Health & Wellbeing: If you’re going to ‘cleanse,’ read up and take care
You’ve probably heard of “cleansing.” Maybe your hip aunt swears by them, or you’ve seen bloggers raving about their green juice detox with amazing results, or maybe a best friend tried one once but it didn’t do much. Whatever you’ve heard, perhaps the thought of not eating solid food for several days makes you quiver and the more you think about it the less you actually seem to know what cleansing is.
In short, cleansing is a concept that seeks to detoxify the impurities in your body introduced by food or drink. The thinking is that we all eat and drink things that might not be the best for our bodies, and therefore we should occasionally flush it all out and start afresh. It’s also a concept that has stirred a lot of controversy between those who swear by the benefits and others who caution that the benefits are dubious and if pushed too far could be harmful.
Before trying a cleanse, both sides of the story deserve inspection.
Certified herbalist and founder of EOS Botanicals Julie Mitchell of New Haven says that the human body is in “constant flux” and if one’s health feels compromised the idea of pausing to find balance in our bodies is a great idea. To find that balance, she suggests doing a juice cleanse or reaching out for an herbal consultation.
For those who can’t afford such novelties, she suggests other resources such as the Middlebury Natural Foods Coop, which has a knowledgeable staff who can speak to the benefits of supplements and other remedies. She is on hand at the Coop as their herbalist and is available for advice to customers during certain days of the week. (Check out the MNFF website for specific times.)
Mitchell also notes that easily accessible foods such as garlic, lemons and onions can also be incorporated into one’s diet to help flush out toxins, and, of course, the value of drinking enough water each day should never be underestimated.
If you decide that doing a juice cleanse is right for you, Juice Amour in Middlebury has a variety of fresh juices and cleanses to choose from. In a recent interview, Sheri Bedard, who started Juice Amour with her father David Bedard, cites several alleged benefits to juice cleanses: they can help eliminate cravings, give your digestive system a rest, reduce appetite, improve energy levels, and can be a good method for what Bedard said was “getting back to ground zero.”
According to the website verywellfit.com, a typical juice cleanse or juice fast, would include a one-to-three-day program. Some juice cleanses involve homemade juices made from fresh fruits and vegetables run through a juicer or pulverized in a blender, while others suggest store-bought juices. Some programs, the site says, include one or more smoothies per day “to provide protein, fat and other nutrients for energy and to curb hunger, or even vegan meals and snacks.”
The website describes a typical cleanse as having three stages:
“Preparation: For three to five days before the cleanse, you will gradually eliminate certain foods, such as coffee, refined sugar, meat, dairy products, wheat, alcohol, and nicotine to reduce headaches, cravings, and other withdrawal symptoms. It’s also recommended to increase your intake of fresh vegetables, fruits, and fluids during the pre-cleanse.”
“Cleanse: For the one to three days of the actual cleanse, it is recommended to drink at least 32 ounces of juice or smoothie with at least half being green vegetable juice.”
“After the fast: Once the fast is over, it is recommended to eat lightly for a few days, gradually adding foods back in over the course of several days.
The website also suggests that participants “might not feel great” during the fast and has recommendations to manage that likelihood, such as not over-exercising.
Like many trends in managing one’s diet and food consumption, not everyone agrees on what might be best practices.
Jamie Sheahan holds an M.S. in Dietetics from the University of Vermont, where she also serves as an adjunct professor of sports nutrition, and she has run in more than 40 marathons. She offers some words of caution to those wondering whether or not to cleanse.
“Our bodies are designed to detox” naturally, Sheahan told the Independent, adding that “going out of your way” to cleanse isn’t necessary to find optimal health.
If people feel compelled to cleanse, Sheahan urges caution is taken and to do so in moderation and not for long periods of time. She also cautioned that cleanses are not recommended for people who are pregnant, diabetic, or have issues balancing blood sugar.
If you do pursue a cleanse, read up on the pros and cons, check in with your doctor if you have questions, and talk to nutrition-related experts if you might need to reevaluate your eating habits. As always when talking about diet-related issues, eating well and exercise is the baseline to good health — how we all practice that each day is the basis of a multi-billion-dollar industry and the subject of much debate.
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