With spring around the corner many of us think of cleaning our homes, clearing out our closets, and getting rid of clutter. But how about spring cleaning your body? Are there any benefits to doing a weight cleanse, detox program or fast? Here are some factors to consider:
Our bodies work hard every day to detoxify and eliminate waste and harmful chemicals we ingest or are exposed to through our diet and environment. Our primary detoxifying organs are our colon, liver, kidneys and skin.
Most conventional medicine practitioners do not embrace cleansing or detox programs and consider them as alternative. The assumption is made that our bodies can naturally detoxify and cleanse, so why do a special program or protocol?
The reality is that our bodies are exposed to a myriad of chemical insults from poor dietary choices and exposure to harmful chemicals through skin care products, household cleaners, pesticides and chemicals that may be present in the air we breathe and the water we consume. It does make sense theoretically that if we can minimize our exposure to these chemicals, give our detoxifying organs a break and help them do their job more efficiently that our bodies and our health will benefit.
Fasting has been done practically since the beginning of time for religious practice and it is still a common practice today for both spiritual and health reasons. People report many positive effects from feeling lighter, to having greater mental clarity and a heightened spiritual awareness. Fasting rituals vary. Some are done for only certain hours of the day and others involve fasting for several days. All fasts should allow drinking fluids and particularly water, as dehydration can be dangerous. Fasting is not recommended for those with serious health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. Learn more about intermittent fasting.
Cleansing programs may involve dietary restrictions and/or taking supplements designed to support the liver, kidneys and colon. Central to most cleansing programs is increasing water intake and avoiding intake of processed, chemical-laden foods such as fast food and processed foods. These two factors alone can offer a lot of health benefits as most people don’t drink enough water and fast/processed food is often high in calories and devoid of nutritional value. Cleansing protocols vary greatly. Some programs allow small amounts of high-fibre raw foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds) and others advocate liquids only such as water, herbal tea and tonics.
While the research on the potential health benefits of cleansing is limited and not convincing, people who do cleanses or detox programs often report a better sense of well-being, more energy and greater mental function. And most people will lose weight, but this is often temporary unless previous lifestyle habits are changed.
If you are considering a cleanse, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Drink lots of water. This is important not only to prevent dehydration, but water can help aid in the elimination of toxins via our kidneys, colon and skin.
- Boost your fibre intake. Most people consume only half of the recommended amount of dietary fibre (25-31 grams based on age and gender). Eat more fibre-rich vegetables, legumes and nuts and seeds or consider a fibre supplement. Fibre works with water to aid elimination via the colon.
- Make sure to get lots of rest – aim for 8-9 hours of sleep at night.
- Avoid strenuous activities. Light exercise such as walking, yoga and stretching is fine but intense, endurance activities are not ideal during a cleanse or fast.
- Consider supportive supplements such as probiotics, antioxidants and a multivitamin to ensure your body has what it needs to function optimally.