Hometown Health

Are Spring Cleanses and Detoxes Really Good for You?

juice_5_164x109.jpgClients frequently ask about detoxes this time of year, and in previous posts I have discussed several options for trying a juicing or cleansing program. While they can be great options for people-particularly those who have been eating a fatty, sugary, and generally unhealthy diet for a long time-detoxes aren't for everyone.

The desire for cleansing and new growth feels natural and makes sense to us this time of year. Hey, if the plants are doing it, why shouldn't we? Detox diets, juice fasts, or herbal tea cleanses (among other regimens) can help purge us of that feeling of stagnation after the long winter months. 

For a healthy, normal-weight adult or a person looking to jump-start a healthy weight loss plan, a spring cleansing regimen or detox can be helpful. It can also benefit some people struggling with chronic disease and food allergies, or those trying to add more raw foods into their diet. 
But it's important to proceed with caution. Anyone looking to start a cleanse needs to be aware that they can make you feel great, or they can make you feel awful (and sometimes both at the same time). When taken too far, cleanses can create imbalance in the body, too.

During the long cold winter months, our bodies tend to go into storage mode, trying to conserve energy and retain weight. It's an innate mechanism, and one that was well-suited for our ancestors. Combine that tendency with our usual holiday eating habits and being indoors, you get a recipe for weight-loss difficulty and energy stagnation during the winter.

Starting a cleanse can help reboot your body. A gentle Spring detox for most adults can be accomplished by drinking cleansing herbal teas, and by eliminating sugar, caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, and white flour and preservatives in from the diet, and by eating light, nutritious meals (with leafy greens, vegetables, and light protein from beans, legumes, and whole grains) for one week. Drinking water goes a long way, too!

Our bodies are pretty well designed to efficiently eliminate toxins via the liver and lymph systems, but the sheer volume of pollutants we may encounter every day can tax our natural detoxification systems. It's best to maintain a healthy diet and avoid toxins to support your body's natural efforts.

Problems can arise when people do too much cleansing (it actually can become addictive).  It's important to remember that detox regimens are intended only for short-term use, such as in the spring and fall, for a few days or up to 2 weeks. You can stress your liver and lymph systems with all the flushing, or create nutrient deficiencies. It's always best to consult a health professional before starting a cleanse, particularly if you have a pre-existing health condition.

Here's a list of the pros and cons of spring cleanses and detox regimens:

1. Palate Cleansing. One of the most interesting aspects of going on a cleansing diet is the fact that when you don't eat any processed foods for several days or weeks, you lose your taste for them! Many cleansing diets require you to only drink teas or juices. When you've finished with the diet, you no longer crave the processed foods you once did. Twinkies and fast food burgers are no longer a problem!

2. Toxin Removal. While it isn't scientifically proven, many believe that toxins and pollutants are removed from the body when you go on a cleansing diet. If this is true, then it can provide a significant benefit to your overall health.

3. Temporary Weight Loss. Most cleansing diets result in weight loss via water loss. Water weighs close to 9 lbs. per gallon! So when you shed it, it has a big effect on the number on the scale. But weight loss also varies by the type of regimen you follow. If you can incorporate new, healthy eating habits after your cleansing diet is complete, then you may be able to maintain the weight loss.

4. More Energy. The majority of people who are fans of cleansing diets will tell you that one of the major benefits of a cleansing diet is the increased energy they feel. This is where the "high" from cleansing that people can become addicted to enters the picture. That's why keeping some whole grains, protein, and root vegetable on the menu is a good idea to help keep you feeling grounded and more stable during the regimen.

1. Unpleasant Symptoms. There are a number of unpleasant side effects people feel when on a cleansing diet. You may suffer from fatigue, insomnia, feeling weak, headaches, digestive problems, feeling dizzy, and irritability.
Fans of cleansing diets will remind you that these side effects are only temporary and you'll feel much better after, but you have to be mindful of your feelings and reactions, or work with a health practitioner during a cleanse.

2. Difficult To Do Correctly. Cleansing diets can be challenging and unsafe, particularly for people who have a chronic disease or other health issue. You should do a lot of research before starting your chosen regimen, and see a doctor before undertaking any extreme changes in your diet.

Cleansing diets can be a good thing if they're handled correctly and you're prepared for all of the potential side effects. Take the time to do some research and consider enlisting the support of a professional before you make a decision. Remember, to always use caution and be mindful of your body during any regimen.

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Hometown Health Bloggers:

Jackie Thorne,is a New York state Registered Nurse, Certified Health Coach (CHC), and accredited member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP). She is also a counselor and educator, striving to guide and empower others to take a positive, pro-active approach to their health and well-being. As an avid yogi, gardener, and outdoorswoman, she feels privileged to make her home in the lovely Adirondack foothills of upstate New York, and to be a beneficial force in the community. Jackie enjoys sharing her passion for health, happiness and nutrition, and helping people live healthier and more fulfilling lives. Jackie lives and works with the belief that if we can improve our own well-being, it will lead to a better world for everyone.