In the diet and nutrition world, a cleanse or detox is every bit as popular as any flavour-of-the-month fad diet. And like many fad diets, unfortunately it can be quite extreme, and therefore kind of scary. But does it have to be?
There’s no standardized way to cleanse or detox. It’s typically just a structured diet of sorts, with different recipes or variations of foods and drinks. Foods included are chosen for their natural state, absence of any harmful, artificial ingredients, for their restorative properties, and for their ability to draw out and eliminate toxins from the major organs, fat cells and tissues. Also included are various herbs and supplements known to support our eliminatory organs (see chart below).
There is sound theory behind cleansing the body for the purpose for which it has been used for centuries by many cultures – to remove these accumulated toxins and waste products from the body, to restore vitality and reduce illness.
But even among experts in the field, there is conflicting opinion as to the need and benefit of it. Some will argue that the body is naturally designed to process and effectively remove toxins through the liver, kidneys, colon, skin, lungs, etc.
Some cleanse or detox programs (these two words used interchangeably) are very restrictive, perhaps only water or other liquids for a period of time (usually 2-14 days). And this is where the hazards lie. These extreme cleanses perhaps have an important place in nutritional therapy for specific conditions under the guidance of an experienced professional. However, all too often people partake in these extremes for the sole purpose of weight loss. Because of how extreme these “diets” often are, it can not only be hard on the body, but very difficult to comply to –> thereby increasing the likelihood of not succeeding with the diet to reap the desired benefits for which it is intended (certainly not longterm anyway), and often results in rebounding with additional weight gain and/or health issues.
Some of the potentially dangerous side effects of an extreme cleanse are:
Very low protein intake disrupts hormone balance, energy levels, neurotransmitter production, and the immune system.
Restricted total calories and food groups can easily result in blood sugar instability – not good for someone with diabetes or prone to dysglycemia, or mood disorders or instability.
People taking certain medications must use caution because the high vitamin K in green juices and excessive greens consumption can reduce the efficacy of many drugs.
The laxative effect of extreme cleanses can lead to dehydration, deplete electrolytes, and increase risk of injury to muscles and joints. The digestive detoxing can also disrupt intestinal bacteria flora and be counter productive to someone who has impaired bowel function.
Extremes in dieting can perpetuate body image, weight instability and disordered eating.
What about the toxins?
But wait, let’s go back and talk about those toxins and how we are exposed to them. As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a toxin is:
“a poisonous substance that is a specific product of the metabolic activities of a living organism and is usually very unstable, notably toxic when introduced into the tissues, and typically capable of inducing antibody formation”.
That’s a lot of science I know! I’ll translate a little:
Any substance absorbed into the body that alters metabolic pathways, induces immune antibodies, disrupts normal functioning of organs or tissues, and increases the risk of illness and disease.
- Foods and drink we consume with artificial chemical additives
- Refined sugar
- Environmental air pollution
- Chlorinated water
- Cleaning agents, chemical exposures
The above are just some of the many things that science has repeatedly proven to have disruptive effects on the body and its vital functions.
So there’s no denying the toxicity our modern world has on the body, especially for those with poor diet and lifestyle choices.
And therein lies a crucial key to keeping the body clean:
DON’T DIRTY YOUR BODY UP IN THE FIRST PLACE!
That’s brings us to the next important aspect to talk about: clean food, or clean eating – another big buzz word often thrown around. If toxicity comes from artificial, refined, polluted or dirty diet and lifestyle choices, then it’s only logical that to avoid or remove toxicity requires a clean diet and lifestyle, right?
Are you still with me?
Okay, so pretty simple – just eat clean food and live a clean lifestyle. Easy to do, right? Not so much, I understand. Optimal wellness is about balance, and even the best-intentioned healthful people will periodically be exposed to dirty food or other exposures. The question then is,
How extreme do you need to be to “cleanse” the excess build-up of this toxicity from your body?
