This guest post was written by Dr. Shawna Darou, who has been a practicing naturopathic doctor for over 10 years. You can check out her amazingly informative blog about all things health related here.
Given the popularity of cleanses and detoxes, it is important to know what to look for in a safe cleanse. Here are some cautions and tips to help you choose the best cleanse for you. Below you will find seven cleansing dangers you need to avoid.
1. A rapid start to your cleanse, with no pre-cleanse preparation
It is very important to ease into a cleanse diet slowly. What this means is to take some time before your detox to ease off the coffee, alcohol and junk food. If you try to break all of these habits in one day, it’s going to be a painful and difficult time during your cleanse. I recommend taking a minimum of 3 days to prepare for your detox, and during this time gradually taper off of coffee (you can switch to green tea), avoid alcohol, and eat lots more vegetables and fruits.
2. Rebounding to coffee, alcohol or junk food to rapidly at the end of your cleanse
One of the worst things you can do after detoxing is to binge on junk food, or add alcohol back right away. Your body is much more sensitive after a detox, and you are doing far more harm with this. This tip may sound obvious, but it is extremely common to do a detox before a vacation or wedding in order to lose weight, and then rebound into all kinds of indulgence! You will get much more out of your cleanse if you gradually ease out of it, and resume a healthy diet and lifestyle. Try to view your cleanse as a reset, that will help to guide healthier choices moving forward.
3. A cleanse that doesn’t contain protein
A fast or up to 3 day juice cleanse without protein is usually ok for most people, but if you are doing a detox any longer than 3 days, your body needs protein. In order to actually detox, your liver requires protein to function optimally and break down toxins. This protein could be in the form of a protein powder in a shake, or protein-rich foods such as lentils, beans, fish or organic poultry. Remember to fuel your body for any cleanse longer than 3 days.
4. Not enough fiber
In order to move toxins out of the body specifically the colon, your body needs fiber. Fiber can come from fresh fruits and vegetables, fiber powders such as ground flax seeds, chia seeds or psyllium seed husks. If you are fasting of juice cleansing, please ensure that you are including additional fiber to support bowel health, and prevent a build up of toxins.
5. Harsh laxatives, or habit-forming laxative herbs
Many cleanses get quick results with weight loss from the use of harsh laxative herbs, but this is one of the ‘too good to be true situations’. Although I agree that it is essential to get the bowels moving, the risk of laxative use can include dependence, meaning that your bowels will not move properly on their own once you stop. Be careful with use of cascara sagrada and senna herbs for more than occasional use, and diet teas. In practice, I see many patients whose bodies become dependent on laxative teas and herbal laxatives, which can be difficult to stop, and not certainly not healthy for the digestive tract.
6. Taking anti-microbial herbs without additional probiotics
The use of strongly detoxing herbs such as berberine, oregano, olive leaf, wormwood and more can be excellent support to clear out bad bacteria, yeast and parasites from the digestive tract, but they will also wipe out your healthy probiotic bacteria. In this case, the herbs can be very helpful for restoring gut balance, but please ensure that you are also taking a good brand of probiotics too, ideally in the 15-30 billion organisms per day range.
7. Cleansing without medical supervision
There are certain scenarios where cleansing without medical supervision can be dangerous. If you take daily medications, have insulin-dependent diabetes, have an immune-compromised condition or are on an immunosuppressant medication, have a kidney or liver disorder, it is essential to speak with a naturopathic physician before beginning a cleanse or detox. Herbal supplements can change the action of your medications, making them either more or less effective, and must be carefully considered by a qualified health professional.
Overall, I am a big supporter of a healthy cleanse or detox once or twice a year. Just make sure that you are choosing safely for your body, and setting yourself up for success. A cleanse can be an excellent reset, or a jump-start towards optimal health!
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