I am so glad that spring is finally here! The sun is shining, everyone is riding bikes...and my twitter feed is full of tips for spring detoxing. It seems that detox diets have found their way into the mainstream like never before. I used to think that cleanses were just for starlets and the super-wealthy but these days I'm beginning to feel like the only health conscious person on the internet who hasn't at least tried some sort of cleanse. (Ok, I did once try the lemon-maple-cayenne Master Cleanse for about a day before totally giving in and eating a sandwich.) I'm beginning to feel a little guilty.
But I have to wonder if doing an annual cleanse is really essential for optimum health. After all, our ancestors never had Breville juicers. But they didn't have Doritos either. Could it be that cleansing is an important antidote for the toxicities of modern living? Let's have a look at some of the arguments for and against detoxing.
Those in favor of cleansing and detox diets tend to emphasize the cumulative effects of unhealthy foods, environmental exposure, and stress. While our bodies are generally able to eliminate toxins on their own, occasional cleanses are supposed to give our systems a rest and allow for deeper cleansing than might otherwise take place. Lovers of detoxing say they've experienced a host of benefits including:
- more energy
- clearer skin
- less bloating/constipation
- more mental clarity
- fewer food cravings
Sound good? Well, there are more detox diets out there than you can shake a stick at so finding one to try is a cinch. Here are a few of the popular ones I've seen floating around.
- Juice cleansing (like this one) - you just drink fruit and vegetable juices during the entirety of the cleanse.
- Sugar detox (like Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar) - to reset your sweet tooth by completely refraining from added sugars, even natural ones like honey and maple syrup.
- Elimination diet (an example here) - you completely eliminate foods you could be intolerant to, including wheat, dairy, and eggs, and then slowly adding them back in. This allows you to see how your body really reacts to your morning toast and yogurt.
- A multi-step diet (like Clean or Clean Gut by Alejandro Junger) - these usually have multiple phases which can include aspect of many other cleansing protocols. The ones listed above have become especially popular due to their stamp of approval from Gwyneth Paltrow. I actually read "Clean Gut" and really did like a lot of the information and protocols presented, however I balked at the idea of buying the pricey supplements Junger recommends and never seriously gave it a try.
Embarking on a cleanse may very well make you feel better if your diet is less than perfect. And, let's be honest, we all have less than perfect diets. Unless you are pregnant or seriously ill, there is probably no reason to think that cleansing on occasion could be harmful. If you're intrigued and want to see what the rage is all about, give it a try!
But is it mandatory? Are you missing out on optimal health by not doing a cleanse this spring? For most people, I'd have to say that the answer is a definite "no". You don't have to buy a juicer or an ebook or a ton of supplements to be healthy. The most important thing is consistency. If you can consistently eat a healthy diet and get some exercise, if you can usually get your 7-8 hours of sleep and nurture social bonds, then you are already on your way. You don't have to be perfect, you don't have to resort to drastic measures, you just have to do your best (and be kind to yourself) on a daily basis.
So, what if you still want to try some cleansing without doing a full-blown detox? You totally can! Check back in later this week for some gentle cleansing practices you can try without committing to a complete protocol.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you! Have you ever done a detox? How did it go? What did you think?