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What’s the Deal With Cleanses? November 13th, 2014

Currently, I work at three different gyms and it’s impossible to go to any of them and not hear the word “cleanse” mentioned a few times per day (or more!).  In many businesses, but in fitness especially, some trends tend to come and go while others stick around for a while.  Right now the cleanse buzz seems to be making the rounds from casual gym goers to heavy lifters to even those who have no interest in exercising at all. It seems everyone knows someone who is either doing a cleanse right now, has done one in the past, or wants to try one in the future.  So what is cleansing?  And is it something all of us should be doing?

If you throw the word “cleanses” into a Google search you get all of 13 million results to browse to your heart’s content.  Major celebrities from Jillian Michaels to Dr. Oz have their own cleanse products and plans and all of the major supplement companies from GNC to Herbal Life to Arbonne have 7 or 9 or 28 or 30 day cleanse options they are promoting to their members and to the general public.  Over the past few months many clients and friends of mine have done one cleanse or another and have had some amazing results in terms of weight and inches lost, increased energy levels and enhanced overall health and wellness.  In a perfect world, obviously, all of us would have super healthy and well balanced diets and there wouldn’t be any need for cleanses at all, but using my Sunday night as an example, homemade macaroni and cheese followed by a super sized ice cream and candy sundae, that’s clearly not the case.  But cleanses are not for everyone and they may not be right for you, so here are a few things to consider before giving one a shot:

  • Think of a cleanse, or a detox, as a means to “reset” your digestive system, i.e., a way to give your digestive system a break.  When you think of everything we eat and drink over the course of a day, a week, a month, a year, our digestive systems are working extra hard if we aren’t giving it the proper vitamins, nutrients, water and fiber, so think of a detox cleanse as a way to clean out your digestive track.
  • I also have clients and friends that are interested in cleanses as a way to lose weight or “kick start” a better diet or better eating habits.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s important to plan for what happens when the cleanse is over, because you can’t cleanse yourself every day for the rest of your life.  It’s not realistic (or safe!), and it’s certainly not too much fun.
  • According to Dr. Brooke Larson, a Naturopathic Doctor in New York City, “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.”  One way or another your body needs to get rid of these allergens and chemicals on a regular basis, but those of you that have stomach or digestive issues, or simply don’t have enough fiber or nutrients in your diet, might have issues ridding yourself of everything that your body doesn’t need anyway, and that’s where a cleanse may be a good solution.
  • That said, cleanses are not one size fits all and there are a number of cleanses that I don’t recommend, namely anything that involves only juices, just water or any extended fasting.  Any cleanse that deprives you of ALL of the vital nutrients we need, such as fat, carbs, or protein, is going to be inherently difficult and will simply ravage your metabolism, enhance your cravings and, once the cleanse is over, make it even harder for you to maintain any semblance of a healthy diet.  Chugging green juice for a week or subsisting on water for a few days might cause you to lose a few pounds or inches on your waistline, but they might not be necessary, and they could even be harmful.
  • As I stated above, in an ideal world none of us would need cleanses at all, but since many of us have digestive issues, the best advice I have seen on this topic is from Jillian Teta, who practices at The Naturopathic Health Clinic of North Carolina.  Dr. Teta’s best advice is for each of us is to find “a diet appropriate for you, the ability to break it down, a healthy bacterial population and an intact, healthy small intestine through which you can absorb your nutrition.”  This short article of hers is worth the read.
  • There are two cleanses that I have seen that I like.  One, from Diane Sanfilippo, is called The 21 Day Sugar Detox, and it focuses on removing processed and refined carbohydrates from your diet while teaching you how to eat quality protein, good fat and healthy carbs as an alternative.  Diane is a Holistic Nutritionist specializing in Paleo nutrition, blood sugar regulation, food allergies/intolerances and digestive health, and I’m a huge fan.
  • The second cleanse is from Isagenix, and it is a 30-day program which is making the rounds not only in my area but seemingly all around the country.  I’ve seen this program live and in action and it’s a rough 30-days because you really have to be smart and have the will power to see it through, but it does work.  Isagenix focuses on making sure you have the proper nutrients and vitamins for the whole 30-days while limiting anything processed at all, and their plan is written out and programmed so you simply just follow it down the line.

I have a relatively well balanced diet (my dinner last Sunday night notwithstanding) and I’ve never done a cleanse, but am curious to hear from those who have.  Which one was right for you and how did you decide?  Did you feel better when you were done?  What were the lasting effects, if any?  Feel free to e-mail me at, as I’d love to hear from you.

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