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cleansing and detoxing

Are Detoxes and Cleanses Good for You or a Waste of Time?

detox nutrition

The answer is ... it depends. 

Hopefully by now you know there's no shortcut to eating healthy.  There's no magic pill, injection, or procedure that gives you the body you think you want.  

After 20 years of working in the natural healthcare field, I've amassed a lot of observational data.  

People who make permanent changes in things like 

* the amount of medications they take (insulin, cholesterol meds, blood pressure meds, etc.)

* body fat percentage

* immune function

* hormone health

* pain reduction

have certain things in common.  

Here's what they are.

1. The changes they make are sustainable.

Fad diets don't work. 

Making changes to your eating habits (i.e. finding new, healthy recipes to cook instead of grabbing fast food) does. 

Refusing to change is the harbinger of dis-ease in so many ways.  Someone who tells themself, "I have to eat ice cream every night before I go to sleep," only reinforces that thought.  It's not even true.  It's a story.  

Making changes that you can't maintain also doesn't work.  Eating less than 500 calories a day is not sustainable.  Of course the weight comes back when you're done with the diet!  

Saying you're never going to eat (X) again doesn't work.  Ok, sometimes it does, depending on what X is and how bad it is for you.  But know that moderation is key to a balanced life.  

2.  The cleanse or detox has a purpose beyond short-term weight loss. 

The cleanse is a short period of time.  It is, by its very nature, NOT sustainable as a long-term eating pattern.  It's not designed to be.  

The mindset around cleanses should be more along the lines of, "I'm doing this to break some old dietary habits that aren't serving me," or "I'm doing this to get some (pathogen/heavy metal/toxic substance) out of my body so I can have a fresh start."   Sometimes a cleanse is to figure out what food allergies you may have.  

It's just a reset button.  Not a lifestyle.

3.  It gets you used to different flavors.  

To make #1 happen (sustainable change), you need to eat vegetables.  I'm sorry, but not sorry.  It's the only way to eat healthy.  

Most of us don't eat enough vegetables, or enough variety of them.  A cleanse is a great opportunity (see also #2, having a purpose) to shop for, cook, and eat more veggies.  We all should be doing that.  If we did that, we'd find, in most cases, that our digestion is fabulous, our skin glows, and our weight instantly stabilizes.  

After the cleanse ends, then you add back in more whole grains, protein sources, fats, fruits, etc. (coffee?).  

The short term benefits of a cleanse include

* better digestion - it gives your stomach, spleen, liver, gall bladder, and intestines a much-needed break.  Then they have a chance to get rid of old gunk instead.  

* detoxing - (of course) since your digestive organs are not working as hard on the food stuff, the organs of elimination can focus more (especially with cleanses that use herbs for this purpose) on getting toxins out.

* reset button effect - after the cleanse ends, you don't want to immediately go back to burgers, fries, and beer.  Ideally, you slowly add food back in, one at a time, to make sure you don't react to them.  If you find yourself feeling really crappy after a certain type of food, you know to take it out.  

That's the funny thing about cleansing.  When you feel good from eating a certain way, you want to keep doing that.  Many people don't want to go back to eating crap again.  

How to know when you shouldn't cleanse, or to end your cleanse.  

When I did a "candida cleanse" in my early 20s, I felt so good and finally had clear skin.  I wanted to keep doing it, but as a result, I lost too much weight and my period stopped for a year.  That wasn't ideal.  

Signs that you should stop cleansing:

* too much weight loss or too much focus on weight itself

* no energy at all.  Some fatigue is normal at the start of a cleanse, but just for 2-3 days at the beginning.  It you've been cleansing for a while, and are getting more and more tired, EAT MORE PROTEIN.  

* results have plateued.  You got results, but now, nothing else is changing.  Congratulations!  Your cleanse is over.  Add normal food back in.  

* it's been over a month.  That's a bit too long.  The longest I recommend cleansing is 3 weeks.  2 weeks is great, actually.  

* your cleanse is too restrictive.  If you're constantly hungry, well, maybe you are.  I like cleanses that let you eat as many vegetables as you want.  The "mastercleanser" or lemon juice cleanse, things like that, they're too stark to be healthy, I think.  

I really like the Purification Programs by Standard Process.  You're eating quite a bit of food during the 21 days (they also have 10-day programs for regulating blood sugars and reducing inflammation) so you don't feel like you're starving. 

The weight loss can be a nice side-effect, but it's not the goal.  It's all about how you feel.  

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