January 08, 2019


Cleanse and detox are popular buzzwords these days on the internet in health and weight loss circles. Both terms refer to ridding your body of waste, and proponents report they make you healthier and help you lose weight.

Whether our bodies need help cleansing and detoxifying is a topic of debate. For example, some highly-followed celebrities advocate everything from a bee-venom facial to coffee enemas and the steaming your vagina, while medical scientists indicate that people are being sold a bill of goods based on pseudoscience.  What is known is that cleansing is an ancient practice (fasting) that holds spiritual significance in many religions and ancient cultures may have used fasting to shed winter weight. Sort of the opposite of Fat Tuesday.

Modern cleanses and detoxifications tend to be commercially motivated and fall within three categories:

  1. Replacing solid foods or certain types of foods with liquids,
  2. Taking supplements to support your body’s own detoxification functions, and
  3. Cleaning out your colon.

A lot of people use the terms detox and cleanse interchangeably, but a cleanse and detoxing technically work in different ways and are supposed to accomplish two different (yet related) results. You’ll want to understand the difference before considering either.

What Does A Cleanse Do?

Proponents of the cleanse indicate that the purpose is to help your system get rid of the waste in your colon. The theory is that too much food, or unhealthy food, can build up in your gastrointestinal tract filling you with toxins that can make you sluggish and sick. Also proposed is that poor eating practices can mean your body doesn’t have a chance to really rid itself of the toxins as they keep building up. A cleanse is said to help empty your GI tract and reboot your system to work better moving forward.

Supplements Or Products For A Cleanse?

There is a dizzying array of products that claim to do a variety of things to clean you out, but be mindful that companies are working to sell things to you. A cleanse can be as simple as removing bad foods from your diet (eliminating processed foods and sugars, for example) and adding in healthy whole foods instead.  So much of what shouldn’t be in our bodies is there because of highly processed and fast foods that are full of chemicals, preservatives, fillers, colours and binders. The healthier you eat, the better you will feel, with or without cleansing. 

If you’re sure that a cleanse is what you want be careful about choosing.  Many of the cleanse methods on the market today require laxatives, colonics, and/or forgoing solid foods in favor of juices and supplements.  A word of caution about drastic programs; these can possibly leave you with uncomfortable side effects like cramping, nausea, and diarrhea, not to mention unstable blood sugar and a lack in the essential nutrients your body needs.   Be sure that you remember that your body is a sophisticated system that needs proper nutrition input to run smoothly.

What Does Detoxing Do?

When thinking about this don’t forget that the body has a number of organ that are uniquely effective and removing what your body does not want or need.  First to mind are your liver and kidneys, followed by your lungs, lymph, colon and skin.   They all work to eliminate various waste materials that result from our metabolic processes.

A diet detox will focus on using supplements, food, and/or special practices (for instance, dry brushing or infrared sauna) to help your natural system rid your body of toxins like pesticides, mercury, and the chemicals left by smoking.

But, like cleansing, the key here is that your body already has its own system of detoxification and the best way to support your system is through clean living, healthy food, exercise, adequate sleep, and stress control all help your body detox naturally.  

Supplements Or Products For A Detox

Again, there are many detox products on the market in various forms: teas, pre-packaged smoothies, powders, and pills, to name a few. Many are based in principles of Eastern medicine, using herbs that have been used medicinally for thousands of years. But you don’t need to purchase an expensive system to enjoy the benefit of those herbs or clean eating.  Be skeptical and careful if you decide to choose these products and so many companies are working hard to make you buy their stuff. 

Can A Cleanse Or Detox Help Me Lose Weight?

You may initially lose weight on a detox or cleanse, mostly because you’re limiting calories and losing water. But this isn’t a good long-term option, as you’re likely to feel the unhealthy effects of unstable blood sugar (especially with juice cleanses). Other unwelcome side effects can include fatigue, dehydration, dizziness, and possibly stripping the good bacteria from your colon. Since most of your immune system lives in your gut, you don’t want to inadvertently cause more harm than good.

If weight loss is a goal then don’t see that as a race, it will only stay off if you make sustainable changes in your eating and lifestyle.  Seek some advice from holistic nutritionists who should be able to help develop food processes that will make you healthier and achieve long-term goals. 

Overall, a cleanse might be quick, but frequently not a fix; they are not a healthy long-term weight loss option. Your body needs adequate nutrition to function. If you must cleanse, some experts recommend going no longer than 2-3 days.

Instead of a quick fix, think of it as cleansing your mindset and resetting your relationship with food. When you start adding healthful whole foods back into your diet, you’ll feel the benefits, body and soul. Food truly is medicine to your body and making small changes in your diet will have an overall positive effect on your health, without moving to extreme measures.  Remember to be wary of “celebrity wisdom” that pushes scientifically dubious information.  The body already is a highly efficient system that is designed to purge itself of what it doesn’t need.  Support your body by avoiding processed foods, ensuring that you choose highly nutritious foods, and make sure that you get enough sleep.

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