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ELLE body: Should you do a cleanse?
Every now and then, we all need a little nudge, a bit of extra help to get off the couch and stop watching Girls reruns, and get back into healthy habits. Gwyneth Paltrow praises cleanses in her weekly Goop newsletter — claiming that they help keep her envious body in tip top shape, gives her
a flat stomach and help her maintain her healthy habits. Throw in the news about countless celebrities who do cleanses or detox diets pre-red carpet appearances, or for movies, and what more motivation do you need? We get the low-down on the cleanse and detox diets situation: who should do it, the benefits and
how to maintain that healthy lifestyle from Dr. Sara (
drsaradetox.com), a Toronto-based naturopathic doctor and detox expert. Read on to see if a cleanse is right for you.
Cleanses: What are they?
For Dr. Sara, a cleanse involves three major components that all play a part in whether your cleanse will be a success or not. Think of it this way, reducing, supplementing and adding energy.
a) “Reducing exposure is the first step, which typically involves avoiding toxins entering the body as much as possible. For example, alcohol is one substance that a person is asked to refrain from drinking during the cleansing period.”
b) “Taking organic herbs to support the liver and enhance the removal of toxins. As a Naturopathic Doctor, I recommend herbs that are fairly strong and stimulate toxin elimination through various routes, including urine, feces, and sweat.”
c) “The body needs energy to cleanse effectively. Without proper nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins, the body is unable to perform necessary tasks of detoxification. This is the most common reason people will fall ill or feel depleted during a detox. They must provide their body with adequate nutrition; otherwise, toxins re-circulate and can make a person feel worse.”
Cleanses: Who should do them and who shouldn’t
“Toxins are impossible to avoid and people are getting sicker everyday because of the chemicals in our food, personal care products, and environment,” explains Dr. Sara. That means nearly everyone can benefit from a cleanse now and then, but Dr. Sara advises those who are elderly, pregnant or breastfeeding should all consult with their doctor beforehand.
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Cleanses: The benefits of detox diets
While cleanses will benefit individuals differently in each case (depending on your lifestyle or specific health or skin issues you wish to resolve), nearly everyone will see some dramatic changes. “The benefits are endless and I have seen a wide range of symptoms improve following detoxification programs,” explains Dr. Sara. “I have had patients who struggled with eczema their whole life report 100% improvement. I have also seen digestive issues, migraines, and acne completely resolve.” Dr. Sara points out that since cleansing reduces inflammation and improves the overall function of your organs, it’s the ideal way to kick start a weight-loss program. “Since toxins cause fat cells to expand, cleansing is a great way to achieve a flatter mid-section, drop stubborn pounds, and boost metabolism to burn fat more efficiently.” And don’t we all want that?
Cleanses: How often and how long?
While you might feel better after a few days of removing items from your diet, that doesn’t mean you’re really cleaning your body out. “Contrary to popular belief, you can’t effectively cleanse toxins in just 3 days,” warns Dr. Sara. “Toxins take years to build up in the body and it takes time to flush them from the system. I normally recommend cleansing for two-to-four weeks.” Bottom line is this. If you’re really looking to improve your health, get a flatter stomach or clear up some skin care issues, there is no fast fix. “It is a good idea to cleanse two-to-four times per year, which is dependent upon one’s lifestyle. If a person enjoys drinking regularly, eats fast food, and lives a stressful lifestyle, they probably need to detox more often than somebody who
practices yoga daily, drinks green smoothies, and lives on quinoa salad.”
Prep for a cleanse and learn life long habits on the next page …
Cleanses: The prep
Think beyond food and the fridge – to cleanse properly, Dr. Sara it all starts with a positive mind set. “Preparation doesn’t just involve clearing your fridge, meal planning, and checking your calendar for any social engagements,” says Dr. Sara. “The most important element of success is dependent upon a person’s mindset. I advise starting a cleanse with a positive attitude and imagining the liver enjoying a relaxing vacation. Just as a person needs time off from work, the liver needs a break too!” The other way to keep on track? Set goals, which can help make the process of detoxification much more manageable.
Cleanses: What to remove
You may need to rethink your daily Starbucks run if you’re considering a cleanse. “Many of the foods we eat on a daily basis are difficult to digest and lack nutrients. As tasty as a latte and croissant are, they provide virtually no nutrition to the body. I like to call them empty calories,” says Dr. Sara. “The foods that a person is asked to remove include red meat, dairy, gluten, soy, sugar, and anything processed. I also suggest eliminating peanuts, pistachios, bananas, melons, green peppers, and white potatoes. And of course, alcohol and coffee.” If this sounds like there’s not much to eat, think of all the fibre-rich, filling fruits, veggies and grains you’ll get to much on, not to mention organic teas, purified water, and freshly prepared juices.
Cleanses: Post-cleanse healthy habits lifestyle
“The good news is that most people will continue some of the good habits they picked up during their 14, 21, or 28 day cleanse,” says Dr. Sara. That’s good news because even if you pick up one or two new healthy habits, the next cleanse will be that much easier. “The number one tip I have is to ‘prepare’ ahead of time. If you live a very busy life, take a day on the weekend and prepare your meals for the week. Cut up fruits and vegetables and store them in glass Tupperware. When they are already cut up, it makes it easier to munch on them or throw them into a stir-fry. The most common reason why people eat poorly, skip meals, and rely on caffeine for energy, is because they don’t prepare their meals ahead of time. Planning can make all the difference when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle.”
Cleanses: Get a buddy system
“Find a friend who you can cleanse with and make sure you have a good support system,” suggests Dr. Sara. “The last thing you need is somebody tempting you with pizza or wine.” We’ll second that.
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