Study up before choosing which cleanse is right for you
ADDISON COUNTY — As the holiday season wraps up, party schedules quiet down and the New Year brings reflection and contemplation, people tend to think about what patterns and behaviors they want to change and which they want to reinforce.
Nutrition and diet are often top of the list, especially following those binge-eating days of holiday gatherings when any sliver of dietary guidelines or self-control tend to get thrown out the window.
A popular kick-start to a new dietary regimen is a cleanse. Cleanses can be designed to target one particular organ in the body (such as the colon, kidney, liver or skin), or intended to effect several organs at once. The purpose of most cleanses is to hit the “restart” button on your digestive system, eliminating some of the toxins that build up within the body and expelling chemicals and pollutants that your body absorbs in the food you eat, beverages you drink and air you breathe.
But while this may sound terrific, it’s important to do some research before selecting a program that’s right for you.
Thanks to the worldwide web of commercial items for sale, it can be difficult to filter through the expensive kits or intensive programs that could land you on the couch (or in the bathroom) feeling crummy for days on end. Many are more commercially motivated than they are effective, so make sure you know what you’re getting into. Alternatively, you can start with easy and free cleanses that involve simply eliminating the elements of your diet that are inflammatory or hard to process (like fatty meat products, dairy, soy or yeast). For instance, you could add some extra apple cider vinegar, lemon juice or green tea to your diet and be well on your way to increasing your digestive capacity and lowering your blood sugar (two common elements of many cleanses).
Steve Hare, owner of Vermont Sun fitness center, says he gives nutritional advise to friends and gym members all the time. “When it comes to cleansing, I suggest two things,” Hare said. “One, is simply to fast for a couple of days. Just drink water — it’s simple and flushes your system, preparing you for a fresh start.”
The other cleanse Hare has recommended is a raw food cleanse. “This one is nice because you can keep it up for longer, basically just eating clean, fresh vegetables and fruits,” he said.
Some other common purgatives include what’s popularly known as the Master Cleanse, juice cleanses, colon cleanses and general detox cleanses. It’s a good idea to seek advise from other health and nutrition experts and doctors about cleansing and whether it is safe and appropriate for you.
The Master Cleanse has been popularized by celebrities like Beyoncé, Gweneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, who have publically touted its benefits for quick weight loss. During this cleanse one simply limits all intakes to four ingredients for between three and 10 days. Those ingredients are water, maple syrup, cayenne and lemon juice.
Supporters of the Master Cleanse tout the benefits of each ingredient, suggesting that your body receives enough nutrients to sustain a healthy lifestyle while working to eliminate waste and cleanse the digestive track throughout the period of the cleanse. High quality maple syrup contains a variety of minerals and vitamins, as well as the sugar that maintains your energy level and provides minimal calories. Lemon juice suppresses the appetite and also creates more bile in the liver, which traps fat molecules and enables them to easily pass through the digestive system. Cayenne pepper increases metabolism and aids in digestion. It also contains vitamins A, B and C, as well as calcium and potassium.
While this cleanse could have powerful detoxing properties (especially when combined with a recommended saltwater rinse and laxative tea), it does receive criticism from health experts who say that it’s unsustainable as a diet and that there’s little proof of the detox benefits. Other critics say that the reliance upon sugar as part of this cleanse is problematic as sugar is a major inflammatory agent in the body.
The juice cleanse is also quite simply a diet whereby fruit and vegetable juices are the only things consumed for a period of time, generally between one and two weeks. Advocates of juice cleansing suggest that your body will continue to receive valuable nutrients, vitamins and minerals and maintain energy and immune strength while allowing the digestive system to detoxify, renew and heal.
Critics of juice cleansing again argue that fruit juices are especially sugary and without the fiber that generally comes with eating a complete fruit or vegetable, your body has difficulty processing the concentrated sugars in the juice.
The colon’s function in your digestive system (get ready, we’re getting personal) is to remove water from digested foods and move the remaining solid waste, called stool, through its coils to the anus. The purpose of a colon cleanse is essentially to scrub the walls of the colon and clear out any built-up waste that could be causing digestive issues. There are many types of colon cleanses ranging from medical procedures to simple dietary regimens. We’ll stick to the latter, here.
Fermented foods and foods high in fiber are the best for cleaning the colon. Fermented foods like yogurt, cultured vegetables like kimchi or sauerkraut, kefir or kombucha contain probiotics that add healthy bacteria to the gut. Fibrous foods like leafy green vegetables, seeds and fresh fruit help to bulk up the fecal matter in your intestines and push things through the track, cleaning as they go. Focus on healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil and avocados.
Avoid (as much as possible) meat products, dairy, gluten and added sugar. These are generally the culprits of colon build-up, so avoiding them and focusing on the high fiber diet for 5-14 days will serve you well.
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