Deciding to start a new, healthy lifestyle and seeing words like, “detox,” “diet,” “cleanse,” and “quick results”—along with the latest health fads—can be appealing. But are these trendy ideas good for you and your body? Whether it’s a fast, diet, drink, or powder, ask questions before diving in.
Cleanse Dos and Don’ts
What is a Cleanse?
When people think of a cleanse, or a “detox,” they think of eliminating certain foods from their diet to give their digestive system a break and “flush” out toxins. Some popular cleanses can be as short as a day or as long as a month. Solid foods are often replaced with drinks like water with lemon; maple syrup, lemon, and cayenne pepper; green tea; or freshly squeezed fruit or vegetable juices.
Many say cleanses improve their health. But are the benefits long lasting?
Cleansing for Weight Loss
If you are wanting to do a cleanse for weight loss, this is likely the wrong reason to do a cleanse. Any weight you lose will most likely be put back on again if you return to your usual eating habits. A better way to lose weight over time is to take stock of your daily diet and fitness habits and make small but sustainable changes you can stick to long term.
Cleansing to Detox
A cleanse may help you eliminate highly processed foods with solid fats and sugar from your diet and recalibrate your cravings.
But in terms of “detoxification,” your body is designed to detox itself with the lymphatic system—kidneys, lungs, and skin are experts at flushing out what you don’t need. Avoid low-nutrition foods and keep your digestive system on track to keep yourself feeling great every day.
Digestive support for your body can come from herbal teas or detox tea. Sip on these teas daily to help maintain a healthy gut.
Consider the Side Effects
Like any decision about your health, weigh your options and consider the side effects before deciding on a particular cleanse.
Here’s the good and bad of what you might experience during your cleanse:
- Increased intake of fruits and vegetables
- Possible weight loss
- Possible identification of foods you’re sensitive to (reintroduce potential trigger foods one at a time)
- Motivation to continue eating whole foods like vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean protein
- Physical symptoms like fatigue, irritability, cramping, diarrhea, bloating, nausea, vomiting, dehydration
- Changes in metabolism
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies (most notable if you’re participating in a long-term cleanse)
- Weakness during intense exercise
Best Ways to Do it
If you’re ready to try a cleanse, you want to approach it with the right mindset and with the right strategy. The right kind of cleanse for most people will consist of a few days of good nutrition with the intent to kick off a better, healthier lifestyle and better, healthier food choices in the long term. If you decide to go for it, follow these best practices:
- Talk with your doctor first
- Sleep well
- Avoid alcohol
- Have a plan and stick to it
When to Avoid It
Some cleanses are harmful for people with certain medical conditions. Any cleanse that severely restricts what you eat could lead to dangerously low blood sugar, making restrictive diets potentially dangerous for people with diabetes.
Other Ways to Support Healthy Detox
Supporting your body’s detox processes doesn’t have to take the form of a cleanse. A good detox process provides the needed micronutrients, minerals, and vitamins to support natural detoxification pathways.
- Macronutrients—There are seven main classes of nutrients your body needs: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, fibre, and water. Consume these nutrients each day to help build your body and maintain your health.
- Minerals—Major minerals (calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur) are used and stored in large quantities in the body. Trace minerals are just as vital to our health as the major minerals, but we don’t need large amounts.
- Vitamins—Vitamins and minerals are considered essential nutrients because they perform hundreds of roles in the body. They help shore up bones, heal wounds, and bolster your immune system. They also convert food into energy and repair cellular damage.
Few of us get all of these nutrients from food alone. Supplements can help fill gaps in nutrition to keep our digestive tract going strong. When you combine eating nutritious food, self-care, and daily fitness routines, you can change your perspective on what it means to live a healthy life for good.
Clean Eating, Not “Cleanse” Eating
Don’t fall for the hype. Using a short “cleanse”—where you reset your body and eat nutritious food your body needs—can be helpful. Ask yourself if you can make simple, long-lasting changes like adding more fruits and veggies to your diet and cutting down on the amount of processed foods you eat as well.
Before you start, remember your body is the original expert at detoxing itself. Regardless of the cleanse outcomes, you’ll want to make healthier food choices, exercise, and self-care lifetime goals.