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Cleansing and Detoxing: Fad or For Real?

"4 weeks to your best self", "28 days to health", "detox with your doctor". Are these cleanse programs just the latest fad, a quick fix diet, or something really worth doing for your health?

“4 WEEKS TO YOUR BEST SELF”

“28 DAYS TO HEALTH”

“DETOX WITH YOUR DOCTOR”

You've probably seen ad headlines similar to the above. It seems that everyone is cleansing these days. I must admit that I was a bit skeptical at first because it seemed like my friends were either doing it for the wrong reasons ("I need to fit into a bathing suit for my trip to Hawaii") or they weren't really doing it right ("I'm doing the cleanse except that I'm drinking coffee, having a few glasses of wine, and sometimes eating bread"). Also, I have numerous friends who still have hundreds of dollars of unused cleanse supplement products just sitting in their cupboards. All of this led me to wonder whether cleansing was just the latest fad, a quick fix diet, or something really worth doing for our health.

(Although there are many different types of detox and cleanse programs, I am referring to an elimination diet type of cleanse rather than a fasting or liquid diet cleanse. I use the words detox and cleanse interchangeably.)

Why Detox?

In my studies to get a Masters in Holistic Health, I took many nutrition classes and learned about the theory and practice of cleansing. I just wasn’t sure about how it was being executed for mass consumption. Working as a healthy living coach and writer, I decided it was time to try the cleanse myself to have a more informed opinion. Would I feel differently by having a personal experience with it?

I decided to try the cleanse for a few other reasons as well. At the time, my seasonal allergies were killing me. I couldn’t even go outside without suffering miserably. My friend, Liz, did a cleanse this past winter and she had no allergy symptoms this spring. She is typically sneezing with runny nose this time of year. It makes sense that detoxing can reduce our allergic response because if our body is overloaded with toxins, it reacts when presented with more. If I could reduce the toxic load in my body, maybe I wouldn’t have such a strong reaction to the spring allergens. Another reason I wanted to do the cleanse is because my diet was gradually getting a little more lax and a lot less mindful—a piece of bread here, a cookie there, and a Diet Coke here and there. I thought the cleanse might give me the structure I needed to get back on track.

I enlisted my husband, Dave, and friend, Christy, to join me in the detox adventure. Dave joined because he’s a sport of a husband, but also because he wanted to see if the cleanse could help with his fatigue, digestion, and nagging sports injury. Christy was interested because she had been talking about cleaning up her diet for over a month, but it just hadn’t happened. She eats pretty clean in general, but wanted to give her body a break from coffee and alcohol. She also liked the idea of detoxing from the happenings of everyday life.

There are a variety of reasons to do a detox program, including:

  • Increase energy
  • Learn new healthy eating habits (and get rid of old ones)
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Identify food allergies
  • Manage blood sugar levels
  • Improve digestion
  • Boost immune system

You may notice that I did not list "lose weight" as one of the reasons. It can be a nice by-product, but it should not be the driving force for doing a cleanse. The underlying purpose of doing a cleanse is to reduce the toxicity level in your body for an improvement in overall, long-term health. Even if we eat well, we still have toxins in our bodies from the beauty products we put on our skin, the cleaning products we use to tidy our house, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the medications we take, and so on.

Our detoxification organs, such as kidneys, liver, lungs, and skin, have a lot of work to do every day. Detoxification through special cleansing diets is the best way to assist our body’s natural self-cleaning system which can get overloaded and begin to store the toxins in our body. It is especially important for immune-compromised diseases like cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and chronic fatigue. However, even for those who do not have a pressing health issue, a cleanse can revitalize the body, ridding it of harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites—helping to prevent health complications down the road. Symptoms of toxicity include acne, brain fog, circles under the eyes, constipation, digestive problems, fatigue, headache, and the list goes on. Health issues related to toxicity include arthritis, chronic fatigue, leaky gut, and obesity.

