It’s become quite trendy to try a “detox” or “cleanse”. It may seem like a good idea- maybe to jump start a weight loss plan, or to miraculously rid your body of unwanted environmental toxins or pollutants? Well, before you start popping mystery herbal concoctions and depriving your body of everything but lemons and cayenne pepper, read on…
I have to admit… I have dabbled with a detox many years ago. Although I couldn’t finish it because I was so hungry and irritable. Never again. In my mind “cleanses” clean you of two things- your sanity and important nutrients. A cleanse or detox has been glamorized as a “quick fix” to a weight problem or a “fresh start” for your irritable bowel- as if your digestive system will be brand spanking new when you’re all done… not so much.
Your body is actually much smarter than you think. It can actually “cleanse” itself without you having to really think about it. Your liver and kidneys work together to safely remove waste from your blood stream resulting in urine, and your stomach, small intestine and large intestine absorb important nutrients from the food that you eat and clear toxins and waste that your body doesn’t need- resulting in… well, you know...
Detoxing could mean anything from a 3 day juice fast to a 10 day bender of maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Some people even do what’s called a “colonic”. Think enema. Let’s just say that it’s not pleasant and leave it at that. Detox diets can lead to many side effects such as lack of energy, inability to focus and concentrate, major food cravings, irritability, diarrhea and headaches. In long-term detox situations, side effects may include serious, life-threatening electrolyte imbalances, nutrient deficiencies and cardiac failure. Yikes!
The bottom line is that the benefits assigned to detox and cleansing diets are void of any scientific evidence. Until there is more research to support these special diets, stick to healthy eating and your amazingly engineered body will do the rest.
There are a few healthy ways that you can improve your overall nutrition and tweak your eating habits (even drop a few pounds) without “Spring cleaning” your body. Here are my top 5 tips to safely and gently help your body cleanse itself:
1. Drink lots of fluids- mainly water (2-3 litres of fluid total per day): this will help to keep you hydrated and help your body flush unwanted waste material out.
2. Eat plenty of fibre-rich foods: Dietary fibre (coming from whole grains, veggies and fruits, and beans, nuts and legumes) improves digestion and prevents constipation. It also helps keep your cholesterol in check (certain types of fibre), acts as nourishment to the healthy bacteria in your gut (prebiotics) and helps with weight management (curbs your appetite).
3. Exercise regularly: Exercise improves your overall health, decreases your risk of chronic disease and helps with weight loss and maintenance. It also helps to circulate blood throughout your body, bringing nutrients to all of your organs and muscles and helps to remove toxins and other harmful materials from your body.
4. Minimize processed and packaged foods: Buy whole foods when you can (not from a package). Most packaged and processed foods contain preservatives and additives that your body doesn’t need. When you can’t pronounce most of the ingredients in the ingredients list and there is more than 3-4 ingredients, choose something else.
5. Eat organic when you can: Organic foods do not contain pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and hormones. Try to buy locally and seasonally to not break the bank. For more info on choosing organic produce, check this out.
Happy spring cleaning (your home that is!),
Sarah Remmer, RD, CDE
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