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Detox and Cleansing: How to Do It {For Real}

by Lisa on August 15, 2012

This post is the continuation of one I wrote a few weeks ago and about what detoxing and cleansing really are and what you need to know.

In that post, I wanted to explain what it actually means to detox, and to discuss how it has become trendy to cleanse or detox, but that often it’s really marketing ploys and weight loss claims that determine our understanding of the concepts.

So let me be clear…. I think detoxing/cleansing is a GREAT idea. Please see the prior post to learn why. What I am extremely picky about is how a person chooses to cleanse and purge toxins from their body. Different methods are safer and less safe, more severe and less severe, and more or less appropriate for each person. With my clients, I try to pick the most appropriate detox for any client, based on what I know about them and how they answer certain questions, and then I tailor it even further to meet their needs.

Sometimes my clients aren’t too happy with what I suggest—because it’s not extreme enough (I never promise 10lb weight loss in 5 days…although I’ve seen it happen safely!).

Have you noticed that Americans love instant gratification? It’s common to think that quick weight loss and crazy detox symptoms are “evidence” that a cleanse is working—-but are they?

My answer: Not Necessarily.

Here are some of the types of cleanses/detoxes you can do:

1. Water cleanse – This is serious, severe, and extreme. This is not a good idea for most people. I’d only recommend it to someone who has (a) lived in a state of detox for several years, and (b) has done many veggie juice cleanses. Even then, I’d be really interested in why a person would want to do it (that doesn’t mean I’m not in favor, I’m just picky about it!).

2. Veggie Juice Cleanse – This cleanse entails existing on only fresh veggie juices for a period of days (I’ve known people to do it for up to 60 or 90). This is also very extreme and serious, and I am also a fan of it if done under the proper conditions (usually for just a couple days to begin with). The digestive system is unloaded during this cleanse, but the body is very hydrated, so it’s a way to “mainline” nutrients into your mitochondria (oh yes, you want to do this if you can do it safely!). The problem is when people go from a cruddy (or even not so cruddy) diet straight into a veggie juice fast—it speeds up toxin release from the cells and dumps them into the body’s circulation. Chances are, if you are really toxified and/or your elimination system (intestines) is not working in top form, then you have not actually detoxed…you just mobilized toxins and then re-toxified yourself (especially if you feel so crappy you just start eating regular foods again). You’ll feel awful, and it won’t be worth it! Even if your body does dump out the toxins (and it will if you keep going for several days), I believe that feeling icky and releasing toxins that quickly is not good or necessary for people who have not prepped with other lesser cleanses/detoxes. That said, I’ve done up to a 6-day juice fast (and several 2-3 day fasts), and I have felt the amazing results. I do recommend this type of cleanse, but again, I’m just really picky about how it’s done!

3. Juice Cleanse – This is a fruit/veggie fresh juice cleanse, similar to the Veggie Juice Cleanse….but it contains a lot more sugar!!! You can feel pretty darn good on this cleanse (probably after an initial blah few days), but it puts you on a blood sugar roller coaster. My professional hesitation with the high fructose intake in this type of cleanse is that fructose has to be processed by your liver, and I think that taxing the liver defeats some of the purpose of detoxing in the first place! Consider, though, that most people who decide to do a juice cleanse, overload on the fruit (because it tastes better!)…So the downsides to this cleanse are the same as the Veggie Juice Cleanse, and it also causes stress to the liver.

4. Smoothie Cleanse – This is similar to the Juice Cleanses, except you blend the produce, which leaves in the fiber. This is a better choice for people who have not already done many detoxes, for people who have issues with constipation, and for people who don’t want to spend as much money (it’s way cheaper to blend than to juice!). Check out my post about Juicing vs. Smoothies (and also Part 2) for more info. This type of detox will cause fewer detox symptoms than the Juice Cleanses, but they can still occur, and I recommend easing into this one too!

5. Micronutrient Cleanse – In this type of detox, a person will eat only unprocessed whole foods, minus potential allergens and irritants (like dairy, eggs, nuts, soy, etc.). There are choices here—some people will include minimal animal products (organic, free range, etc), and some people do not. In this cleanse, you could also include fresh juices and/or smoothies to bump up the micronutrient content. The idea is to give the body as many micronutrients (via fresh veggies and some fruits) as possible without stressing the digestive system too much. This helps the body to detox naturally, but it not as extreme as just juicing, and the naturally high fiber content helps the body to eliminate the toxins (rather than re-toxing the body). Note: If you can live in this state of detox, you’re doing pretty darn good! An Elimination Diet could be an example of a Micronutrient Cleanse. Also, you can live in this state of “detoxing,” which may seem unrealistic to you at first…until you ease towards it!

6. Herbal Cleanses – You can buy cleansing supplements, made from herbs, that assist the body with (a) mobilizing the toxins from cells and (b) removing them from the body. Generally, there are multiple pills (and sometimes shakes/smoothies) to take at different times of the day, including herbs and fiber. This type of cleanse is helpful and may cause some detox “symptoms,” but the level of detox is determined by how you eat while on this cleanse. You will get the most out of it if you combine this with the Micronutrient Cleanse. The Clean Program is an example of this type of cleanse, and I do believe this is a good program, but at the same time, I think you can cleanse without buying an expensive program.

I don’t recommend anyone do a juice cleanse without assistance from a professional. However, I think it’s a great idea to take a mindset focused on Micronutrient Loading—and you can do that in many ways, including any of the ideas listed above (or a combination of them). One of my favorite things to have clients do is to start with something easy and small (which so does NOT feed that desire for instant gratification!), like replacing breakfast with a micronutrient smoothie. Physically, this starts the body on a good note for the day…and psychologically it does the same. Once this becomes normal, I suggest they focus on (a) adding more micronutrients to each meal and (b) removing the gunky processed stuff. Voila—a higher rate of cleansing occurs!

