When spring is in the air, many people get the urge to purge and start looking for a spring cleanse or detoxification diet. As with nearly all things nutritional, the controversy over whether a detox diet is healthy or necessary stirs quite a bit of debate. Those on the “pro” side talk about the enormous benefits, from weight loss to clearing acne. Those on the “con” side cite its dangers, including the restrictive nature of detoxification that could lead to bingeing and purging.
Where does the truth lie? Actually, there are as many detoxification diets as there are weight loss plans and since we are all different, what works well for one person won’t necessarily work for another. So, let’s examine the options as well as assess the benefits, and you can decide for yourself.
Some cleanses are nutritionally deficient and restrictive. The lemon, cayenne pepper and honey detox has been around since the 1940s. It was created by nutrition guru Stanley Burroughs. Called the Master Cleanse, it requires the dieter to fast for 10 days, drinking only this concoction, using either honey or maple syrup. Burroughs claims that lemon acts as a purifier, boosts fat burning and supplies potassium; cayenne pepper provides B and C vitamins and helps circulation; and maple syrup adds energy and minerals.
While the honey may actually boost weight loss compared to consuming other sugars, and capsaicin in cayenne pepper may help burn fat, it could be dangerous to consume only this drink. Potential side effects include dehydration, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vitamin deficiencies, muscle breakdown and blood sugar problems. Older adults, teens, children and people with digestive issues should be particularly wary of the more extreme cleanses and fasts.
Whether any sort of cleanse is necessary or not sparks controversy too. The main argument by advocates is that our environment is now so polluted with heavy metals, chemicals, EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies), drugs, parasites and bacteria that our bodies are overloaded and can’t clear all that out of our systems without support.
The rising numbers of obese, diabetic and chronically ill Americans seem to illustrate the point. However, medical experts will tell you that there is no hard proof showing that our bodies’ own elimination systems can’t handle their cleansing processes without the help of detoxification.
Ayurvedic principles based on a 5,000-year-old system of health and medicine in India divide the year into six growing seasons that John Douillard, author of The 3-Season Diet, says can be reduced to three primary growing seasons and three harvests. Farmers naturally follow a three-season diet and eat the foods harvested within the three growing seasons. The first harvest comes in spring and consists mainly of roots, sprouts and bitter greens.
Our natural tendency to crave lighter spring vegetables, such as asparagus and arugula, is part of the body’s age-old wisdom to clear out the heavier foods of winter with the energy producing, blood purifying foods of spring. A cleanse based on these principles will effectively nourish and cleanse the body, preparing it for the increased movement and energy of warmer months.
Foods that support the liver, flush out toxins and nurture the gastrointestinal tract include leafy greens for their chlorophyll, which helps release environmental toxins like heavy metals and pesticides; lemon with filtered water to keep the body hydrated and help convert toxins into a form that is easily flushed away; garlic to activate the liver enzymes; broccoli sprouts for their cancer fighting and enzyme stimulating activity; sesame seeds to protect the liver from alcohol’s effects and psyllium to add fiber and clean out a sluggish colon.
A cleanse will be most effective if it is tailored to your specific needs. For example, if you have been contracting colds or flu all winter, a cleanse that focuses on immune support will be most beneficial. Others who experience the aching joints of arthritis or food sensitivities will find a cleanse with anti-inflammatory foods and spices best serves them.
Those who are more concerned about cancer prevention would seek a low-estrogen, high antioxidant diet. Still others may feel the need to detoxify from sugar, carbohydrates or alcohol and would consume foods that stabilize the blood sugar. The reason behind the cleanse should be the driving force behind the option one chooses.
Eating nourishing foods and drinking plenty of liquids that are free from sugar or chemicals can strengthen the body and leave you feeling refreshed, clear and energized. Benefits like glowing skin, smooth and regular digestion, freedom from aching joints, a clearer mind and stable mood can all result from the appropriate cleanse for your body.
These benefits aren’t just the result of adding healthy food and drink to your diet, but also the letting go of more addictive, craving-producing high fat, salt, and sugar foods—at least for a while. And who knows, if you can stay away from those foods for the duration of your cleanse, you may feel so good, you won’t want to go back.
Join me for an in-person Revitalizing Spring Cleanse!
Dates: Saturday, March 28 and Saturday, April 4
Time: 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Location: Life in Balance, 76 County Road, Mattapoisett, MA
Click here for more information.