“Nothing for me, I’m on a cleanse.”
Spring is in full swing and with it comes the need for spring cleaning. It seems like every magazine this month is plastered with ideas on how to clear out the cobwebs and organize your life. For many people, this seems like a perfect time for our bodies to get that yearly service as well. But how exactly do we tune up our bodies? Many health and wellness establishments, and even health professionals, think that a detox is the answer. While cleaning out the nooks and crannies may be good for our homes, it may not be so beneficial for our bodies. Cleanses and detoxes are heavily pushed by marketers that promise to change your life and give you the body and health that you’ve always dreamed of. However, like all things that claim these dramatic outcomes, similarly these detoxes are too good to be true.
It seems like there are a million and one cleansing products out there these days. Although I can’t speak for all of them, many seem to be fundamentally alike. For the most part these commercial detoxes are expensive. These products, as well as their homemade counterparts, have no scientific evidence to back them and are rarely medically supervised. They usually involve 1) herbal, medicinal, or laxative preparation to flush out the bowels, 2) a restriction in one or more major food groups, and/or 3) consumption of large quantities of water, juice, or fibre. These diets are typically extreme and sometimes even detrimental to your health. Not only can they cause bloating, cramping and nausea, but they can also lead to electrolyte imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, low blood pressure and medication interactions that may require hospitalization.
The goal of a detox is to rid our bodies of waste that has built up through the food we eat and the air we breathe, as well as enhance bowel habits and weight loss. However, we can’t forget that our bodies are amazing at keeping us running efficiently despite the torture we put them through. For example, the liver is constantly removing toxins from the blood and sending them to the kidneys to be removed in the form of urine. The intestines extract nutrients and water from the food we eat and remove the rest as solid waste. Even our noses and lungs work by filtering out debris that we breathe in. The bottom line is that we have multiple organs that have evolved to efficiently remove waste and toxins every day of our lives, whether we are on a detox or not.
What we should be doing is asking ourselves what we can do to enhance our body’s removal systems. There are nutrients that we can add to our daily diet that will help our organs eliminate waste, and improve bowel health and weight in the process. The number one tip is to eat enough fibre. Fibre can be found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Adding these items into every meal can give you enough soluble and insoluble fibre to improve waste removal, with the added benefit of keeping you full longer and providing essential nutrients. Keep in mind that consuming a diet that is high in fibre must go hand-in-hand with drinking enough fluid to flush it out. Drinking adequate amounts of water is multipurpose as it is also used to remove waste through the liver and kidneys. An easy way to figure out if you’re drinking enough liquid is by checking that your urine is running clear or a light yellow colour; this amount is different for everyone. Although fibre and water are the main ways to improve your bodies waste removal system, it is always helpful to reduce your intake of alcohol and processed foods, which either inhibit elimination of waste or create harmful by-products.
The idea that you can detoxify your body by following a diet or taking a capsule for a few days is just too good to be true. There are so many people out there that seem to be searching for a magic fix to our modern day health problems. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the honest truth is that there isn’t one. Nutrition is pretty basic when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it, but our society has made it so complex. When you’re questioning how to jump-start your healthy lifestyle, start with a few more whole grains, a handful of fruits and veggies, and wash it all down with a tall glass of water. I promise that making these small steps will get you much farther on your way to a healthier lifestyle than any cleanse out there.