If you live in the 21st century, you have probably been bombarded with different ideas about cleansing and detoxing. From the Master Cleanse to fasting or juice cleansing, there is no shortage of options to choose from. Before you choose to do a cleanse, it is important to understand the detoxification process in the body so that you know what to look for.
Cleansing is a process that has roots in the Roman, Greek, Native American, and Indian cultures. It is common to see cleansing as a tool for weight loss or as a religious or spiritual approach for purification. Some common cleansing techniques include dry skin brushing, saunas, fasting, enemas, and rebounding.
So, in this day and age, why should you consider doing a cleanse or detox? The truth is that you are exposed to far more toxins in your everyday life than ever before. Your primary source of toxins comes from your food, air pollution, water, household cleansers, and cosmetic products. The human body is capable of eliminating many of these toxins; however, because humans have a much higher intake of toxins than ever before, it is wise to consider supporting your body with a gentle cleanse one to two times per year.
Here is what to look out for and avoid when selecting a cleanse.
1. Cleanses that use juicing as a primary method. One of the most popular types of cleanses is juice cleansing (especially with fruit juices). While there are benefits from getting the vitamins and minerals from fresh-pressed juices, many juices are high in sugar and do not contain enough fiber. For many people who have imbalanced blood-sugar levels, a juice cleanse does not have enough protein, fiber, or healthy fats to sustain them throughout the day.
2. Cleanses that focus on supplements only. The supplement industry has very little regulation when it comes to the quality of ingredients that are in supplements. You will want to be very careful when doing a supplement-based cleanse to make sure that you are not doing more harm than good. It’s important to do your own research and not to just trust what the sales person is trying to sell you. There are some professional-grade supplements on the market that use high-quality ingredients that are tested for toxins and effectiveness; however, many supplements on the market are not regulated.
3. Cleanses that don’t provide enough nourishment. Most people who do cleanses still have to go to work, drive a car, or take care of kids while cleansing. For this reason, it is not safe to consume extremely low levels of calories during a cleanse. A cleanse doesn’t have enough nutrients in it if you are hungry all the time or if you have really low energy levels. Eating too few calories can actually put the body into “starvation” mode, which will cause you to store fat after the cleanse is over.
Here are some healthy ways to cleanse.
1. Elimination diet. If you are trying to identify if you have any food sensitivities or if you have an autoimmune disease, an elimination diet could be a great cleansing program for you. During an elimination diet, you experiment with taking the top common food sensitivities out of your diet for 21 to 30 days and then systematically add them back in. The foods that are eliminated include gluten, dairy, corn, soy, sugar, eggs, and/or alcohol. During the elimination diet, the focus is on eating real foods that are nourishing with an emphasis on eating organic vegetables, fruits, and organic, lean fish, chicken and meat whenever possible.
2. Sugar detox. A sugar detox is a great idea for anyone who struggles with sugar cravings, candida overgrowth, or inflammatory-related health conditions. During a sugar detox, you eliminate all high-glycemic carbohydrates, high-glycemic fruits, fruit juices, dried fruit, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and even natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup for anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months, depending on the cleanse. Work with your health care professional to determine the length of time that is right for you. Some sugar detoxes will also include herbs and/or probiotics to support the sugar detoxification process.
3. Whole food cleansing. This type of cleansing is about eliminating all processed foods and eating fresh foods and home-cooked meals. Processed foods include foods that are found in boxes or packages or that are from fast-food restaurants. The primary focus during this type of plan is on vegetables, fruits, water, gluten-free whole grains, beans, wild fish, and organic animal protein (unless vegetarian). There is an emphasis on adding in cleansing supportive foods like water with fresh lemon juice, bitter greens (dandelion greens, arugula), ginger, and turmeric. During a “whole food” cleanse, it is common to consume soups, smoothies, and salads, along with some cooked meals.
Whichever cleansing program you decide to do, it is important to check in with how you are feeling throughout the cleanse. More specifically, take notice of your energy levels, digestion, mood, and sleep. It is common to have some “detox” symptoms on cleanses for the first few days, such as headaches, nausea, and fatigue. If these symptoms continue longer than the first three days of the cleanse, then it might not be the right cleanse program for you.
It is also advised to limit high-intensity physical activity for the first few days of your cleanse so that the body can naturally eliminate toxins without extra stress. Walking, stretching, light yoga, Pilates, and barre would all be OK during this time.
The most important thing to remember is to stay hydrated—this is your top priority whenever you are cleansing. Water helps to eliminate toxins from the body so that they don’t continue circulating in the blood stream.
Once you find a cleanse that supports your needs, you might feel so good that you won’t want to go back to your regular eating habits.
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