Of all the nutrition questions I get asked on a regular, “Should I do a juice cleanse?” is the most common. The 48-hour Cleanse, flat belly teas, cayenne and lemon cleanses, The Master Cleanse and pretty much all of the juice companies that will ship you one or more weeks of juices to drink each day, promising to cleanse your body of toxins and other impurities and make you feel “better”. I’ve heard of them all! So, when someone asks me about a cleanse, I ask them what they’re hoping to gain from doing it and how they currently feel? I also ask about their current nutritional intake. The short answer is yes, you can do a cleanse and you should do it on a regular…by eating more healthy, whole foods.
Common reasons people do a cleanse –
- Feeling sluggish, low energy
- Digestive issues, constipation, stomach upset, diarrhea
- Skin irritations such as rashes, cystic acne and acne
- Mood swings, anxiety and irritability, depression
- Flu-like symptoms, congestion, cough
- Yeast infections
- Muscle aches and cramps, achy joints
The downsides –
- Replacing whole foods and only drinking juice means removing proteins, healthy fats and much-needed calories from your meals that slow your metabolism and cause weight gain, sluggishness and even diarrhea (all the things we’re trying to avoid…)
- Spending a lot of money on sugary juices that aren’t proven by science to be effective
- Still trying to exercise at full volume without properly fueling your body
- Juicing strictly for weight loss and neglecting your health
- Buying into the mentality that health is about cutting things out instead of adding in more of the healthy stuff
Now for some good news! Your body is built to detoxify and cleanse itself naturally. It has a series of natural pathways via major organs that cleanse your body –
Liver – secrets enzymes to process toxins for excretion, works hard to break down fat, maintain proper blood sugar levels and is a filter of harmful substances from the blood. You don’t need to do a juice cleanse when you can just eat better and help the liver do its job more efficiently.
Kidneys – they change the toxins and fluids from your renal system into urine, which means simply staying hydrated is the biggest and most effective way to cleanse your renal system.
Intestines (GI Tract) – this intricate system tells the body what vital nutrients to keep and which ones to expel. There is a lot more talk lately about how the gut, literally the center of your body, is also at the center of many of the health issues you might be facing – what you put in your gut and how it processes those things in return. Happy GI tract results in happy poops. Opt for whole foods whenever possible. Your stomach doesn’t need a rest and in fact, all of the normal digestive processing is key to its function and efficiency.
Lungs – Still breathing? Good, your body is cleansing itself natural with each breath. When I was first studying these body systems and organs I was surprised to see the lungs and skin as detox pathways. Your lungs take in oxygen and rid your body of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and other harmful gasses
Skin – If your skin is anything like mine, when I eat something that doesn’t agree with my body, it shows up on my face in the form of acne or puffiness. Your skin works to naturally detox your body through sweat but it’s important to note here since many people want to cleanse for a brighter complexion, that you can cleanse your skin from the inside out with healthier eating, too. Do this in combination with a good sweaty workout and your skin will thank you twofold.
With these natural pathways in place, your body never needs a forced break because these processes are cyclical – they’re happening right this very moment. Instead, you can do a nutritional cleanse or detoxification by eating more healthy foods. Also, for us carnivores, who want to eat more plant-based, this doesn’t mean going full on vegetarian but making plants the center of more of your meals than animal protein. You might also juice your veggies and fruits in place of eating them whole once a day or a few times a week and drink them in combination with your other healthy, whole food meals.
Nutritional detoxification – Includes foods like berries, bananas, pears, apples, oranges, blueberries (this list goes on for miles), dark leafy greens, beets cauliflower, etc. Also, drinking 2 or more liters of water a day and cutting back on sugar-sweetened beverages. If you still feel like your body could use a little help, try drinking 1 tbs of apple cider vinegar in cold water each morning for a happy gut and all the benefits that come with good gut health – clear skin, regular bowel movements, reduced headaches, reduced indigestion and constipation.
Pretty much and combination of healthy foods helps keep your body’s natural detox pathways functioning correctly. Save money on expensive cleanses and just eat more of the healthy foods you already love!
Going back to that list of common reasons people do a cleanse. Did you know there are foods to remedy every issue on that list? Below are just a few of them –
- Feeling sluggish, low energy – a change in your overall eating habits like starting the day with breakfast can boost your energy but also eating lentils, beans, fish, berries and beans
- Digestive issues, constipation, stomach upset, diarrhea – Fiber! fruits and veggies like berries, cauliflower, mixed greens. Ginger is a great natural digestive aid.
- Skin irritations such as rashes, cystic acne and acne – oily fish like salmon citrus fruits, water, tomatoes
- Mood swings, anxiety and irritability, depression – Cutting back on sugar-sweetened drinks and snacks, wheat and other processed foods and eating more of the healthy foods listed above
- Flu-like symptoms, congestion, cough – Adding garlic, onions, various spices and ginger to your meals
- Yeast infections – garlic, arugula, cabbage, apple cider vinegar and coconut oil all help fight candida
- Muscle aches and cramps, achy joints – spinach, salmon, pineapples, ginger, almonds
The basics –
Your body is built to detoxify itself naturally. It has a natural pathways that get the job done.
Eating a healthy variety of foods is the surest way to keep your system clean and regular and to sustain your energy.
Stay hydrated. Make your kidneys proud!
There is (still) no scientific evidence that cleanses work to do anything but strip your body of the nutrients it needs and cause rapid weight gain shortly after the cleanse is over.