Cleansing has become a popular way to lose weight and get healthy, but knowing how to detox (instead of just crash dieting) makes all the difference in whether you'll stay healthy and feel good. Before you jump into a detox diet or extreme cleanse, read our primer on how to cleanse in the best way for your body:
WHAT IS A CLEANSE?
The definition of a cleanse is broad: Basically, it's any kind of diet or lifestyle regimen that is aimed at detoxing the body and restoring optimal health. Unfortunately, “cleansing” is often synonymous with weight loss and even disordered eating, but cleansing can be a healthy part of your routine if you find the right kind of cleanse or detox diet for your body and lifestyle.
HOW TO CLEANSE
While many diet books and detox experts will claim to have the ultimate cleansing instructions, most people who cleanse regularly find that they develop their own preferences about what to eat and drink.
The section below details how to cleanse, according to several different methods, but something to strongly consider is how to support your cleanse with activities beyond diet. It's important to choose a cleanse that will match your activity levels: If you're doing a juice fast, for example, chances are you'll be consuming fewer calories than usual. Doing this during a time when you're working less and able to rest at home more is smart. If that's not possible, choose a cleanse that incorporates more calories. And with any cleanse, it's important to prioritize getting enough sleep, and reducing stress. Promoting relaxation with yoga, massage and meditation during a cleanse are popular ways to encourage a mental and physical detox.
There is no one best cleanse; in fact, with the growing popularity of juice cleanses and cleansing supplements, there are way too many options to catalog here. Check out our section below to learn a little about the different methods of cleansing:
Sugar Detox – Cutting all sugar from your diet can be an effective way to detox for many people, and is a popular way to cleanse without depriving your body of nutrition or calories. Many people also eliminate wheat, meat, dairy, alcohol and caffeine while maintaining a diet of whole foods to detox. Not only does this approach support higher energy levels during the cleanse; it's also one of the easiest, cheapest ways to detox.
Juice Cleanse – One of the most popular detox methods is a juice fast: Any extended period of time (from one day to several) during which you drink fresh juices and refrain from eating solid foods. The idea is to give your internal organs a break from the work of digesting solid foods, while providing concentrated nutrition through fresh juices that incorporate several fruits, vegetables and, often, herbs.
Juice fasting has been growing in popularity, in large part thanks to companies and restaurants that serve fresh juice and offer pre-made cleanse packages to customers, as a result of the raw foods movement, which tends to encourage drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juice. Recently, the movie “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead,” in which filmmaker Joe Cross documents his experience of juice fasting for 60 days, has also helped push juicing into the mainstream.
Colon Cleansing – High-fiber supplements and colonics are often prescribed as part of a cleanse to clear the digestive system. While many debate whether the intestines, liver, and kidneys really require this kind of artificial detox, increasing fiber to encourage healthy digestion is a good idea for anyone, and some people report improved energy and even improved skin after colon cleansing.
Master Cleanse: also known as the “Lemonade Diet,” this was probably made most famous by Beyonce, who reportedly survived on nothing but the master cleanse recipe for lemonade–water, lemon juice, cayenne, and maple syrup–for several days to prep for her role in Dreamgirls. But the Master Cleanse has ostensibly been around for over 50 years, according to Stanley Burroughs, who first published instructions as a pamphlet in the 50s (and was later convicted of second-degree felony murder, felony practicing medicine without a license, and unlawful sale of cancer treatments).
Although some report feeling great on the 10 day detox, many report feeling irritable and hungry–and it's not surprising: The cleanse involves very few calories and little nutritional value, which isn't practical for someone who intends to continue working and being physically active during their cleanse.
Fasting Detox – The most extreme method of cleansing is to fast completely–drinking only water (or sometimes a light vegetable broth)–to stay hydrated while you stop consuming calories completely. We don't recommend this unless you're under the supervision of a qualified medical expert.
Like with most diets, there's considerable debate amongst qualified professionals over whether cleansing really supports better health. It isn't recommended for anyone struggling with an eating disorder or eating disorder tendencies, and it's wise for anyone considering a cleanse to consult their doctor or a medical professional.