Vegetable juicing. The raw food cleanse. The Lemonade fast. Water fasting. Coffee cleanses, Colon cleanses. Herbal cleanses. Heavy metal cleanses, Candida cleanses. Seasonal cleanses, Vegetable soup cleanses, grape cleanse. Sauna cleanses, Liver cleanses, Kidney cleanses. American Indian 4 day cleanse. The Twinkies cleanse. (OK, I made up that last one.)
It seems that there are cleanses for every organ of the body, and for more than a handful of the ailments afflicting mankind. So what are all these cleanses, and are they at all helpful?
The basic premise of most cleanses is that the human body collects toxins, heavy metals, acids, bad bacteria -in general terms, gunk- and that a periodic “housecleaning” is helpful to move on with greater health and energy. Some cleanses may be designed to rest a certain organ, like the liver, from its daily duties, or to help in breaking bad food habits, such as sugar or junk food addictions.
However helpful a cleanse may be, I’d like to pause before we begin to discuss actual cleanses and consider the following two thoughts:
1. The best body cleanse is a clean lifestyle.
Consider the following ridiculous conversation.
Patient to Doctor: Hey Doc, can you recommend a good cleanse for me? Maybe a colonic? Maybe a week of vegetables only?
Doctor: Well, you just really need to quit smoking a pack of cigarettes every day.
Patient: Oh, I know I should do that, but until I am able to, isn’t there like a one week diet, or herbs or something to clean me all up on the inside?
Please realize that I am not mocking those who smoke; I have a couple of dear friends who do and very much regret the addiction it is for them; quitting is not easy. However the above scenario highlights how silly it would be for a person to try to cleanse their body in a short amount of time, without removing the main source of the gunk going in.
It’s the same for all of us, whether your main “gunk” is over-the-counter-meds, pesticides or the wrong kind of food, or toxins you rub into your skin, drink in your water, or breathe in the air. Unless we make an effort to change our toxic exposure (where possible) short cleanses have little overall health benefit.
2. A helpful cleanse will be one that matches what needs cleansing.
No one cleanse will be helpful to everyone, and some cleanses may be harmful to some. Obviously if it’s the liver that needs cleansing, doing a kidney cleanse won’t help, and vice versa. If you just need more sleep, and different diet won’t fix that. This sounds so simple, and yet it is so easy to hear of a cleanse someone else has done and “how much better they feel” and assume that that diet must be what I need.
Consider carefully, and do seek the advice of your physician. Although many MDs have never had any training in these types of therapy, those who practice “functional medicine” or who have had additional training in natural or nutrtional medicine should be of more help.