With everyone’s nutrition about to go out the window with the holidays these next few weeks, I wanted to talk about cleanses.
It’s important for you to know about the various purposes of a healthy cleanse and what makes them “successful”, so you can make an informed decision, if and when, you decide to go for it.
Why Do a Healthy Cleanse?
When you overindulge, you’ll probably be feeling bloated, sluggish, and have a newly formed (or even bigger) muffin top. You’re tired from all of the activities and have zero energy.
Maybe you haven’t had a good crap since Halloween.
You simply want to drop a few pounds to get back to where you were before the holidays. And THEN you can worry about the rest you want to lose with your New Year’s resolution.
Sound about right?
A healthy cleanse feels like the right way to do it, so off you go to your local health foods store. But do you know what you’re looking for?
Not likely. And that’s why I knew I had to write this!
The Cleanse Rage
The purpose of the cleanse is to clear out the bad stuff that builds up in our bodies from a poor diet, inefficient digestion, and our environments.
Overall, a cleanse has 5 different priorities. Not all cleanse products on the market will include ingredients to meet these 5 priorities.
It’s not necessary for a cleanse to meet all of the priorities….just YOUR priority.
Once you have a better understanding of them, you can look at the ingredients of a cleanse product to see if it meets your ultimate goal.
Out with the Old
- Priority 1 – Eliminate Waste
To get things going, they want to clean out the pipes! Some of the cleanses can be brutal as they act simply like a laxative. I’ve had friends tell me that they have to be within a 100 ft radius of a toilet for THREE days! That’s not the best way as it dehydrates you and also clears out the good bacteria in your intestines.Some of the ingredients you may see are:
- Beet root – This is good for digestion and really high fiber. It also has been shown to improve performance in athletes, so it may give you a boost of energy as well. You can read all the details about beet root in this article from Medical News Today.
- Aloe Vera – Everyone knows the magic powers of aloe vera as a topical healing solution, but it also has other internal benefits, like detoxing and improved immunity. (You may have noticed more bottled beverages of aloe vera juice at your health food store lately.) Depending on the part of the plant used, it also can have laxative effects.
- Additional Fiber – Soluble fiber is great for your body and you should aim for 25 grams per day to keep things running smoothly. It takes on water and forms a gel-like substance. This “gel” makes you feel fuller longer, keeps your digestion moving, and helps lower cholesterol.Some great sources of fiber you may see in a cleanse are flax seeds, chia seeds, and psyllium husks. If you’ve been eating poorly and haven’t been getting much fiber, you could have a big blowout when you suddenly introduce 25-40 grams of fiber through a cleanse. Just sayin…
BEWARE! If you see that the primary ingredients are ones listed above, you can expect to be camped out in the bathroom!
- Priority 2 – Eliminate Toxins
When you eat processed foods with a lot of preservatives, your liver has to do the heavy lifting to filter all of those chemicals. All those holiday alcoholic drinks also take their toll on the liver.Cleanses help support the liver with ingredients like these:
- Milk thistle – This plant has been used for over 2000 years to support the liver and flush toxins. Here’s a great description from LiverSupport.com on the benefits and the history of the use of milk thistle.
- Dandelion– Dandelion is another powerhouse and has a slew of benefits. It helps detoxify and support the liver. It is also a natural diuretic, so it will help flush excess water weight. (Bonus tip!: I drink dandelion tea during my period to ease water gain.) Here’s a detailed article on dandelion from Organic Foods.
- Priority 3 – Improved Digestion
As the cleanse is clearing all the bad things out, it may also work on improving digestion. The primary way to do that is through increasing digestive enzymes. These enzymes occur naturally in the body and work on breaking down your food into usable parts. When you’re eating large portions, it may have a hard time keeping up!There are a ton of different enzymes in the body that you can read more about here. For our purposes, I’m going to concentrate on these primary enzymes you may see in cleanses:
- Amylase – Enzyme that breaks down carbs
- Lipase – Enzyme that breaks down fats
- Protease – Enzyme that breaks down proteins.
- Bromelain – This is derived from pineapple and helps break down proteins
If you purchase a digestive enzymes supplement, you’ll generally see amylase, lipase, and protease combined in one product. Bromelain tends to be sold separately.
Some people feel that taking digestive enzymes are a placebo and don’t work. Others swear by them.
I take them occasionally and feel better. I’ve found that my tongue tends to be white in the back when I’m low on them. (According to traditional Chinese medicine the back of your tongue represents your intestines.)
In with the New
- Priority 4 – Probiotics
Once the pipes are clean and things are functioning optimally, the cleanse needs to replenish all of the good bacteria in your intestines that it wiped out. These good bacteria help keep your digestive system healthy and will battle the bad bacteria as you reintroduce them after the cleanse. You want to look for ‘live’ bacteria.Here are a couple that you may see in a cleanse:
- Lactobacillus – You may see many variations of this, such as lactobacillus acidophilus or lacobacillus rhamnosus.
- Bifidobacterium – You may see many variations of this as well, like bifidobacterium bifidum or bifidobacterium longum.
If you choose not to do a cleanse, you can find probiotics in products like Good Belly and greek yogurts.
- Priority 5 – Energy and Mood
Finally, when you’ve been eating horribly, you more than likely have depleted your B vitamins. B’s cannot be stored in the body, so you need to replenish them daily. Most of the time this happens with food. If you take B supplements, your body will take what it needs and flush out the rest in your urine. Don’t overdo it though!
- B6 – This vitamin is great for brain health, mood, and sleep patterns. It helps release energy from your food.
- B12 – This vitamin also helps release energy from your food. It helps with nerve health, heart health, and boosts mood.
Expensive Doesn’t Always Equal Better
A few years ago, I kept seeing all this buzz in the media about a cleanse that the stars in Hollywood were raving about. I decided to check it out to see why it was so special.
This cleanse was over $400. In looking at the cleanse ingredients, it was high in digestive enzymes. You can buy a good bottle of digestive enzymes for $30.
It also came with a bottle of probiotic pills, protein shakes, and recommended a clean eating program. You can still do all of this for significantly less than $400.
No cleanse is worth the money if you’re not going to eat right and drink water to get the full benefits. Many times you may find if you start eating better and hydrating, you’ll feel better without even spending a dime!
The Right Decision
Only you can really know what the right decision is for you. You never want to go to extremes to lose weight.
If you do, you’ll just put it back on because it’s not a true lifestyle change where you learn to properly fuel your body and know how it responds to certain foods.
You should always talk to your doctor about any nutritional supplement or dietary changes you want to make. Do your homework to see if anything conflicts with any current medications. This is the drug interaction checker I use.
Knowledge is power, my friend! Because when YOU have the power, you can save money and decide which piece of the puzzle is necessary for you to feel better.
The real power is enjoying with moderation. Go hog wild one day and then be diligent when you’re not at parties. It’s all about living life and loving yourself.
The Real Success
When your digestive system is firing on all cylinders, you’ll feel less bloated, have more energy, be in a better mood, and think more clearly.
A big part of that is because now your body can absorb all of the great vitamins and nutrients from your food without all of that blockage.
You may find that a few tweaks of your diet and you can accomplish all of this without purchasing a healthy cleanse product.
Eat better and you’ll feel better all around!
Take Action Now
Tell me in the comments below which of these ways that healthy cleanses are successful surprised you the most. Are you going to do anything differently?
If you’re struggling with getting back on track, let’s chat!