“If you’re confused about detoxing, you understand the issue perfectly,”
-Edward Saltzman, associate professor at Human Nutrition Center at Tufts University.
I was confused about detoxing.
First of all, the terms ‘detox’ or ‘cleanse’ have always been a bit of a red flag to me. I considered them the modern euphemisms for extreme dieting (because really – when’s the last time you heard someone say ‘I’m on a diet’? Definitely not on-trend).
I was suspicious of the packaging, the pseudo-scientific rationale and the celebrity endorsements. You know? The ‘cleanse’ industry reportedly made $60 BILLION dollars last year.
That’s a lot of money spent to NOT eat stuff, amiright?
Furthermore – I have never had my family doctor tell me that my body contained ‘toxins’ that need to be eliminated for optimal health. (Even when I was – ahem – toxic.)
BUT. On the other hand….
- Western Medicine isn’t exactly known for gold stars in preventative health care.
- I’ve had many friends and clients get amazing (and lasting) results from cleanses.
- What could be bad about getting more kale into your life?
So I’ve decided to try one. As I write this, me and 16 of my clients are halfway through the pilot project of my new 28 Day Transformation.
(Update: that pilot project morphed into my signature program! If you are curious you can read my blog post about my first experience with the 28 Day Transformation )
But before I decided to do it, I wanted to run the whole idea of cleansing by my go-to Certified Holistic Nutritionist, Michelle McCree.
This is what she had to say about detoxes:
Sooo..what do you think of cleanses or ‘detox’ programs? Do you use them in your practice?
Depending on what they are and how they are administered, some cleanses can be incredibly supportive of health.
The key is understanding that the range of products and programs being marketed is wide, and that they are not all created equal nor are they right for everyone.
In my experience, no doctors will ever talk about ‘toxins’ that the body has to get rid of or any cleansing that needs to be done outside the natural functioning of our liver and elimination processes.
What do you think about that concept of ‘cleansing’ or detoxing in general?
Part of the skepticism comes from the fact that our bodies are in a constant state of detoxification.
When functioning optimally, our kidneys, liver, lungs, colon and skin are all working toward minimizing our toxic load.
However, because conventional medicine is more focused on treating disease rather than preventing it, what is overlooked is the understanding that for most, these organs are not functioning optimally. This can be due to a number of factors such as environmental exposure, diet and lifestyle habits.
When we do the right kind of cleanse, what we are doing is supporting our body’s elimination pathways so that they function optimally.
A lot of people I know have reported feeling great after a cleanse and certainly many cultures have fasting traditions…
What could be the potential benefits of these types of programs?
There is a simple reason so many people feel great after cleanses – most cleanses remove the crap from a person’s diet. And guaranteed, once you cut the crap and add nutrient dense foods you will feel better.
Your digestion will improve, your energy will increase, your moods will stabilize and you will sleep better. That’s a fact.
Sure, there might be a bit of a bumpy period as the body (and mind) adjusts to not having its “fix” of refined sugar and other frankenfood toxins, but after that passes, the sense of vitality can be a real game changer in term of how people feel.
And what could be the potential downsides?
The downside of cleansing starts with the fact that not all cleanses are the same and not all people are the same.
Part of my job as a Holistic Nutritionist is determining what cleanse is appropriate for each individual based on their current physical and mental state, and then making sure it is administered correctly.
Binging on McD’s on a Sunday and then juice fasting Monday, Tuesday is not the way to transition into a cleanse, for example. In the same vein, thought also has to be given to how people end their cleanses.
I also hate to see people compartmentalizing healthy food and turning it into some kind of penance for indulgence. We should be making good choices most of the time, not just in the New Year for a month. And there are lots of ways to make healthy food delicious so that you never feel deprived.
I know that you deal with the whole person, not just the body. Any thoughts or comments on the potential psychological effects of cleansing?
Yes, my entire practice is built around dealing with the whole person – body, mind and spirit.
We always have to consider a person’s mental and emotional state going into a cleanse – toxic thoughts and emotions also have to be addressed as they have a huge impact on our physiological state.
It is also a good idea to incorporate some grounding lifestyle changes during fasts as some people report feeling a little spacey. So, light yoga and meditation can be really supportive.
After cleanses people often report feeling clearer and more emotionally stable, content. To support those good ‘vibes” I often suggest writing it down to bring more awareness to how powerfully diet can impact the mind.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t cleanse?
Again, it depends on what kind of cleanse you are talking about.
Everyone is safe to increase their water intake and eliminate processed food, refined sugar and common allergens( such as dairy, soy and gluten) from their diet. For many, those key changes will be powerfully cleansing.
Outside of that, it is best to work with a health care practitioner.
Is there anyone who would really benefit from cleansing?
The fact is we are all exposed to more toxic chemicals than at any other point in history. We can call benefit from supporting our body’s detoxification channels.
Are cleanses effective for weight loss or weight management?
People often lose weight when they cleanse because there is a focus on nourishment and things like junk food and alcohol are eliminated. And sometimes total calories are reduced. Should cleanses be “used” for weight loss? No. If healthy and sustainable weight loss is the goal, there has to be a lifestyle commitment to healthy and sustainable changes.
Is there a specific cleanse product or program you recommend?
It doesn’t have to be complicated or gimmicky. Most people will benefit from just doing the following:
- Drink more LOTS more water.
- Eat more LOTS more vegetables (at breakfast too!).
- Cut refined sugar
- Cut all processed food.
- Cut common allergens such as soy, dairy and gluten ( re-introduce after a month and note impact)
- Cut alcohol and caffeine
- Have some protein with all meals and snacks
Then add regular exercise, lots of sleep and even more laughter.
That final note is my favourite! 🙂
If you know anyone who is considering a cleanse, make sure you share this post and if you learned something, leave a comment below!