Do I Need to Do a Cleanse?

February 2023 - Health & Wellness

The days are getting longer, the sun is getting warmer and the plants are coming back to life. I love spring! You might also be noticing that your body is perking up too. It might be asking for different foods or lighter meals, or you might even be thinking…do I need to go on a cleanse?

Spring is a wonderful time to support your body’s natural detox cycle and there’s a reason you might be feeling extra “cleanse-y” right now. Your body triggers its own internal clean-up each spring and this is a great time to support this natural process.

In many health circles, it’s believed that you just need to let your body do its thing, that there’s no need for cleanses or detoxification protocols, but I believe there’s a place for them. You live in a different world than what your body’s natural detox process was meant for. Your natural detox cycle is wonderful at handling day-to-day toxins, but what about the chemical soup we live in today? Air pollution, water pollution and hormone-disrupting chemicals are everywhere. Just walk down the cleaning aisle of a conventional grocery store and you’ll get an idea of the chemical soup I’m talking about.

The World Health Organization says that air pollution increased by a whopping 8% between 2011 and 2016. Add to that the glyphosate residue found in food as well as the parabens, formaldehyde and phenoxyethanol in conventional creams and lotions, and it’s clear that your body might need help handling this chemical assault.

Over time the chemical strain can add up, leading to symptoms like:

  • brain fog;
  • constipation;
  • diarrhea;
  • low energy;
  • strong body odour (or a change in scent);
  • chemical sensitivities; and
  • skin breakouts.

So supporting your natural detox cycle can be helpful. This doesn’t need to be harsh or difficult—we need to give the body the ingredients required to move those toxins out!

Cleanses can also help reset old habits or bring in new ones. You’re generally going to follow a “clean” diet during the cleanse and as long as you set an end date, it can be helpful. Starting any restrictive diet without an end date can lead to feelings of deprivation and bingeing—something you definitely want to avoid.

Also, please note that cleanses aren’t weight loss diets. While doing a cleanse may help your metabolism at a cellular level, normally any weight that’s lost will come back when you’re done. Be sure to keep this in mind as it’s best to have the right expectation. Often we berate ourselves when we gain weight after a cleanse or diet, when it was actually just inevitable.

How’s Your Colon Doing?

Here’s the thing: you’ve gotta have a happy colon first. If you’re even mildly constipated, your body can’t get rid of all of those toxins you’re pulling out of your liver and cells.

Think of it like cleaning your house. You spend all day cleaning out a room, it looks sparkling clean…but all of that garbage is now in the hallway. If your hallway is clogged up, then eventually that garbage will end up back in that room. Your colon is the hallway; if it’s not open and clear, then all of those toxins will end up back in your liver.

Fasting vs. Juice Cleanse vs. Herbal Cleanse

While fasting is very popular right now, there isn’t a lot of research proving it’s effective for detoxification. Some early animal research does find that it can help increase liver enzymes that help with detoxification, but this isn’t a method that’s good for everyone. Namely, you must have sufficient body weight to fast. If your body fat percentage is low or you have a fast metabolism and struggle to maintain your weight, this is not for you… Don’t fast. Full stop.

I have two concerns with using fasting for detoxification: you’re not getting a source of glutathione and you need to manually keep your colon moving (think enemas). This is why I rarely, if ever, recommend fasting as a detoxification protocol.

Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant made up of three amino acids (glycine, cysteine and glutamate). It’s highly concentrated in the liver and no other nutrient works harder to eliminate heavy metals, mycotoxins (mold), parabens and hundreds of other toxic substances we come into contact with on a daily basis. Think of glutathione as your master detoxifier, and detoxification is easier for your body when there’s a steady supply of glutathione.

Juice cleanses make life a bit easier: you’ve got some nutrients and energy coming in, so they’re not as much stress on your body. But, without fibre or protein, they carry the same two problems that fasting has (they lack glutathione and you might need an enema).

Instead of doing a 100% juice cleanse, I prefer to add nutrient-dense, fresh-pressed juices from the Bistro at Nature’s Fare to my spring diet. They’re delicious and an easy way to get some extra veggies.

So, in general, I don’t recommend fasting or juice cleanses unless you’re working with a practitioner who can make sure this is a good practice for you.

Herbal Cleanses for the Win!

I feel gentle herbal cleanses along with a whole food diet are the safest and most effective method of detoxification. Through this process, you can take a break from the chemical assault found in many processed foods, while giving your body the ingredients to clean out your liver and cells. Plus, you’ll be getting natural sources of glutathione and fibre so your detoxification cycle will work as it should.

Nature’s Fare has many great herbal cleanses for you including teas, capsules and ultra-gentle homeopathic options. Ask your favourite wellness team member to help find the right one for you! 

Lisa Kilgour, rhn is one of Nature’s Fare Markets’ nutritionists and sought-after speaker and educator who helps people heal from diverse and complex health issues. She has spoken at TEDxKelowna and is the author of Undieting: Freedom from the Bewildering World of Fad Diets.
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Article was published in The Good Life magazine

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