Written by Dr. Elizabeth Trattner
Every few months, especially this time of year after two big holidays, I am inundated with calls from patients interested in doing some sort of cleanse or detox. Whether you ate too much matzo or chocolate Easter bunnies or both, the request is still the same. “I ate too much and overindulged and now I have to clean myself out and detox.”
Having been in this field for twenty years I have seen so many fad diets and health trends come and go. Lately, cleansing has been glorified in the media depicting celebrities who do special fasts, weight loss detoxifications, and spa vacations, all in the hopes of losing a few pounds to look better at award shows or premieres.
The same mentality permeates every-day people who want to counter overeating with extreme measures. Patients are expressing their discontent with their figure and that they feel toxic and in need of a major clean-out. I am shocked and saddened by mothers who are willing to let their bodies literally eat themselves up just to get 5 pounds leaner.
Pursuing a regime of strictly limiting food intake or solely drinking juice, combined with strenuous work-outs, managing a career, running errands around town and juggling the demands of parenting is not only insane, but it is dangerous as well. Detoxing or fasting boast speedy weight loss in just a few days, however losing weight too quickly may be a sign that your body is actually burning muscle rather than fat. Furthermore, losing muscle mass will actually slow down your metabolism in the long run. Once you return to eating regular solid food, the weight you lost through a fast will quickly return and then some!
For thousands of years people have fasted during religious holidays or other rites of passage. These days were usually holy or special and the only activity for the day was to create a higher consciousness, pray and nothing more than that. There was no carpool, soccer or grocery shopping.
Today’s lifestyle isn’t always ideal for an extreme fast over the course of days or weeks. I am not against fasting or detox diets. But too often I witness people recklessly and incorrectly doing a fast.
A detox regime should not be taken lightly and must always be done under the guidance of a licensed healthcare practitioner. In fact, if you are considering a fast or detox the best time of year to do so is between April and summer, when the expansive nature of spring and summertime bring us seasonal foods that are naturally lighter in calories and have a cleansing effect.
I recommend to my patients to take a few days off from work and running around in general in order to take the additional load off their bodies. I suggest if possible to either take a “staycation” or to travel to a facility where someone else is preparing food and cleaning and the patient can actually sleep, meditate and limit their physical activity to s ome light yoga and walking.
It’s also important to take the patient’s constitution into consideration as well. Everyone is different, and for this reason no fast fits all! A mother of four children certainly requires a vastly different detox program than a woman without children, or from that of a man. Juice for one person may be just the answer, while for the next person it may completely diminish their digestive fire.
Our bodies are constantly being exposed to chemicals and the effects of modernization. From an evolutionary perspective, our bodies have not been able to adapt to modern living and the food that we consume. I often say how the flour we eat today does not remotely resemble the flour from 100 years ago. Because we recognize that our bodies are being assaulted by poor quality food, we mistakenly believe we need to constantly cleanse to rid our bodies of toxic chemicals.
The truth of the matter is that we have to work twi ce as hard as our grandparents to keep healthy food in our diet. Instead of turning to a cleanse or detox to combat our poor food choices, we should be more mindful of not loading up with junk and toxic chemicals on a daily basis.
I recommend eating organic food whenever possible. Avoid all junk food and foods made with sugar. Stay away from anything “man made” if you can make it yourself with a little more effort. And drink at least 64 ounces of filtered water every day.
If on the rare occasion you need to embark on a cleanse or detox program make sure you prepare and follow the healthy guidelines from an experienced licensed practitioner.