Well, if you didn’t know before reading this, you’ve probably gathered that I am one of those nutrition practitioners who has a natural, sustainable approach and avoids extremes whenever possible. So my answer is yes, cleanse naturally and safely every day with simple, real food that’ll help your body do it’s own wondrous job.
NATURALLY CLEANSING FOODS TO INCLUDE IN YOUR DIET:
There are so many, but here are some of our favs!
APPLES, GRAPEFRUIT: high in pectin, a special type of fiber that binds to cholesterol and heavy metals in the body, apples help eliminate toxic build up and naturally cleanse the intestinal tract
BROCCOLI, KALE, SPINACH, BEETS, ONIONS & GARLIC: these and other sulfur-containing cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts) help the body to produce the master anti-oxidant to protect our bodies from foreign or dangerous toxins – Glutathione. Glutathione is an amino acid that is crucial for detoxification in the liver. Your body produces its own glutathione and sulfur is an important precursor to this process. Bonus: studies show that exercise also boosts glutathione production in the body (although overtraining can reduce production).
BEETS: also contain pectin, betaine and betalains, pigments with high anti-inflammatory properties that encourage the detoxification process
CELERY: claims to cleanse the blood and is particularly good for detoxifying substances found in cigarette smoke
LEMONS: also helps the body produce glutathione, is rich in vitamin C (another anti-oxidant to combat toxicity), and stimulates digestive and liver cleansing functions
SEAWEED: McGill University studies in Montreal showed that “seaweeds bind to radioactive waste in the body. Seaweed also binds to heavy metals to help eliminate them from the body.” http://www.care2.com/greenliving
CHIA SEEDS: These tiny high-fibre seeds are the perfect gut cleansers. When soaked in water for a few minutes they plump up and turn into a jello-like substance that helps flush out the stomach (especially great for those with intestinal imbalance or prone to constipation). Get our recipe for homemade strawberry jam made with chia seeds here!
ASPARAGUS: a natural diuretic that helps with liver drainage
FLAXSEEDS: provide fibre that helps to bind and flush out toxins from the intestinal tract; bonus: flax helps to suppress the appetite and supports weight loss
PINEAPPLE: contains bromelain, a naturally-occurring digestive enzyme that helps to cleanse the colon; also higher in vitamin C than oranges!
WALNUTS: a high omega-3 anti-inflammatory brain-helping food, they hold high levels of acid arginine, which aids the liver in detoxifying ammonia
DETOX HERBS & SPICES TO INCLUDE IN YOUR DIET:
DANDELION: This well-known detox herb helps cleanse the liver by stimulating the production of bile and its flow to the gallbladder, one avenue through which the body naturally removes toxins. Dandelion leaves are also a diuretic. Purchase as a tea, capsule supplement or tincture.
MILK THISTLE: Silymarin, the active ingredient in milk thistle, acts to impedes liver damage and stimulates its ability to generate new cells. German physicians frequently prescribe milk thistle as a treatment for those suffering from liver damage. Because silymarin is poorly soluble in water and not absorbed well by the body, a concentrated supplement is recommended (200 mg capsule representing 140 mg of silymarin).
TURMERIC is another well-known beneficial herb for the liver. Turmeric increases the flow of bile, helping to remove toxins from the body. 50 mg supplement daily is often recommended, or incorporate it more into your cooking.
GREEN TEA: A study reported in a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research found that the catechins found in green tea increased production of a group of important detoxification Drink a cup a day.
GARLIC contains sulfur compounds such as allicin that oxidize heavy metals, making them more water-soluble and easier to remove from the body. Garlic has numerous other benefits that can help strengthen your detox system, the immune system and control free radicals. If eating garlic raw, be sure to cut, crush or bruise the clove to activate its healing properties.
CILANTRO binds to heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, lead and aluminum, making it easier to transport them out of the body. See more about cilantro at https://www.mipstick.com/cheerful-coriander-cilantro/
Finally, real food put into practice… Naturally Cleansing & Delicious Recipes