Updated: Mar 6, 2021
When we hear the words "cleanse" or "detox" these can often bring images of endless hours of juicing, starvation and terrible tasting concoctions. These are signs of an unhealthy program which is more likely to set you up for failure and end up exactly where you started, but with less money and more frustration. Some of these programs can be expensive, so here are some tips to help you find one that can actually help you reach your goals.
Why should you consider it?
A cleanse program can help you remove the natural toxins from your body's everyday metabolism and help maintain a healthy weight. We are also exposed to external toxins on a daily basis from pesticides and chemicals present in our food, air and water. Although our body is designed to rid itself of these toxins naturally, it can become overburdened over time and with lowered function from poor diet, lack of exercise and nutrient deficiencies. This can create chronic disease and symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, poor digestion, weight gain, brain fog, skin conditions, low libido or sex drive and even joint aches and pains.
What can't a cleanse or detox program do?
These programs can't usually change your health situation completely in a short time frame. Don't expect to lose more than about 5-10 lbs during the program, the more you have to lose the higher your loss will be. These programs can cause you to yo-yo in your weight, especially if you immediately revert back to your old eating habits. The changes in your health during the program will likely be subtle, as more of the changes in your health should continue to occur even after the program, when you've shifted to a new diet and lifestyle. The ideal weight-loss plan is not a quick fix but a long-term commitment. You will need to make lifestyle changes that will continue long after the program is completed.
What should a cleanse or detox program look like?
A good program will be longer than one week, as it's hard to have any lasting changes in your health in less than a week, and they shouldn't promote strenuous exercise or starving yourself by skipping meals or relying solely on mass-produced juices, shakes or powders. You want to be using this time to make diet and lifestyle changes which promote health, such as increasing whole foods, vegetables and decreasing sweets, caffeine and alcohol. You should never feel starved, and the program should educate you in healthy eating both during and after, when shifting to a new normal diet. This shift after the program should be gradual and controlled in the reintroduction of foods that were eliminated during the program. A good program will also offer adjustments for individual dietary needs, such as avoidance of food intolerances or sensitivities and offer additional nutrient support individualized to you. Support for the normal organs of detoxification, which will get a hefty amount of work during a cleanse program is also needed, that's the liver, kidneys and digestive system.
Aids the body in metabolizing fat, protein and carbohydrates
Helps transform many toxins into harmless agents
Filter waste and excess fluid from the blood
Regulate and release the right balance of sodium, phosphorus and potassium for the body to function properly
Digests food so that nutrients can be absorbed into the blood and transported to the liver
Provides a barrier that blocks toxins from the rest of the body
Absorbs water and electrolytes, forming waste that is excreted from the body
Produces antibodies for gastrointestinal health
Contains bacteria that create fatty acids and some vitamins for extra nutritional support
Eliminates toxins, excess hormones and fat through the stool
What are the side effects?
Two of the main effects should be an increase in urination and bowel movements. This is a natural effect of increasing metabolism and detoxification from the liver, GI and kidneys. In rare cases, you may experience a headache, generalized aches, rashes or fatigue. These are normal and are a result of the increased release of inflammatory and toxic substrates and will subside in a few days. Working with a physician who is knowledgeable can help monitor these symptoms to ensure what you're experiencing isn't something more serious, and treatments through homeopathic medicines and hydrotherapy can be wonderfully supportive in reducing these possible side effects.