Every spring and fall, I get clients asking me about doing some kind of “I need to cleanse but not the kind where you run to the bathroom all the time” because they are feeling the effects of over-eating and over-scheduling.
I always get a chuckle out of that.
It’s hard to spend any time online without coming across some celebrity’s secret weight loss plan or miracle 48 hour juice program to drop 3 dress sizes before the weekend. Most of it is crap.
After enough time spent reading headlines in the grocery store line, it’s easy to think that doing one of these is either essential or something to be avoided at all times because we saw a news thing on it once and it didn’t work. Never any in between.
But what if you are not feeling so great, want to re-set but don’t want to get caught up in hype or do something dangerous? It’s crucial to know the difference.
A cleanse usually describes a short term program where foods are restricted and fluids are encouraged. For example, there is the Master Cleanse which involves fasting apart from lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne. It also involves diarrhea. Other versions might include only fresh-pressed juices or water or broth. The general idea is to give your digestive system a break to flush out the digestive system. We target the large intestine in particular so there is often a focus on having bowel movements. Lots of them.
A detox program typically focuses on helping the body to process things more efficiently while putting less garbage in. This might include staying away from problematic-at-times foods like wheat, dairy, alcohol and caffeine while increasing healthier foods like greens, fresh lemons and lean proteins. Herbal supplements are often used in addition to help the body get things going. This typically will involve helping the liver, kidneys, intestines, lungs and skin to work more efficiently. There is often a focus on resting, and gentle exercise.
So which one is better?
It depends on what you’re looking for!
As a Naturopathic Doctor, I tend to be pretty wary of cleanses, particularly if they are not supervised medically. That being said, there is some pretty good evidence out for therapeutic fasting with some conditions. Juices can equal a lot of sugar and may actually stress the liver and contribute to blood sugar issues. And again, diarrhea isn’t fun.
Detoxes are not all created equal either. "Detox herbs", and products picked up off health food store shelves can be helpful for some people and make others feel awful. I often think this is due mainly to not eating crap food for a period of time. Sometimes herbs can be a big help but again, this totally depends on your health, any medications you are taking and how stressed out you are.
I am generally in favor of giving the body a break periodically by eating well, resting and moving. The specifics are highly dependent on your goals.
In my next blog, we will talk about how to start with a good detox and when you should do one.
If you are looking to re-set and would like a program tailored to YOU, let's talk.
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Dr. Keila Roesner is a Naturopathic Doctor. When not treating patients she is also an enthusiastic barefoot-strolling, music-loving, yoga-doing kitchen wiz - who also happens to be a wrestling fan.