Cleanse, Detox, Flush - these are all common buzzwords for a similar idea. The concept is to use natural foods or juices to take all the toxic substances from processed foods that accumulate in your body and flush them out of your system to sort of "reboot" your body. People will tell you it's a great way to quickly lose weight or to jump start a new diet, but most importantly, they claim that it will help you feel so much better because you're purging all of those poisons from your body. Is there any truth to these claims? Like everything to do with the body, the answer is yes and no.
Toxins and Detox
There is a medical concept known as detoxing, but it isn't something that can be done by simply eating better. Typically, you detox by taking harsh drugs to neutralize and safely remove other harsh narcotics from your system, or you use dialysis to remove toxins from your blood because your kidneys have failed. These are some real medical cases of detox, where you can name what the toxins are and you can measure if they have been removed.
But I really do feel better
If these cleanses aren't actually flushing toxins, then why do people feel better after they do them? As I've mentioned in a previous article, the crazy amounts of added sugar and salt in processed foods really messes up your body's chemistry which can make you feel lousy. Even small amounts of added sugar can cause harmful inflammation throughout your system. Your body is constantly flushing these harmful substances out of your body all the time. The reason a cleanse makes you feel better is not because these foods magically remove them, but because you've finally stopped shoveling harmful substances back into your system. Even a short cleanse can give your body the time it needs to finally clean everything out completely and normalize your blood chemistry. Let me once again bring up the boiling frog analogy:
They say if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will leap out right away to escape the danger. But, if you put a frog in a room temperature pot and then gradually heat it until it starts boiling, the frog won't become aware of the danger until it is too late.
The reason a cleanse can make you feel better is because it quickly turns the boiling water off. Giving your body time to stabilize your blood sugar levels and normalize your hormones is a quick way to reduce inflammation and set your body chemistry up to tap into your energy reserves (stored body fat).
A great way to jumpstart success
Starting a new diet can be hard. There are all kinds of reasons why people get frustrated in the beginning and quickly give up. A cleanse may be tough but there are two main reasons why it can be a great way to jumpstart your new weight loss plan:
- Quick success feeds your motivation. The low calorie intake during a cleanse can quickly get the scale moving. A lot of that initial weight loss will be water weight, but never underestimate how profoundly motivating it is to see that scale move. Many people quickly give up on a new weight loss plan because the scale either doesn't move or it's moving too slow for all the hard work they're putting in. Getting that little number to drop fires up your motivation and makes sticking to the plan so much easier.
- Reset your tastebuds. Your body gets used to your favorite calorie dense foods on a routine schedule (we are creatures of habit after all), and trying to replace a few treats here and there with healthy alternatives can leave you with a feeling of deprivation and longing for those old foods. A cleanse sort of resets your taste buds so that healthy foods can be enjoyable. Many cleanses force you to choke down the same horrible tasting liquid multiple times a day, which will also retrain your tastebuds to appreciate healthy food when you switch to it (anything will taste better at that point), but there is no reason to punish yourself. Doing a cleanse with a variety of healthy and delicious foods can be just as effective at retraining your tastebuds to appreciate healthy food.
Not all cleanses are created equal
Even though a cleanse does have legitimate benefits, I typically tell people to avoid all the Cleanse and Detox programs out there. The reason is because most of these plans do not understand the mechanisms of hunger and satiety (the feeling of fullness and satisfaction after eating). Juice cleanses are especially guilty of this. Your body is not particularly good at recognizing liquid calories. Solid food stretches your stomach and sends signals to your brain that reduce your hunger while liquid calories tend to stream right through and bypass this mechanism. Studies have also shown that foods with a crunchier texture send additional signals concerning satiety to your brain as you chew them.
Even worse, once all the fiber has been removed from most of these fruit sources, the left over sugar in these juice cleanses floods into your system and causes your insulin to spike and your appetite to soar. So not only is your hunger never satisfied, it's actually intensified.
You're already going to be hungry, don't make it harder on yourself.
Melanie Douglass, our Registered Dietician, understands the failings of the typical cleanse plans and designed our 3 Day Cleanse to give people the tools to succeed rather than suffer.
Why the 3 Day Cleanse is different:
- Real Food. Juices or weird mixtures of liquids and syrups will only leave you satisfied for a few minutes at best. The 3 Day Cleanse gives you actual fruits and vegetables to eat. All of that fiber is incredibly filling and will satisfy your appetite much longer than any drink ever could. The dietary fiber also slows the release of any sugar into your blood stream so your energy will be sustained over longer periods of time.
- Balanced Nutrition. Most cleanse plans are nutrient poor. The limited amount of calories and lack of vitamins and nutrients exacerbate the feelings of exhaustion and lethargy and can actually be harmful if they are done for too long. Even though this plan only uses plant sources of food, it contains a proper mixture of healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and other nutrients to keep your body working optimally.
- Low Sugar. Liquid cleanse plans are actually quite high in sugar which really defeats the whole point of a cleanse in the first place. While this plan does contain some fruit, it only uses fruit that is low in sugar and high in dietary fiber. This will keep the release of sugar into your system slow and steady to give you extended levels of energy as you shed pounds.
- Realistic Calorie Levels. Some of the cleanse and detox plans I've reviewed have a dangerously low amount of daily calories. Your body can only release so much stored fat each day. If you run too extreme a calorie deficit, your body will start digesting your muscles and organs to make up the difference. The 3 Day Cleanse plan works out to abut 1200 calories a day. This is also a tough deficit, but at least it's not a dangerous one.
- Variety. Many detox plans require you to choke down the same awful liquid for every meal day after day. Not only is it unnecessary to punish yourself with a horrible tasting mix, there is nothing wrong with having some simple variety in your meals. Healthy food can be just as much a joy to eat, and the 3 Day Cleanse will show you that you can eat healthy and still enjoy it.
If you're interested in checking out the 3 Day Cleanse, click the button below to check out the meal plan.