I’m hopeful – ever hopeful – that it’s actually coming. On paper, Spring has sprung about a month ago but the weather where I live anyway has been a little wonky (actually, a LOT wonky!) and it just didn’t seem like it wanted to let go of Winter.
Today as I write this, I am looking out on another rainy, gray morning. Today, I’m ok with that because sometimes the rain can be kinda symbolic in that it’s washing away all the cr#p that’s accumulated during the Winter – and it’s time to start afresh.
I love a fresh start. And as I tell my clients when they feel like they’ve screwed up or been ‘bad’ when working on their nutrition journeys, you have the opportunity for a fresh start with the very next bite you take, the very next breath to inhale, the very next action you choose.
This is the time of year to take full advantage of the rejuvenation and refresh that spring signifies. For some people, it means getting into a spring cleaning mood with decluttering (especially nowadays – with the popular KonMari Method!), with the deep cleaning of all the nooks and crannies at home (…that we usually neglect – or maybe that’s just me LOL!), with the removal of expired items from the fridge and pantry, etc, etc.
I probably don’t have to tell you that this pattern has extended to the health and wellness industry. At this time of year, my phone gets really busy with folks asking me about detox diets…body cleanses…colon cleanses…liver detoxes….. toxin flushes…..
These programs are always floating around the blogosphere or available year-round, but are much more aggressively marketed in the springtime and seem to draw a lot of interest as a quick-fix to lose the winter weight and get ‘bikini-ready’. Oh how I loathe that phrase! But it’s out there along with lots of other claims and misperceptions about detoxing and cleansing, so I thought this was a good time to address some of the issues.
So, do you really need to be on a ‘detox diet’ or ‘cleansing’ your body from the inside out?
Are programs and products marketed as detoxes and cleanses even safe to do?
My answer (no surprise here!) is yes and no. A particular change in diet can definitely help your body to release ‘stuff’ that’s congesting or clogging up the works. But there are a lot of very terrible ideas out there – some of which are even dangerous – so my advice is that you should not embark on any without consulting with a reputable wellness professional or nutritionist. This is not a shameless plug – just good sense.
Do I recommend detoxes or cleanses? Sometimes. Under certain circumstances. But they are never extreme and they are always short-term. You won’t see any goofy, hard-core, month-long lemon juice-cayenne pepper-maple syrup-style detox protocols coming from me or being endorsed by me. Ever. (Sorry Beyoncé – I know it’s your jam). Nor will you see a full-on juice cleanse.
But I do offer whole-foods detox programs to help re-set metabolic systems or relieve some inflammatory or hormonal conditions. And I sometimes suggest an accompanying regimen of supplements for the short-term.
There are ways to do detoxification protocols or cleanses safely and in a way that promotes healthier human body functions. And helps you break some habits that are not serving you well.
I’m definitely not anti-detox – but not all detoxes and cleanses are created equally.
To start off, these terms get a LOT of hype in the media and frankly, among wellness coaches and professionals who should know better. People tend to use various terms interchangeably, which makes it especially confusing for consumers.
So what IS the difference between a detox diet and a cleanse?
Generally, both detoxes and cleanses are methods used to clear or flush stuff (sometimes toxins) out of their body. But there are some important differences to be aware of when discussing or considering.
May require you to be on a very restrictive diet that only allows you to consume a narrow selection of food that some consider to be “detox foods”. Usually this is for a specified amount of time, often several days to even several weeks.
Some detox diets actually involve fasting for an extended period of time. As a result, your body may not get the necessary nutrients it needs to function properly, and your energy level could be negatively impacted – sometimes dramatically. A restrictive ‘detox’ diet can even be accompanied by flu-like symptoms: aches and pains, headaches, chills and general malaise. These pass in a day or so but can feel kind of crappy in the meantime.
Be very cautious of overly restrictive protocols unless you are under the care of a reputable and experienced wellness or medical professional. This is not the time for a DIY approach!
Typically involves consuming some sort of herbal or supplement product (pills, powders, tinctures) intended to ‘flush out’ your digestive tract – namely the large colon or bowel.
