In our instant-gratification, fast-results and low-patience society (we’re guilty too), quick fixes sound awfully appealing. Between trying to keep up with life and the hassles sometimes involved with it, we may spread ourselves too thin. We know what we should and should not be eating (for the most part), that we need to be exercising and that we must always pay attention to our health. When faced with another time crunch or the allure of a “jump-start” to our health, an easy nutrition solution feels like the answer … welcome, “cleanses.” What are they all about? Are they as life changing as the ads and media suggest? Find out here.
Companies or nutrition enthusiasts weigh in on the idea of cleanses by marketing juices and powders, or encouraging fasts for obtaining optimal health. Whole-food-based juices receive high ranks because they are a simple way to change high-volume fruits and vegetables into a neat and tidy eight-ounce glass that you can drink while on the go. Many times these juices are “raw,” meaning they haven’t been exposed to heat above 118 degrees Fahrenheit, as high temperatures can degrade the bioavailability of some nutrients. Cold-pressed juice is also popular; juice is extracted through a cold press, or masticator, at slow speeds without exposure to oxygen or heat. On the other hand, juices or cleanses that have main ingredients like “raspberry ketones,” “slippery elm,” “senna” or “bentonite clay” don’t have much evidence in research to support their health claims. Equally concerning about cleanses is the high amount of natural ingredients like cayenne pepper, peppermint leaf, lemon and maple syrup, which may induce an unnecessary laxative effect or give rise to other issues.
The concept of cleanses stems from the idea that our bodies build up toxins, pollutants and general “gunk” if we don’t regularly purify ourselves of this “body burden.” A purification regimen sounds legitimate; we’re bound to have too much foreign material lying around in our bodies somewhere that hasn’t been used properly, and may even be hindering our weight loss efforts. “Exogenous toxins” are disease-inducing substances of external origin such as chemicals and pollutants in the air or water, food additives or drugs1. Exogenous toxins can come from our diet, medication, the environment around us or even topical products we put on our skin. “Endogenous toxins” are these same types of toxic substances but are end products of the metabolism that is constantly happening inside our bodies. These toxins are produced at a molecular level from hormones, enzymes, bacteria and other microorganisms, and many complex molecules.
Let’s talk detox. We know that there may be some truth to a buildup of toxins in our bodies, but don’t our bodily systems know what to do in these situations? The actual definition of detoxification states it is the biochemical process that changes non-water-soluble toxins and metabolites into water-soluble compounds to be excreted in urine, sweat, bile or stool1. Wow. These processes greatly rely on good nutrition in the form of natural disease-fighting materials in plants known as phytonutrients, as well as minerals, amino acids and B-vitamins. Additionally, there are two identified phases in detoxification: Phase I, “functionalization” or “activation,” and Phase II, “conversion” or “conjugation”1. These first pathways normally oxidize, reduce and hydrolyze toxins to free radicals, but if the processes are inefficient, toxins are not neutralized and can continuously circulate or be deposited in the bone or soft tissue1. The second pathway takes these “intermediate toxins” and creates more stable, water-soluble substances for proper excretion.
When it comes to weight loss, reducing calories will decrease your weight. There are 3,500 calories in
a pound of body fat, and to eliminate this you must have a deficit of 3,500 calories — whether that be from a lack of food, more physical activity or a combination of both. Many times cleanses will be low-calorie and are therefore appropriate for continued weight loss efforts. However, cleanses should not be a substitute for a well-planned, balanced diet on a regular basis. Keep in mind that if a cleanse involves juicing and getting rid of any pulp from the original food, this grossly limits the amount of fiber and several vitamins normally obtained from the whole food. Additionally, if you’re having problems with your colon, instead of turning to a “colon cleanse” you should probably be seeking medical attention (or maybe boosting your fiber and fluid intakes!).
We propose that instead of approaching cleansing and detoxifying as a way to play “catch-up” with or “fix” our natural body processes, let’s just focus on putting the right things in! Being in a clean environment, shying away from dependence on medications in treating illness (unless of course it’s medically necessary), using products with ingredients you can pronounce and having a well-balanced diet will negate the need for cleansing. Start bridging the gap by adding some of these wholesome foods to your diet, all of which are known to help rev up detoxification pathways1:
Molly McBride, RD, LD, is a corporate registered dietitian for The Kroger Company, working through the Kroger Customer Connect (C|c) to provide nutrition, diet, food safety, allergen and other health-related feedback to customers and to the community. She is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Science in General Dietetics and is currently a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati towards her Masters of Science in Nutrition. Molly is involved with the Vegetarian Dietetic Practice Group and holds weight management certificates for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a Certified Food Safety Manager by the FSP National Registry and her past experiences includes work in many short and long-term care clinical settings. She also is a Zumba fanatic.
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