Healthy Heating

To Cleanse or Not to Cleanse?


I went for a walk with a friend recently, who reported having joined a group of women in doing a cleanse, courtesy of an Arbonne representative among them. Apparently, the product "helps cleanse and detoxify the system and support the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Assists with the gentle elimination of toxins." Sounds good, right? (Apart from the 7-day, $50 price tag.) You drink the drinks, you skip the sugar, grains, dairy, processed foods, alcohol, and caffeine, and replace them with produce and lean protein. The promise? A cleansed digestive system with a side helping of weight loss.

Pic from Amazon

While other women in the group reported increased energy and some pounds evaporating, my friend was comparatively underwhelmed by the results and overwhelmed by the price tag. She dropped out.

Cleanses are the latest Big Thing, dietwise, and I'll be the first to admit we put a lot of garbage in our bodies. Hence, in my own family, our tradition of Sugar-Free January, to compensate for All-Sugar-All-the-Time December. This year I even went light on reintroducing sugar in February, only eating dessert about once a week and not sweating the sugar-content otherwise. Over the last two months, I've dropped six pounds. Not huge, but my pants fit more comfortably, and it's actually a net-positive diet, financially speaking, since I'm buying less sugar and butter and not replacing it with anything but a cup of herbal tea or a Satsuma.

The Wall Street Journal  ran two articles recently. One on the juice cleanse fad and one on which toxins actually do stay in our body. Their findings?

  1. Skip the cleanses and just eat more fruits and vegetables and less junk.
  2. Eat the fruits and vegetables as whole as possible, because the fiber in them keeps things moving.
  3. The toxins that linger in our body aren't the food ingredients so much as the weird plastics and chemicals we ingest through packaging and pesticides and environment, and those toxins, sadly, take 15 to 20 years to clear out!
WSJ's cool, if blurry, graphic

So, yes, you can cut certain food groups or ingredients from your diet. It may help you pinpoint a lactose intolerance or gluten sensitivity, but it won't detoxify you. And, as everyone who has made drastic dietary changes knows, the more drastic the changes are, the less sustainable they are.

Instead of a purge or a fast, how about a food-positive lifestyle change?

  • Pass over the juice or smoothie and eat a piece of fruit or some veggies with dip whole.
  • Promise yourself you won't skip dessert, but you'll become adessert connoisseur--if it's not homemade or made by a baker you love from simple ingredients, you won't bother.
  • Replace one no-fiber food you have around the house with a fiber food. Mix brown rice into your white. Replace up to 1/3 of the white flour in a recipe with whole wheat. Mix whole-grain pasta into regular pasta. (I've done all these with no one in the family even noticing.)
  • Switch to naturally-leaner pastured meat from one of our Market farmers in at least one meal a week.
  • Try making your own yogurt. Simple and un-sugary and full of great probiotics.

Wishing you all a cleaner GI tract, #TightwadOrganic style.