Cleansing vs. Detoxification
There are many misconceptions out there about detoxification and cleanse programs. It doesn’t help that these two terms are often used interchangeably. On top of this, there are many different programs out there to choose from and it is hard to know which to choose.
We want to explore the term cleansing and detoxification a bit and allow you to understand why we think cleansing should be a healthy part of everyone’s routine.
As Naturopathic Doctors, we often get asked, which “cleanse” or “detox” programs we recommend. In an effort to answer this question, we will emphasize what we believe cleansing and detoxification to mean.
The definition of the word cleanse is “to free from dirt, defilement or guilt; purge or cleanse”. This is exactly what a cleanse should be focused on accomplishing. Cleansing provides the body the opportunity to work at it’s highest potential and clean out or purge excess “dirt”, while also giving the body a break from the many toxic chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis.
The definition of the word detoxification is “the metabolic process by which the toxic qualities of a poison or toxin are reduced by the body.” In other words, your body has it’s own innate ability to detoxify. Through many different pathways in our organs of detoxification, harmful chemicals, drugs, foods, etc are broken down so that they can be excreted from the body. When these organs and pathways are supported and nourished, the body should be able to get rid of excess toxicity and find balance.
It is our opinion that any program that works to gently and effectively give the body a chance to reduce the amount of toxic burden, while encouraging the avoidance of toxins, is a CLEANSE that promotes DETOXIFICATION.
What should a cleanse program entail?
During a cleanse program, a patient will be guided in the addition of healthy foods that promote overall health and stimulate the natural detoxification pathways, while removing foods that can be common sensitivities, promote inflammation, impede detoxification or are toxic themselves. A cleanse may also include supplements or at home tools that naturally support gentle detoxification, while also providing education on toxin avoidance in the environment.
The diet should promote slow and healthy weight loss. It is important to remember that when we lose weight, fat-soluble toxins that are stored in our fat cells are dumped into our blood stream. The organs of detoxification must then be supported and ready to deal with these toxins and then remove them properly from the body.
Lastly, a cleanse should not only be focused on ones physical health, but their mental and emotional health as well. Our thoughts and emotions can be toxic and affect our overall wellbeing. It is important to consider this impact and a cleanse should provide the tools or resources to support the emotional experiences you may encounter during your cleanse and in your everyday life.
We believe a cleanse program should not be considered a diet but rather an opportunity to establish a healthier body and mind. By finding a program that provides you with not only the tools, but also the education to slowly and effectively lose weight, while gently restoring balance in the organs that aid in detoxification, you can safely cleanse your body and create lasting lifestyle changes. The results include increased energy, better sleep, more mental clarity, and in general, overall improved health.
Common misconceptions about cleanses
- I’m already healthy or I don’t have toxins in my environment, so I don’t need to cleanse. In truth, everyone can benefit from “” Cleansing is a broad term. Simply choosing to start eating natural, whole foods will give the body a break from toxicity and slowly “cleanse” your system. We often don’t realize how many toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis. Toxins now reside in almost all of our foods, beverages, household products and even the clothes we wear. Our bodies often can’t keep up, so it’s important to give our bodies a break from time to time. Becoming aware of where we may be exposed to harmful toxins will allow you the ability to find a healthy lifestyle that promotes toxin avoidance.
- I will be hungry during a cleanse program. A proper cleanse should not make you feel lightheaded, hungry, or weak. It should provide you with enough nutrients and calories to maintain healthy body function. Extreme calorie restriction will result in weight loss initially, but eventually puts your body into starvation mode, which in turn, shuts down your metabolism making continued weight loss difficult. Typically, the weight that is lost while restricting calories will be gained back once the program is complete.
- Cleanses consist of just supplements. A cleanse program that purely focuses on supplements misses a key part of the story… healthy eating. Merely using supplements without changing your diet and taking the necessary actions to lower the toxic burden puts you at risk of overworking your already strained organs, such as your liver and your GI tract. A proper cleanse may include supplements but their intention should be to SUPPLEMENT, not REPLACE. The primary emphasis should always be clean eating, and toxin avoidance.
There are many great cleansing programs available. If you feel you are ready to start a cleanse, Grand Rapids Natural Health offers 7 and 30-day programs. These provide guidance on proper eating, recipes, inclusion of foods that promote detoxification, techniques you can do at home to promote healthy detoxification and education on toxin avoidance. Also included are supplements that help to support the organs of detoxification and one on one time with one of our Naturopathic Doctors, to make the program unique to you.