Those of you who actively seek ways to improve your health have probably heard of “cleanse” and “detox” diets. You or someone you know may have performed a juice fast or perhaps a liver cleanse. They come in all shapes and sizes – some are simple and come in pill form while others may require long periods of fasting with significant changes to diet.
Regardless of the method, it is very important to proceed with caution and educate yourself beforehand. Many of these cleanses can be quite extreme and may cause more harm than good. Nevertheless, there is a time and place for cleanses. When performed right, they can be quite beneficial.
Detoxification is undoubtedly important to our health.
We are constantly exposed to things that the body must (or at least should) naturally get rid of. We take in these toxins through the food we eat and the air we breath. Examples range anywhere from pesticides, heavy metals, alcohol, and preservatives and other additives in food, to cigarette smoke and automobile exhaust in the air.
Harmful organisms such as Candida albicans and human parasites should also be considered toxins since they can be very detrimental to health. In excess, these toxins take a toll on the organs of the body that must work hard to process and eliminate them. When the elimination and detoxification pathways of the body can no longer keep up with the workload they are given, symptoms may result.
A successful cleanse helps work with your gut microbiome and connect you to a relief of symptoms. For example, a liver cleanse may help with digestive issues by allowing the liver to get rid of stored waste, thus enhancing its function in producing bile for digestion.
Most cleansing routines involve the use of certain foods or herbs to trigger the detoxing, oftentimes accompanied by some sort of fasting or dietary restrictions. When it comes to detoxing, it is important to remember that not all cleanses are created equal.
Some routines, such as the Master Cleanse, can actually cause more stress to the system by rapidly moving from the average diet (which includes coffee, alcohol and processed foods), to an overnight famine-mode. Such extreme routines starve the body of vital nutrients and can lead to a compromised immune system.
For anyone looking to start cleansing, I recommend a simple yet powerful routine called Intermittent Fasting (IF). It is a pattern of eating that includes periods of fasting in which only water is consumed.
As you probably know, I am a proponent of the Paleo-Mediterranean Diet in which the only foods consumed are those that our digestive systems evolved around. Well, think of IF as cleanse of sorts. Our bodies might actually be designed to go through periods of fasting, not to have three meals a day for prolonged periods of time.
When it comes to your body, remember that there are no quick fixes. Detoxing is a powerful tool but should be considered only supplementary to a healthy diet.