Do I really need to “cleanse”?

Juice, detox, 10-day green juice, full-body and other master cleanse systems have been in the news lately with extravagant claims to “renew, repair and reinvigorate the body”.  These extremely low calorie, typically all liquid plans claim to help individuals shed X pounds in only days! Sounds like a dream come true! All you have to do is drink strange concoctions: some examples which include mixtures of water, lemon, maple syrup and cayenne pepper or juiced fruits, vegetables and spices. Many of the plans promote the use of laxatives, diuretics and fiber supplements to aid in “flushing all the gunk out of your intestines”. Can I share a secret though? Your body is equipped to do this all on its own! Our bodies know how to remove toxins, filter our blood and digest nutrients naturally- no pills, diets or cleansing plans needed. In fact, using detox and cleanses may actually inhibit the body’s naturally ability to do so!

 When we go on a body cleansing plan we are assuming that our body’s natural ability to do its job is impaired. We have organs, specifically the liver, kidneys and colon which are highly efficient at filtering toxins, nutrients and waste out of our bodies. We actually may cause harm to our bodies by using cleansing systems. For example, a colonic cleanse is proven to lead to dehydration, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, abdominal pain, bloating, kidney failure and eventually may cause perforation of the colon wall. All juice cleanses lead to deficiencies of fiber which may cause more constipation and bloating. They are also very low in calories and protein which inhibits muscle growth and may lead to muscle wasting as the muscles will be broken down to use as fuel for the body. Juice drinks are also very high in sugar which causes major blood sugar spikes and crashes throughout the day.

            Many people actually report feeling cranky, moody and sluggish (not renewed, energized and refreshed) during these low calories detox plans! Detox diets also require isolation around food because when you are on one of these strict diets you wont be able to go out and enjoy meals with friends and family! You may not even have enough energy to leave your bed (or the bathroom). And lets not forget the cost associated with pre-packaged juices or abundant amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables used for juicing along with the laxative pills (and toilet paper) needed for a colon “cleanse”. So what can we do instead of an all juice, detox diet? 

            There are two major changes we can make to our eating habits to promote optimal “cleansing” to occur naturally in the body! First, eating a diet consisting mostly of whole foods. Fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, beans, seafood and lean meat all fit the “whole foods” criteria. Avoid processed foods, loaded with artificial ingredients that most of us can’t even pronounce! Eating a whole foods based meal plan will allow us to consume the proper amount of carbs, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and fiber that the body needs to function at top notch! In addition to this, eating an appropriate amount of nutrient rich calories allows the body to reach its ideal weight without you counting calories or going on an extreme restrictive diet. The fiber from whole foods help flush out the colon, regulate hunger, control blood sugar spikes and crashes and aids normal bowel movements to help reduce the occurrence of constipation and diarrhea. 

            Second, we can encourage our natural “cleansing” functions by listening to our bodies which means eating when we are hungry and stopping when we are full. By doing so, we can avoid becoming too hungry and overeating less nutritious options due to there convince or availability. Eating on a regular (or semi-regular) schedule helps ensure you are not skipping meals or eating too late and becoming too hungry! I typically advise people to try to eat a meal or snack every 2-4 hours (but this range can vary greatly from person to person). This helps ensure you are never starving at the next meal time! When you feel hunger signals kick in, honor them and eat to satisfy that sensation! When you do choose to sit down to a meal or snack, eat slowly. Put your fork down between bites, focus on the food’s flavor, texture and smells. Put away your phone, computer or Netflix show to avoid being distracted while eating. Tuning in and focusing on the meal in front of you helps to avoid eating past fullness.

            When we eat whole foods and honor our natural hunger and fullness sensations, we can promote optimal function of the cleansing systems of the body! We can reach a healthy, stable weight, feel energized, renewed and satisfied by eating real foods from nature! And I guarantee you will be healthier and happier (and probably more sane) in the long run by doing so! 

-Happy Eating! Kristin-


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