To Cleanse or Not to Cleanse

Cleansing has been a hot topic the past decade; seems like even more so in the last few years. Questions often arise, “What do you think about cleansing”, “What cleanse is right for me”, “How long should a cleanse last”… After being bombarded with celebrity cleanses, friends doing cleanses, and reading about them in virtually every health magazine, it’s important to educate yourself on the benefits, downsides, and the irrelevance of some cleanses. First off, one needs to really understand how nutrition works in the body before they attempt any diet change or cleanse. Not understanding these basic functions can truly lead to a misunderstanding of how and what you should eat. Please, educate yourself! Check out a nutrition book from your local library, buy a text book online, or watch a podcast or an educational video. Please keep in mind the source, and choose an unbiased source of knowledge. Please don’t rely on articles found in nutritional magazines only. There is a lot of misinformation out there. Read reviews of the sources, and make sure you’re getting information from a respected and well-reviewed source.

Secondly, talk to someone who knows more about nutrition than you….meaning a nutritionist or registered dietician. These people are available for a  reason. They’ve studied this subject for years, and really understand what certain foods do in the body. But again, please be aware of their biases. If they try to push any one “lifestyle”, please take what they say with a grain of salt. Please try to speak with someone with a scholarly and unbiased approach to your health. Regardless, having access to their wide array of knowledge can really help guide to you the HEALTHIEST way of eating and/or cleansing.

There have been some very informative articles released lately that hit the nail on the head about whether or not to cleanse. Time Magazine released a wonderful “Alternative Medicine” volume recently. If you didn’t get a chance to buy/read it, please find a way to get your hands on it! One article in particular tackled the topic of cleansing. The author wrote a succinct, to-the-point, and unbiased article about what cleansing does to the body. Please read before starting any cleanse! (http://www.amazon.com/TIME-Alternative-Medicine-Healing-Nutrition/dp/1618930176) It basically outlines how important a HEALTHY DIET is over cleansing. If you’re eating pure, organic, whole foods, your body will naturally filter out what it doesn’t need in the proper way. That’s its job. “Toxins” that are quoted thousands of times over in our society, seem to be a myth to science. What toxins are actually being rid of during a cleanse? I have yet to meet someone who could clearly tell me, with sources to back it up, what these toxins are, and what they are doing in the body to cause harm. Sure there are free radicals, and cleansing will most likely load you up with vital antioxidants that neutralize these free radicals from causing damage to blood vessels and tissues in the body which could lead to heart disease or cancer. This is a huge plus for cleansing. However, these “toxins” remain a hot debate for many professionals because evidence of their function and existence is questionable. I would welcome with a very open mind any evidence anyone has to offer on the subject.

There are downsides to cleansing, too. In a cleanse, you are virtual starving yourself of vital nutrients you need daily for your body to function optimally. Many of the vitamins and minerals you might not be getting in a cleanse are of the utmost importance in cellular function. Without these nutrients, your cells can’t do what they need to do, which ultimately leads them to malfunctioning, which can lead to illness later on. So if you do a cleanse, please keep it short! I have a hard time seeing something that deprives your body of what it needs as healthy. Protein is a vital part of your daily diet. It is recommend for women to eat around 45g daily and for men to eat around 55g (http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/protein.html). Protein is so important to your body. It is the building blocks for enzymes, antibodies, structures, and vital for transport and storage in the body. If you are depriving yourself of protein, you are depriving your body of what it needs to protect YOU! So if you want to cleanse, choose one that allows you to include protein so you’re getting what your body requires.

I believe cleanses are more important for one’s mental state than their physical state. Cleanses are a great way to jumpstart a good habit. If you want to eat healthier, do a juice cleanse for a few days, see how great you feel, and start to introduce organic, non-GMO, whole foods into your daily diet and KEEP IT THAT WAY. Make it a lifestyle change, and not just a temporary sidetrack from your normally unhealthy diet. Just like in any cleanse, it’s always good to avoid sugars, simple carbs (do eat whole grains! they’re loaded with nutrients and fiber that lower your risk of cancer and are a big source of energy for the body), artificial sweeteners, too much red meat, and trans fats. You have to get rid of them when you’re cleansing, so KEEP them gone when you’re done. You’ll find that after a short time, you won’t even be able to imagine eating some of these foods. It is said that it takes three weeks to form a new habit. Try to change your diet (don’t “go on” a diet) for three weeks, eating healthier and more well-rounded, and you’ll notice the mental change occurring. You’ll be amazed at how you won’t crave those foods anymore!