It's January — time to think about how to get healthy and fit during the coming year. Instead of making slow changes, you may find yourself wanting to jump on the fast-track to getting healthy. Quite often, this involves embarking on “detoxes” or “cleanses” of all sorts.
Typically, these cleanses or detoxes are boxed kits, juice fasts, powders you mix into smoothies or water, meal replacement shakes, programs that last anywhere from one to three weeks. People find that they lose weight or their skin clears up in a matter of days on these cleanses, so they naturally assume that they're working and believe them to be healthy.
The manufacturers and supporters of these cleanses tout their abilities to benefit your body in countless ways: from weight loss and lasting energy to increasing your fruit and veggie intake and giving you superhero powers. (Maybe not that last one. 😉 )
If you're looking to make some healthy changes this year, that's excellent! All of us at Traditional Cooking School want to support you! I, however, encourage you to steer clear of the boxed detoxes, multi-level marketing cleanse programs, and juice and smoothie fasts.
Why Boxes, Kits, Powders, Fasts, and Pills Aren't the Best Idea
First, these products are expensive. You could find yourself paying anywhere from $25 for a week's supply of pills, to $200 or more for a 21-day supply of powders. Many of the companies that create these products are multi-level marketing (MLM). The products of MLMs can be of good quality, but their prices are so high that it's not sustainable for most of us.
On the flip side, MLM products can also be of poor quality because there is no outside regulating or testing done to ensure the efficacy or safety of their products. I've seen companies exaggerate the value of their products, and many make claims that their products will prevent or cure ailments and diseases — which is illegal (source).
Juicing is extremely costly, too — financially and health-wise — especially if you're consuming nothing but juice for days or weeks. I'm a big fan of juicing as part of a well-rounded, wholesome diet that also includes pastured animal meats, healthy fats, and fibrous fruits and vegetables.
Having nothing but juice for days isn't a good choice however, unless your goal is a wrecked metabolism (source). While high in vitamins and antioxidants, juice alone cannot give your body the calories it needs to repair and heal itself or sustain energy. When your body gets the hunger signal and you don't feed it what it needs, it begins tapping into your own glycogen stores.
These stores should be replenished daily by the food you eat, particularly good protein, but if they're not, your body will find a way to get it. Without protein and fat coming in for fuel, the body will literally eat itself. The liver will release stored glucose, which will then break down your muscle tissue so that your body can draw glycogen from itself (source). This is a very catabolic process, but one that happens even during short juicing fasts.
Calorie restriction is another major concern of juice fasting, cleansing, and using boxed products. When your calories are restricted, you're going to lose weight. But at what cost to your overall health? Your body needs good protein, healthy fats, vegetable fiber, and carbohydrates — daily. If you are restricting these foods, you may find yourself deficient in many essential vitamins, minerals, fat stores, and glycogen stores.
When your body becomes deficient, it starts slowing or shutting down non-survival processes: the thyroid can slow, hormones may become imbalanced, depression or mood changes can occur, your sleep may suffer, and hair and nail growth may slow or stop. All of these consequences and more can result from the restrictions many detox kits, pills, and juice cleanses apply on the body. Sure, you've lost weight, but health is much more than a number on the scale.
One Size Does NOT Fit All
The other idea that MLMs and other cleanse-in-a-box manufacturers promote is a “one-size-fits-all” approach. The ingredients in these products may not be beneficial for everyone, yet they are promoted as such. These products are tailored to the masses, not your individual body. The toxicity of your body is determined by so many factors: your diet, your lifestyle, your environment, past or present medications, your stress levels, even your mother's health while you were in her womb! It is very likely that even people living in the same house have different levels of toxicity. So to say that this pill or that cleanse works for everyone just isn't true.
If You Feel You Need a Cleanse…
If, in 2015, you feel that you need a period of intense and deep detoxing, you should seek out the wisdom of a certified practitioner. A naturopath, chiropractor trained in nutrition, functional medicine practitioner, or nutritional therapist will be much more able to help you identify what type of deep cleansing you need, how long or often you should do it, and what to watch out for along the way.
They can recommend supplements that might be helpful or other temporary lifestyle adaptations you may need — such as exercising less or not at all during your detox. During intense periods of detox, it is common to experience healing reactions or “retracing“. A practitioner will be aware of this possibility and can guide you through them. Your practitioner may also recommend that you back off of your cleansing program for a while to give your body a chance to rest and recover.
Walking into your health food store and buying a cleanse in a box off the shelf can't give you that kind of individualized care. Speaking with the representative of a company selling these products can't either — because they're usually not nutritionists, naturopaths, chiropractors, or practitioners. If you have an adverse reaction, allergy, or healing reaction from any of their products, it is unlikely they will know what's going on, if the situation was even caused by their product, or how to guide you through it.
Support Your Body's Natural, Daily Detox
Aside from the cost, question of efficacy, safety, or potential consequences to our health, the main reason I'm steering you away from those detox products is because I believe they promote a mindset that “cleansing” or “detoxing” should be reserved for times when you're trying to kickstart a major health change or for when you've just returned from a decadent vacation.
The fact is that our bodies need to detox DAILY, not just once a week or 21 days each year. And, they DO detox daily — on their own, without the help of anything except the miraculous design with which we were created.
Powders, pills, juice fasts, meal replacement shakes… none of it is necessary, and none of it can do better what our bodies can do by themselves, sometimes with a little help. 😉 Real, effective detox doesn't happen once a week or in three days of juicing. There is nothing we can do to force our bodies to detox, but we can support our natural detoxifying processes.
It is important to support your body's primary detoxifying organs on a daily basis. The liver, kidneys, skin, and lymphatic system are the garbage disposals of the body, and they're at work 24 hours a day to filter out the trash.
Tomorrow, I'm going to share some easy and gentle methods you can use daily to support your body's detox processes. These methods are inexpensive, natural, and highly effective. One of them is even fun! 🙂 And I promise, no questionable ingredients, no sales plan, no juicing, and no starving!
What are your thoughts about cleanse products? Do you see value to them or do you steer clear? Why or why not?
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