What you must understand is that these products could cause seriously undesirable side effects, and may contain chemicals that might not be healthy or safe. Sure, you’ll likely lose weight and maybe achieve that flat tummy for a nano-second. But consider why that’s happening…..you’re likely in the throes of diarrhea and who wants to bring that on for no good reason? Not to mention the potential of causing an imbalance in your microbiome as well. This rather defeats the purpose of ‘cleansing your way to health’ in the first place.
Why do people feel they need to ‘cleanse’ their body anyway?
It does feel good when we stop filling ourselves up with foods, beverages or habits that are not nutritious and appropriate for our constitution. So I can totally understand – and support – the idea of limiting or eliminating those things from our diets and our lives to reduce inflammation or allergic reactions or other toxic overloads and feel better.
Besides getting rid of an over-accumulation of toxins in their system (known or suspected), there are other reasons why people may wish to try detox diets and cleanses, including the following:
- They want to lose weight and look/feel slimmer & healthier (this is NOT a healthy or sustainable way to lose weight – ever).
- They think it will make them healthier, i.e. there may be a perceived “health halo” that accompanies a cleanse program or product (check out my thoughts about ‘health halos’ here)
- They went on a vacation and didn’t eat healthy/imbibed too much OR they’re planning on going on a vacation and want to detox before they tox (seriously – and how crazy is that idea?! Roller-coaster detoxing is as bad as roller-coaster dieting for good health)
Here’s the thing: the human body can miraculously detox all on its own! Yep, our system can remove its own waste naturally. Our body has its own built-in detox system that works on its own every day. Do we overwhelm it sometimes by eating crap, allowing stress hormones to overpower us, robbing ourselves of sleep or being a couch potato?
We sure do! Which is why, whenever possible, you should give your personal detoxification and cleansing system some natural support.
Here are things you can be doing day-to-day and year-round:
- EXERCISE & SWEAT REGULARLY. This not only helps you manage your weight but it also gets rid of toxins while you are sweating and as you breathe deeply.
- DRINK FILTERED WATER. Water helps flush out and cleanse your system. If you need some variety, add some fresh fruit or veggies to enhance the appeal of plain, filtered water.
- EAT GOOD FATS. Ditch the processed and refined fats which are definitely toxic when consumed, and instead, consume healthier fats such as olives & olive oil, raw nuts & seeds, coconut oil, and avocados.
- UP THE FIBRE. Fibre helps to move toxins and waste that have built up in your system through your system naturally – think of fibre like stiff-bristled brooms for your digestive system!
- BE A SAVVY LABEL READER. If you don’t recognize the ingredients on the label, then you might not want to eat that food – because they’re probably NOT food! There could be an additive, chemical or artificial ingredient that results in negative side effects like inflammation, allergic reactions or more. These chemicals are additional toxins that are entering your body.
- REDUCE YOUR TOXIC LOAD. Consume organic and non-GMO food. They don’t contain chemicals and other poisons that contribute to the overall toxin load on your body. And choose beauty products that are also wholesome and without phthalates, BPA or other chemical additives. Remember, you skin is one of your largest organs of detoxification, so what goes on it, has a huge impact.
You can also make the switch to more natural, chemical-free cleaning products for your household. Both your skin and your respiratory system, another key to your body’s detox system, will thank you for it.
Speaking of reducing the toxic load on your body….”mocktails” or beverages that imitate cocktails but don’t contain any alcohol, have become a huge trend, especially for those seeking healthier, more natural beverages with which to socialize.
This Virgin Raspberry Mojito recipe below is refreshing, pretty and cocktail party worthy!
You can enjoy it while contemplating whether you really need to do a spring cleanse – or if with a few simple steps you can support your body to be a detox machine all on its own – every day of the year.
Recipe: Virgin Raspberry Mojito
- 1/4 cup Raspberries
- 3/4 cup Water
- 1/4 cup Maple Syrup
- 1/4 cup Mint Leaves
- 1 Lime (sliced into wedges)
- 4 Ice Cubes
- 3 cups Sparkling Water
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the raspberries, water and maple syrup. Cook until thick, about 5 minutes. Use an immersion blender or add the mixture to your blender to puree until smooth. Chill in fridge for at least 10 minutes.
- Divide mint and 1/2 the lime wedges into drinking glasses. Use a muddler or the end of a wooden spoon to mash them together. Divide raspberry puree, ice cubes and sparkling water between the glasses. Stir to combine and garnish with remaining lime wedges. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt if desired. Enjoy!