “Make sure you stock up with plenty of fruits and vegetables so you can stay satisfied and well fed during the entire cleanse,” his website says.
Can This Diet Actually Remove Toxins From the Body?
Among many other listed benefits, William’s website claims that the 28-Day Cleanse “Will help you clean and clear your liver from the buildup of viruses, bacteria, toxic heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals and everyday chemicals like perfume and conventional household cleaning products” and “will break down and eliminate leftovers, such as rancid fats that have been sitting in the lining of your digestive tract.”
But according to Mindy Haar, a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor and department chair at New York Institute of Technology School of Health Professions, these claims aren’t based on scientific evidence.
Registered dietitian Gisela Bouvier echoes this sentiment and says that no cleanse will get rid of all toxins in your liver. She points out that one of the liver’s primary functions is to filter and get rid of things the body doesn’t need. “Medical Medium's 'cleanse' is very high in fiber due to the extreme restriction of only allowing raw fruits and vegetables,” Bouvier says. “With the high fiber and water content in fruits and vegetables, and the lack of slower digesting foods, such as proteins and fats, you may feel that your body is 'cleansing' because you are constantly using the bathroom.”
As far as helping people heal from disease, Bouvier says that’s not likely. She says it may be possible that some foods can negatively impact certain autoimmune diseases, and some foods may help manage symptoms. “However, to state that Medical Medium's cleanse allows people to 'recover' from MS or psoriasis... that is completely false—you cannot become 'cured' with a 28 day cleanse of fruits and vegetables.”
Sofia Norton, a registered dietitian at Kiss My Keto, says there isn't enough evidence to support the use of detox diets in general. "The reality is that your liver and kidneys are already doing a fantastic job at filtering out toxins, and your lungs and sweat glands do this as well," she says. "If you eat healthy, don’t smoke, and exercise, you’ll keep these organs healthy and toxin-free."
Do High-Fat and High-Protein Foods Weaken the Liver?
On his website, Medical Medium states that “The liver works hard but it can only do so much in the face of a constant onslaught of pathogens and their byproduct, toxins, high-fat and high-protein foods (whether plant-based or animal-based), adrenaline and more, so over time it can become mucky, stagnant, fatty and weak.”
Bouvier says this isn’t true, pointing out that no single food will damage your liver. “To say that high fat and high protein foods cause a fatty and weak liver is completely false,” she says. “If someone has an unhealthy liver, it could be due to multiple factors, including: genetics, comorbidities, diet, alcohol consumption, and many more.
At the same time, an unbalanced diet that's high in alcohol, fried foods, and refined carbohydrates can damage your metabolic health, which can eventually put you at risk for liver problems, Norton explains.
"When the liver isn’t working properly due to fatty build up or scar tissue, it won’t do its job of eliminating toxins well," she says.
Can a Cleanse Strengthen Your Immune System?
The answer to this question depends a lot on lifestyle. "If you normally eat junk food every day, binge drink on the weekends, smoke, and rarely exercise, then a cleanse certainly can do all of those things," Norton says. "But that’s not because the foods in a cleansing diet have special properties that make this happen; it’s because you’ve eliminated unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits."
Is it Safe to Eat a Diet Comprised Primarily of Fruit and Raw Vegetables?
You likely won’t be falling short on the government’s recommended fruit and vegetable intake if you decide to try the 28-Day Cleanse, but you could risk missing out on important nutrients in other areas, like protein.
“Protein is essential for maintenance and repair of body tissues,” Haar says. “While a typical American diet usually includes more protein than needed, this plan puts one in danger of protein deficiency. No other diet component can take over the role of nine essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein that we get solely from food.”
Is Fruit the Healthiest Food You Can Eat?
Medical Medium’s 28-day cleanse is heavy on fruit, saying “this is an incredibly important food for your health” and “fruit is the most healing, cleansing, essential food on the planet.”
Eating fruit certainly falls in line with USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which state that fruit is an important component of a healthy eating pattern and is associated with a reduced risk of various chronic diseases and may have a protective effect against some types of cancer.
“Fruit contains fiber, vitamins and essential nutrients that are super bioavailable, meaning the body can easily digest and absorb the nutrients,” says registered dietitian and Love Wellness advisor Molly Knauer.
But to say that fruit is the most “healing, cleansing, and essential food on the planet” is likely taking things a bit far, Bouvier points out. “If all we ate was fruit, we would be very ill, as it is very important to have a diverse diet that contains all macronutrients,” she says.
While fruit is definitely a healthy choice, experts recommend eating it in moderation. "Fruit is one of the most reliable sources of vitamin C, fiber, B vitamins, and antioxidants—all things we need to stay healthy," Norton says. "But it’s also high in sugar, especially fructose. Fruit sugar can lead to fatty liver disease and damage the pancreas if you eat too much every day."
Is a Smoothie a Smart Breakfast Choice?
Medical Medium recommends starting your day with a smoothie as a way to lighten the load on your digestive tract. To help us understand how this works, Knauer explains that smoothies are already broken down, which takes away the first step of digestion, “allowing the body to focus on absorbing the nutrients rather than breaking down the food."
Smoothies are convenient, easy to take with you on the go, and can be a great way to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. But Bouvier points out that no single smoothie will be able to "heal" you or lighten your digestive tract.
Nutritionists and dietitians agree that the claims behind this diet are blatantly false. Due to the restricted calories that are a nature of this diet, most people will lose weight, however, a number of factors make the Medical Medium diet unsafe. Consult your doctor if you are concerned about your weight, organ health, or having a disease, especially before trying any elements from the Medical Medium diet.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). “Detoxes” and “Cleanses”: What You Need To Know. Updated September 2019.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. Published December 2015.