Ditch The Harsh Cleanse Por Favor

It’s mid February and my ears are still ringing with the words “diet” and “detox” and “cleanse”.

Cleanses are hotter than ever and many of my patients bring them up and defend them by saying that “Dr.Oz recommends them so they must work, right?”. Though these so-called detoxes may seem hard-to-resist, reassuring and downright enticing, please try your mightiest to be smart about which one you choose to follow, if any, and for how long.

This here post is my sort of rant.

1 – Cleanses are often not high enough in calories are protein. Your body has what is called its “basal metabolism”, which represents the calories your body needs to maintain starfish position in your bed. Say what? Basal metabolism is the energy you require to make your heart beat, your lungs breathe, your blood circulate, your brain function, etc., not including the calories you need if you are going to get out of bed in the morn and get your particular show on the road. If this calorie need is not met, your body will perceive this as starvation. Following this type of “diet” in the long-run can ultimately lead to loss of muscle mass, the slowing down of your metabolism and troubles managing your weight (counter-productivity at its finest). Plus, sticking to these diets in the long-term can also lead to nutrient deficiencies if many food groups are excluded.

There are many different types of “detoxes” out there. Here is my beef with a few of them:

  • Water + lemon + maple syrup + cayenne cleanse = too low in calories and protein.
  • Ideal Protein = astronaut food, in my opinion. There is nothing natural nor appealing about pouches of dried food that you rehydrate and stick in the microwave to render them more food-like. This is a quick fix that, from my experience, makes people truly miss real food. Protein diets are also lacking in carbohydrates, a macronutrient that is vital for your brain and for energy.
  • Grapefruit or cabbage soup cleanse = deficient in calories and protein.
  • Juice cleanses = often lacking in calories and protein. If you want to add fresh fruit and vegetable juices to your dietary regimen, I recommend doing so while also consuming real foods, and ensuring you have sources of protein every meal (legumes, nuts, organic tofu, etc.). Focusing on fruit and veggie juices rather than real fruits and vegetables deprives your body of beneficial fiber, which helps stimulates growth of beneficial bacteria in your intestines. The friendly bacteria in your intestines help out your immune system and favour optimal digestion. You want to keep them around – and the way to their hearts is through their stomach (a.k.a. feed them fiber!!).

2. There is no evidence that following a so-called “detox diet” speeds up metabolism or rids your body of toxins. Your body proactively performs detox on a daily basis, without you even needing to ask it to. Medical experts agree that the healthy human body is actually quite efficient at doing so. Being exquisitely evolved, your lungs, liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract and skin are continually detoxing your body – taking care of business.

3. The improvements you feel when following a detox diet probably have more to do with the fact that you’re steering clear of alcohol, caffeine, red meat, high-fat dairy, refined and fried foods, white-grains and sugar and increasing your intake of whole-grains, fruits and vegetables than whatever “shake” or “artificial protein mix” you may be ingesting.

4. They’re not sustainable. Why not focus on making lasting changes that you can implement and stick to year-round? “Detoxes” do not represent a free pass to eat crappily year-round and “detox” when you deem necessary. Instead of harsh or restrictive cleansing that sucks the pleasure out eating, which in itself should be a pleasureful act, try progressively improving your habits. Nobody, and I repeat nobody, should ever stick to a “cleanse” for the rest of their life. It’s just not safe, nor enjoyable for that matter.

Instead of following a harsh cleanse or diet, try reassessing where the majority of toxins in your life are coming from (smoking, pesticides, alcohol, heavy metals, food chemicals, chemical household products) and reduce intake thereof. This can help improve your overall health as some toxins have indeed been shown to potentially disrupt neurological, developmental and reproductive processes in the body. For example, rethink your household cleaning products (by avoiding ammonia) or body-care products (by looking for products that are free of parabens, sodium laureth sulfate, aluminium, etc.).

5. They cause weight loss – but most likely not the right kind. The weight loss brought about by many cleanses is often due to nothing more than loss of water and muscle. Moreover, when you go back to your regular eating habits, weight often just creeps back up.

6. Dietary supplements for cleansing (cleanse aids such as liver purifiers, colon purifiers, etc.) are not all that strictly regulated and may contain contaminants that are harmful to your body.

I’m begging you, I’m on my knees – stop looking for a quick fix. Attempts at quick fixes do more harm than good and prevent you from changing your habits, which is the only viable and real solution. There are no miracle pills or cleanses that will help you achieve miraculous results effortlessly. If such a miracle pill existed, we would know about it by now.

All of that being said, here are some foods and nutrients that are showing promise in aiding your body’s natural and ongoing detoxification process:

Flavonoids (as are found in parsley, blueberries, black tea, citrus, cocoa) have been shown to help detoxification in your liver.

Green tea, turmeric, pomegranate and brown-rice fibre also show promise for assisting detox pathways in the body.

My bottom line? Many detox programs promise the moon but all they are really doing is trying to pick your pockets. As has been the message for years, eat well most of the time, be active, manage your stress, get a good night’s sleep and drink lots of water and your body will work to detox itself from whatever “toxins” make their way into it.

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