How it Works 

I decided to do the Detox 360 program because I know and respect Linda Clark, the woman who designed the program with Apex Energetics. Linda has her Master’s degree in Holistic Health Education from John F. Kennedy University and a Nutrition Consultant certification from Bauman College. She has an established holistic nutrition and wellness practice in the Sacramento area. She has an incredible ability to uncover health mysteries, having helped hundreds of clients move from illness to wellness. Because of my respect for Linda’s understanding of nutrition as it relates to health, I trust that the eating guidelines of Detox 360 are well thought out and the supplements provided are supportive and necessary for the process.

The idea of the cleanse is to reduce your toxic overload by removing allergenic and inflammatory foods from your diet and by using supplements to help the detox process in the body. You stop adding toxins while accelerating the draining of them. Each cleanse program has varying eating guidelines. For Detox 360, you remove all allergenic and inflammatory foods which includes nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs, dairy, sugar, soy, red meat, grains, and nightshade vegetables (e.g. tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant). You also need to stay away from alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods.

There are other cleanse programs that allow nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs, and grains other than gluten. However, most of these foods are on the top allergen list, so unless you know that you are not allergic to them, you want to remove them from your diet and reintroduce them later.

So what can you eat? You can have fish, chicken, turkey, as well as fruits and vegetables. You want the meats to be free of hormones and antibiotics, and you want your produce free of pesticides. There is a powder for meal replacement shakes. For someone like me who doesn't like to cook, the meal rotation got a little dull. Christy, who loves to cook, said she enjoyed the challenge of creating dishes within the eating guidelines.

The Detox 360 is a whole health cleanse, so it encourages detoxing your body and life in addition to your diet. It suggests nourishing yourself during the cleanse by getting more sleep and having a few massages. It talks about helping the toxins leave your body with steam room visits and Epsom salt baths. And, it provides ideas for reducing toxins not just from your food, but in other ways—like using nontoxic beauty products, cleaning with green products, drinking purified water, and not microwaving in plastic containers. Detox 360 also emphasizes drainage, not just detox. It’s great to detox your body (releasing toxins from their binding site), but you need these toxins to then be eliminated from the body. There are homeopathic formulas provided in the program to help with drainage.

What to Expect

Detox 360 is a four-week program—as are many of the cleanses offered. For me, week one was pretty easy because it was a prep week and I only had to cut out gluten and cow's dairy while just minimizing other foods. Typically this might be hard, but given that I knew what was coming, removing these two food groups was a piece of cake. You can experience detox symptoms in the first week (or throughout the cleanse) such as headaches, fatigue, cravings, and irritability. Christy had headaches (possibly from going off of caffeinated coffee), my husband was irritable, and I felt fatigue. Christy and I both had really vivid dreams, perhaps from sleeping so soundly.

In weeks two through four, I had to eliminate the foods mentioned above. I ate one to two meals a day plus the supplement shake. Prior to the detox program, I had yet to find a powder that tasted good in shakes, but I love the Apex Energetics ClearVite powder. I now look forward to my shakes (and I plan to continue them in my daily non-cleanse life). Week two wasn't too bad because I was excited to be doing something new and different. The time I spent reading the materials and figuring out what I was doing distracted me from the reality of the limiting foods at my disposal. Week three was the hardest for me. I was tired, irritable, and bored with my food choices. There were plenty of days that I wanted to cheat. Oh how I missed my daily companion, hummus, and my one true love, rice crisps. I had come this far, so I stayed strong. Week four was easy because by then the eating had become routine (supposedly it takes 21 days to form a new habit) and I knew I was almost done.

When doing the cleanse, it is best to clear your social calendar as it does get hard to go to parties. Wine? No, thanks. Cheese, can’t do it. Most everything else you’re offering? Nope, not on the approved list (especially with the Detox 360 since all grains, nuts, beans, and eggs are not allowed). My husband had the extra challenge of going to visit his sister in Phoenix. He had the temptations of Oreos, Pop Tarts, and Doritos within arms reach, but he stayed true to the detox. Way to go, Dave!

