Should I do a “Cleanse” or “Detox”?

I get questions from family and friends on a regular basis about whether or not they should do a “cleanse” or a “detox”, and if so, which one would I recommend.  It’s a hot topic and “detox” is such a buzz word that I figured it was worth giving an explanation about why I don’t typically recommend detoxes, at least not in the way most people understand them.

We live in a polluted and stressful world, and a person’s body can become overburdened and strained by contaminants.  We talk about several of these in our patient visits, but these might include:

  • Unhealthy fats, high fructose corn syrup, caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods
  • Medications used improperly, inappropriately, or too often
  • Heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium, tin, and aluminum
  • Chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, cleaning products, solvents, and glues
  • Allergens such as food, mold, dust, pollen and chemicals

There are no exact symptoms to suggest that your body’s natural detoxification system is not working, but if you’re still dealing with any of the following symptoms after cleaning up your diet and clearing your gut of pathogens, we feel that your body still might need some additional detox support.  These can also be signs of detox reactions:

  • fatigue with sleep disturbance and brain fog
  • mood disturbance (depression, anxiety, fear and anger)
  • muscle aches and joint pain, headaches with neck pain and back pain
  • sinus congestion
  • bloating and gas, irritable bowel, foul-smelling stools
  • dark urine
  • fluid retention/swelling and weight gain
  • rashes and canker sores
  • bad breath and body odor
  • nausea, lack of appetite

The essential components of any detoxification program should include:

  • daily exercise/movement – this could include yoga or walking and promotes lymph draining
  • regular sweating (sauna, steam room, or hot yoga class). Far infrared saunas are the most effective and efficient.  Sunlighten, radiant, and sauna ray are all good brands.
  • healthy nutrition – eat organic, fresh, and local food if possible (pay attention to the dirty dozen list). Remove any food sensitivities if you had testing done. Make sure you’re drinking clean, filtered water (use Aquagear, Berkey, or reverse osmosis filters).  Avoid alcohol, especially beer.
  • self-reflection (deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation). People and relationships can be toxic to us as well.  Work to resolve conflicts and heal strained relationships.
  • body work such as massage and acupuncture help to promote drainage.
  • proper elimination – make sure your gut is moving, which means regular and healthy bowel movements. If you are constipated, you can’t move out toxins.

There are certain supplements including glutathione, NAC, alpha lipoic acid, milk thistle, etc. that can help to support your liver, but we recommend working directly with a practitioner to create the right regimen for you.

Common and temporary symptoms of detoxification include feeling lousy, headache, lightheadedness, diarrhea, cramps, bloating, body aches, fatigue, mood changes, and weakness.  If you develop any of these symptoms, you may need to SLOW DOWN THE PROCESS.  We suggest taking a break from your supplements and increasing water intake for 2-4 days.

During this time, self-evaluate to make sure you have taken the proper steps for elimination.

  1. Are you drinking enough water? Increase water intake to a minimum of 48 oz. daily.
  2. Are you having regular bowel movements? Treat constipation by increasing water and fiber/vegetables, and you can use magnesium citrate or triple mag. Triphala is another herbal blend that can help with constipation.
  3. Are you sweating? Consider investing in a sauna or finding a local gym/yoga studio that has a sauna.  Old Town Yoga offers infrared sauna sessions.

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, your biochemical pathways for detox inside the body may be overwhelmed, and you may need to take things more slowly.  If you continue to have symptoms of detox after you have addressed these elements, you should make an appointment with your provider to discuss your personal detox protocol so that they can make adjustments in your treatment regimen.

Each person represents a unique challenge and set of circumstances in which their detoxification process may be getting “stuck”.  At Balanced Well-Being Healthcare, we do not adhere to the one-size/one-response approach to correcting these pathways for detox.