New Years Detox: Our Version of a Cleanse

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To De or not to Detox? That is the question. At the onset of the new year it seems like everyone is talking about cleansing and detoxing. The whole world seems to be drinking some kind of concoction and eating a very restricted diet. This is often done in the names of “detoxification.” There is wildly held public belief that ridding oneself of certain unnamed “toxins” (typically described as things found in dairy and gluten containing foods among other places) could be the panacea of health and fitness.
The detox process could take a variety of forms, but typically includes drinking large volumes of liquids and very limited food intake. During this time period people are astonished by “how great they feel” (when they are not dizzy and weak) and the incredible weight loss they experience. Well so far things sound pretty healthy, right? No “toxins”, feeling good and losing weight! What could possibly be wrong with this scenario?

 

Actually a lot. This process is essentially a form of starvation. Said “detoxification” is a calorie restricted state which essentially sends your body into a state of crisis. This crisis state, known as “ketosis” causes your body to start breaking down muscle and fat to make much needed energy ( that it would normally get from food). The fat breakdown thing can make things happen in the weight loss category. However, the breakdown of other key body components can cause big trouble. It can wreak havoc on your kidneys and liver among other things.

Needless to say most people you know survive their cleanses without any obvious medical fall out but that is not to say that they are the healthier for it. Likewise, on the weight loss front the melting of pounds during the cleanse is quite deceiving. It is the jumpstart to the “new you” everyone is seeking. Sadly , it rarely bares out that way. The majority of people who lose significant weight during a cleanse, gain the weight back rapidly after it is over. They may in fact end up at a higher weight shortly thereafter since their body attempts to hold on to every bit of energy it can, planning for future starvation periods. So the whole “jump start” concept is pretty unsubstantiated.
In fact it is our experience that people who “cleanse” tend to yo-yo a great deal in their weight. But if the whole cleanse and detox ritual is not the answer to sustained weight loss and good health, how then can one find it?
We have our own version of detoxification and cleansing. It is based on the four pillars of good health which we often tout: sleep well, eating well, exercise and getting proper nutrients. Genius! (we know…).
1. Sleep is actually the ultimate detox. It is your body’s best opportunity to restore, heal and reset. Sleep is also integral to weight loss, stress reduction and mood improvement. It of course restores energy and with this often come the ability and desire to exercise, focus and plan other aspects of health. Impulse control improves when you are well rested, so you can much more easily say no to that bag of chips.
2. Another way to rid one’s self of “toxins” is to avoid processed foods, additives and food that essentially is not whole food. For this reason we believe eating good complete foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meats and dairy in their unadulterated forms is the very best way to avoid toxins. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and abide the mantra that “food that can’t go bad can not be good for you” (i.e skip the twinkles). Back to basics here, folks. We know this won’t happen at every meal, but make your best attempt. The good new is it’s a lot easier these days to find good food choices when eating out too.
3.Exercise. You knew this had to be on any health list. It is however strangely absent from most detox and cleanse programs. Talk about a great way to “cleanse.” Exercise is the ultimate. Get the heart pumping, blood flowing, sweat pouring and muscles burning is the best way to flush out your system. However, be ware that it will in fact flush out lots of important electrolytes. Be certain to replenish the your electrolytes before and after a significant work out. This will allow your muscles to function optimally and you to recover quickly from your work out. Not only does sweat itself rid your body of many waste products, aerobic exercise also stimulates the GI tract to function more smoothly. That is your bowels may function more regularly and you may rid yourself of lots of toxins this way too!
4. The right nutrients are key to any health plan. Unfortunately many “cleanses” lack them. While the majority of what our body’s need is found in the right combination of foods, there are some nutrients in which even the healthiest of eaters fall short. Vitamin D for example is mainly obtained from sunlight and is found in few food sources. Likewise many of us lack in Iron and have difficulty obtaining it from a healthful diet. Iodine is also often a neglected vitamin, but essential for the thyroid to function properly and regulate metabolism. A good custom all in one vitamin is a great way to supplement your diet with the right nutrients. Be sure to get the right combination of vitamins (take our vitamin quiz) tailored to your diet, lifestyle and exact health needs. Many cleanses are composed of either a large quantity of chemicals which may or may not include artificial sources of nutrition. Juice cleanses can contain valid forms of nutrition but they are offer excessively high in sugar and often lack other vital things that we need to sustain adequate body function and metabolism. Don’t get us wrong, a good cold pressed juice or smoothie can be a great addition to anyone’s healthy diet, but it should not be your only form of nutrition.
If the trendy cleanse you hear so much about is unwise, what to do? Perhaps it’s time to hit the reset button in a more slow incremental fashion. Starting a healthful diet that one can maintain in the long term is much more likely to provide lasting change. When we say “diet” we mean way of eating that can be done into eternity. That means it is a lifestyle change which is tolerable enough that you can live contently doing this plan. This of course means you will have occasional indulgences so that you do not feel deprived all the time. You will strive to find a new balance in your eating that is tipped more toward the healthy side.
People sometimes report massive weight loss during cleanses. While this seems exciting and worth celebrating, it rarely is lasting. And no, the answer is not another cleanse. The answer is a slow deliberate process of losing weight with a goal of 1 to 2 pounds per week (studies have shown that losing more than this is less likely to stay off). Slow and steady wins the race here.
Our recommendation is to cleanse your bad habits by finding good ones. Make small incremental changes (such as a gradual increase in exercise time or improving the content of one meal a day). These changes will last if they are reasonable and doable in the confines of your life and schedule. The detoxification will happen as you spruce up your eating habits, eating whole foods that are focused on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Exercise will also help your body look and feel its best. Adding some additional nutrients from taking custom vitamin tailored to your needs (take our vitamin quiz to find out what you need) can give you the energy and focus to really get on track.
All that we know about medicine, science and from our experiences having seen many people attempt these programs over the years, tells us that extreme deprivation diets do not have long term success. They often cause more harm than good. Detoxify yourself the right way by cleansing your life of bad health choices for good. Move forward with slow deliberate change and you will look back in a few months, feeling like a whole new you!

Romy Block specializes in Endocrinology and Metabolism and is mother to three active adolescent boys. Arielle Levitan is a Doctor of Internal Medicine with a special interest in Preventive Medicine and Women’s Health.  She is a mother of three teen agers. As professional women with active family lives, they recognize that people often neglect their own health needs and are uncertain about what vitamins to take. Each person is different in her diet, exercise and health history, and will benefit from different nutrients.  After years of advising their patients about the proper vitamins to take,  Drs. Block and Levitan created Vous Vitamin® to provide people everywhere with quality vitamins that are suited to their individual needs. They are authors of the award winning The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health (She Writes Press, 2015). Take your vitamin survey now to get exactly the right vitamins for your needs.

The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered by Vous Vitamin® are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Nothing contained herein is intended to be a diagnosis or constitute medical advice. The symptoms described in this Blog may be a result of a serious medical condition which requires medical treatment. You should consult with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this Blog and before beginning any vitamin or supplement regimen.

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