Spring Is Here! Should You Do A Cleanse? Um, Not So Fast…

April 9, 2013

Few health trends are as hip as the “detox”.  As an ND, I giggle a bit when I see the marketing for these cleanses, with their slick packaged green juices and somewhat arbitrary nutritional guidelines.  With their popularity though, I suspect someone is giggling all the way to the bank. Is detoxing all nonsense? No, but let’s start with what detoxing is – and then what it’s not.  Detoxification is something your body – namely your liver – is doing all the time (you’re doing it right now, actually). Our world is full of chemicals, allergens and other excessive gunk like hormones in our meat and dairy, parabens in our skin care and the list goes on. We also make our own share of garbage from our normal metabolic processes. All of this stuff must be dealt with, everyday. Think of your detox capacity like a bucket that’s being filled up from the top with toxins and trash, and there’s a release valve at the bottom.  How well you are able to keep the bucket empty depends on the rate at which you’re filling it up (aka your exposure) and how quickly you can empty it (aka your detox capacity). Your rate of filling up your toxic bucket depends on how clean your diet is, your exposure to chemicals and toxins and how burdened your metabolism is (i.e. is your body dealing with just your own hormones or are you also say, taking the birth control pill upping the amount of estrogen your liver must clear each day) . Your rate of dumping the bucket depends on the health of your digestion and the capacity of your liver to clear this stuff out.  So where do the fancy juices and 7 day cleanses come in? Truthfully, they don’t need to come in at all. Keep your bucket from getting too full by avoiding as much garbage as you can: eat clean, organic, free range or grass fed, hormone and antibiotic free meat and dairy; opt for organic produce; minimize or avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugar and refined, packaged foods; and choose paraben and phthalate free cosmetics and skin care. If your bucket isn’t dumping out fast enough because you are unable to empty it effectively, you should work with a nutritional medicine practitioner to safely and effectively aid your liver in processing toxins and clean up your gut (restoring proper balance of normal gut bacteria, identifying and removing food allergens and healing up any inflammation).  For example, at my office if your job exposed you to a lot of chemicals, I would support your detox differently than if you had bad PMS and breakouts or digestive trouble. But what about those green juices? Sorry folks – there is nothing inherently “detoxing” about these juices, although they do give you another dose of green stuff so you’re bolstering your nutrient intake overall (you could also just eat a salad).  One thing to avoid for sure is fasting or “juice cleanses” where you eat very little to no food, but drink juices for 3 or more days. Remember that mechanism to dump the bucket? It’s entirely dependent on sulfur containing amino acids and guess where those come from? Namely animal protein. So if you want to see your detox ability screech to a halt, stop eating protein.  The juice only fasts are also a nightmare for blood sugar and will often leave people feeling ‘great’ for a few days, only to crash and binge on a doughnut. What was that great feeling? Adrenaline! If no sugar is coming in, we use stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) to break down stored sugar and fat to fuel ourselves. Not as healthy as it sounded huh? The patient population I work with does particularly badly on juice fasts and cleanses.  If you’ve got blood sugar problems, adrenal issues or hypothyroidism the juice cleanse is a sure fire way to cause a lot of stress and inflammation in your already delicate metabolism.  The core ideas of a cleanse are great for you – the tasty, sugary beverages, not so much. Green juice can certainly be part of a healthy diet and part of a detox, just avoid the juice only bloodsugar rollercoaster and watch for those highest in sugar. Want a quick and dirty detox that’s free and doesn’t leave you packing around your cooler of fancy pants juices? For one week avoid packaged foods, alcohol, caffeine and sugar.  Opt for organic produce and high quality meat products.  Skip common allergens like dairy and soy. And voila! You’ve just lowered your intake of junk into your bucket…and you’ll feel better very simply for it. Or if you’d like help supporting your liver nutritionally to dump the gunk better please email me at  I’m taking participants now for distance coaching through a detox for a discounted price of $395 – which is a steal on my hourly rate and includes supplements.  Please gather a group of 4-5 of your friends and contact me and we’ll get started! Happy spring cleaning!

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