After this becomes normal, I suggest they consider an herbal cleanse (if they really want to), and we can set up parameters for a specific cleanse (diet, exercise, supplements) for a specified length of time. Assuming this goes well, and they return to their micronutrient-based diet afterwards (with just a little bit of gunky food in there–like up to 10%), I am supportive of doing something a little more extreme like a juice cleanse. I like people to start with a partial juice cleanse—juice for breakfast or juice till dinner, etc.

I realize this seems a little convoluted and confusing, but the reason for that is because each person has different needs. I don’t like to make blanket suggestions because with my own clients, I spend hours and hours finding out how they live, what their histories are, what their barriers/limitations/goals/health issues are, and I try to get to know their personalities so I can help them set themselves up for success.

I don’t recommend just reading about a cleanse and buying it! Although cleansing has been going on for centuries, we have to be careful today about what products we buy—and you need to find a way to determine whether you’re getting what you’re looking for (and not harming yourself or wasting money).

News/Notes:

Hello!!! I’ve missed you—for real. I’m so busy getting ready to head to California in six days. I’m also very excited, and I’m almost ready to go. I have all of my NY work commitments wrapped up, and that has caused me to have a lot of mixed feelings. Yesterday, I said goodbye to my corporate wellness coaching clients (friends). I couldn’t help but reflect on the last four years I’ve spent chatting with them each week—we somehow ended up as friends, and I’m really thankful for that. I’m also thankful that in 2012, it’s darn near impossible to say goodbye (with facebook, texting, emails, etc.). So, it’s a great feeling not to have any final goodbyes. The other great thing is that even though I get pretty self-conscious about blogging about my life sometimes, I’ve had enough people request regular updates, that I feel some level of obligation to do so   :-)

I’ll tell you, currently, I’m testing my stress management skills (and doing alright!). I wasn’t feeling well for a while (too much traveling, too much coffee, and a little extra wine?), but I’m starting to feel better now and I’m happy about that. I had a small cyst removed yesterday that is being sent to a pathology lab—I figured it would cost me a couple hundred and leave me with a couple stitches. Funny, it cost $500 (with lab fees) and left me with 15 stitches right where my leg bends—and my instructions from the doctor were no “bending, pulling, or stretching.” Apparently, I won’t be working out for 10 days, at which point I’ll be removing my stitches myself (again) since I’ll already be in Cali by then. I’m pretty sure I can’t go that long without being active, but we’ll see. I’ll find an alternate to yoga for my stress management plan and I’ll just focus on my arms in the gym!

I’m putting everything I own into storage—that’s hard, especially the vita-mix! I’m going to be busy for the next few days, saying my quasi-goodbyes and spending time with my family. But I’m going to try and post—I have some interesting (I think) food things to post about, and Shirley and I are closer to having our fitness stuff organized too. I’m excited for her–she’s in training mode for her next bikini show in September!

Have you done a cleanse or detox? What was your experience like?

Have you ever gone on an extended trip (like a month or more)?  What are some essentials I must take with me?! All I have packed so far are workout clothes and about 4 pairs of jeans (I’m so ineffective at packing…)

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  • http://www.thefitnessdish.com/ laury

    I was waiting with patiently for this one! Thanks again for such an informative, detailed post! I have actually only done a cleanse one time and it was years ago. I did liver detoxing foods such as lemon water and milk thistle and smoothies. I have a hard time not chewing for a few days! I am more of a fan of smoothie cleanses, keeping the fiber and not just getting straight juice! If I choose to do any soon I would consult you first!

    I am so excited for you, Lisa! Moving to Cali! Gosh, it’s stressful but it has to be amazing! I love that you can work anywhere, what freedom! I bet you will miss you mom and Matthew a ton though.

    Happy moving, friend!

  • http://www.cottercrunch.com lindsay cotter

    pack light. More room for souvenirs!

  • http://twitter.com/merigoesround Meri

    I’ve been underweight my whole life, and a vegetarian who is always worried about getting enough protein. Because of this, I’ve always thought I didn’t want to do a cleanse because I was afraid I wouldn’t get enough calories without feeling sick. I’m interested in healing my digestive system a bit though, but I think it needs to be farther off from my surgeries. I can tell you put a lot into this post so thank you for the info. In the future I think I will come back to it!

  • Brittany

    I tend to do water cleanses, but then end up eating something later in the day. I just like to try and constantly pound water! I love the idea of cleansing. I eat fairly clean so I like to think I don’t need to cleanse ;) .

    Glad you are doing well and will be posting more!!

  • http://twitter.com/LeafynotBeefy Kelly

    Yep, I’ve done veggie/fruit cleanse (after watching “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”) for just about 30 days, lost close to 20 pounds, and felt amazing after a day or two. I’ve also done some smoothies of late, and I think your post is great at shedding some light on the different types of cleanses/detoxes. :)
    And I’ve never been on a trip that long, so no advice there.. but if you’ll have access to laundry facilities it shoud’nt be as hard I wouldn’t think.

    ~Kelly
    http://www.leafynotbeefy.com

  • Faith

    Such an interesting post, Lisa, so much great info! Thanks so much for putting it together and sharing.

  • http://drsadlon.com/wordpress/chiropractic-and-back-pain/ detox rochester ny

    i’ve heard a lot about them.. and the topic described in the post is surely going to help me in the this one..

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