After the four weeks, it is recommended to reintroduce foods one at a time to see if there are any food sensitivities which could manifest as gas, bloating, stomach upset, headaches, brain fog, heartburn, and inflammation, The order of reintroduction on the Detox 360 program is red meat, eggs, nuts/seeds, beans/legumes, dairy, and grains. I am in the reintroduction phase now. Woohoo! Can’t wait to rekindle my relationship with hummus and almond butter.

There are a few things I will continue from the cleanse. I like having my daily shake. It is a great way to get berries, greens, and coconut water into my diet (I don't love the taste of coconut water on its own, but it has great health benefits). Plus I put in the tasty ClearVite powder that has good vitamins and minerals for me. I’m going to continue taking Epsom salt baths and visiting the steam room to help sweat out the toxins. I’m going to minimize gluten and cow’s dairy because I don’t think I will miss them too much. I’m going to continue to be mindful of what I eat. Being clean promotes being clean. Once you feel like you did something great for your body, you want to be mindful of how you “pollute” it. My husband and I both said we would do the detox again when we feel we need it.

Fad or For Real?

So, is the cleanse fad or for real? I think it’s both. I think if you are doing it for the right reasons (because you want to detoxify your body) and if you are truly committed to doing it (it definitely takes commitment), then it is for real and worth doing. All three of us experienced positive results from it. Dave has been sidelined with a hamstring injury for over a year now. He says that post-cleanse, he feels better than he has in a year. He’s back to running without pain. This makes sense because he has reduced the inflammation in his body. My husband has very low body fat and didn’t need to lose any weight, but he lost 8 lbs. Christy said she is sleeping significantly better, felt an improvement in mood, lost a few pounds, and appreciated the motivation and structure to eat a little cleaner.

I lost a couple of pounds and I feel like my energy has improved. I don’t have any more allergies, but that could be due to the change in season as well. I also got clarity on my life direction during the detox—not sure if that’s just coincidence of timing, but I’ll take it! For the past many months, I got sidetracked from what I really want to be doing—completing my book and getting it published. During the cleanse, I reclaimed this as a priority. In the four weeks of detoxing, I’ve made more progress on making this happen than in the past several months.

I think that even if cleansing is a bit of a fad, if it is getting people educated about eating healthy and improving their diet even just a little, it’s a good thing. The people who are still having coffee and wheat while they are “cleansing” aren’t really experiencing the true intent or benefit from the program, but they are being educated and making healthier choices—and that’s a plus.

We can all gain from reducing our toxicity levels in our body every so often. It’s also a good way to get some structure and discipline in our eating. We become much more mindful of what we eat. The other day I went to a buffet luncheon. I liked not having to think about taking a piece of bread or having dessert. I didn’t really want them anyway, but since I knew I was detoxing, it didn’t even enter my conscious mind as an option. I didn’t miss eating these items one bit. Now, don’t get me wrong. In a few weeks, I am headed to dinner at Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles and I plan to have bread and dessert and everything else in between. It’s just about being mindful of our choices and making them count. (Everything in moderation.)

Interested in Detoxing?

If you are intrigued about doing the Detox 360 program, you can contact me at dina@fourquadrantliving.com or 925-819-0644 to learn more. The next group session begins July 2, with several more planned throughout the year. The program can be done remotely or in-person. We have weekly meetings to answer questions and to talk about the week ahead. You get a binder full of information with recipes, research about the importance of detoxing, eating guidelines, and more. You can also do it on your own with private weekly follow up sessions. Click here for more information about Detox 360.

___________

Dina Colman, MA, MBA, is a healthy living coach and writer. She has her Master’s degree in Holistic Health Education from John F. Kennedy University and her MBA from Kellogg at Northwestern University. She founded Four Quadrant Living—a simpler, natural, more fun way to a healthier, happier, and energetic life. Four Quadrant Living provides information and motivation for healthy living through nourishment of the four quadrants of our lives—Mind, Body, Relationships, and Environment. Dina has a private practice, working with clients to help them create health in their lives by eating well, finding the fun in exercise, reducing stress, managing relationships, and creating a healthy environment. Dina is also writing a book about healthy living that will be published later this year. Contact Dina at dina@fourquadrantliving.com

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