We’ve mentioned already that there’s more than one way to cleanse. In fact, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of different ways to pull toxins out of your body to restore good health. Want to know more?
We’ve broken cleansing down into four general approaches. If you’ve ever wondered how different types of detox diets work, or which type of cleansing might be right for you, here’s a quick and dirty guide to the essentials!
Fasting usually means no food at all, but the term is sometimes also used on juice cleanses and programs that involve a liquid detox diet.
Fasting is as tried-and-true as the world’s oldest religions, but tradition doesn’t necessarily make it the best choice for modern lives. The idea behind a fasting diet is to have your body burn fat for fuel, releasing toxins stored in body-fat, and in general, let your digestive system rest from all the work it normally does, and focus your body’s energies on eliminating toxins instead. If you fast for more than a few days, though, it can be very stressful for your body and starving your body of nutrients it uses to detoxify may actually slow down the detoxification process as your metabolism grinds to a halt.
Fasting can also bring on serious “cleansing crisis” symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, nausea, exhaustion, rashes, and disorientation, or it can worsen these problems if you’re already experiencing them.
So although fasting has some upsides, we don’t recommend it unless you really like doing things the hard way.
Dietary cleanses are usually based on three steps: eliminating processed foods and other sources of toxins; increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables and clean water to increase excretion of wastes from the body; and at the same time building up your body with nutrient-dense whole foods. A Candida cleanse, which eliminates refined sugars and carbs, is a good example in this category.
Like fasting, you’ll find that most dietary cleanses involve restrictions on the amount of fat and protein you’re eating, which can cause more stress on your organs and contribute to “crisis” symptoms like headaches, fatigue and skin breakouts. While dietary cleanses can be very effective, it’s important to ensure that you’re getting enough calories and a healthy balance of carbohydrates, fats, and protein.
The easiest type of cleanse uses herbal medicines, homeopathic medicines and other natural remedies to support the liver and pull toxins out of your organs. Supplement cleanses are easy to find in any health food store, but they aren’t all created equal. Some are very effective, while others are a complete waste of money. Some include ingredients that may be dangerous.
If you choose to use supplements, make sure that your cleanse includes something to support and cleanse the liver, as well as ingredients to keep your bowels moving and prevent constipation.
It’s important to see that both of these areas are addressed to prevent problems.
As you might imagine, dietary cleanses (if done safely) are slower than supplement cleanses and will be less effective at purging deep toxicity like heavy metals. On the other hand, supplement cleanses are often hindered by what people are eating while they cleanse – processed food, sugar and caffeine will only get in the way of a cleanse. Naturally, then, the best solution is going to be a combination of these two approaches.
The cleanses that we recommend to clients usually involve small changes to their diet to include more whole grains, fruits, and veggies; while avoiding processed foods. We also recommend regular exercise, as well as supplements that support the liver and help clear toxins out of the colon as you cleanse. And we monitor your progress to ensure that you’re cleansing at a safe, moderate rate that’s good for your body.
If you’re interested in learning more or doing a cleanse, visit our Metabolic Detoxification page, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone to schedule an appointment. Stay tuned for next week’s blog about what to expect during your first cleanse.
Posted: 2013 May 9
Clean From the Inside Out
Metabolic detoxification is the mechanism by which the vast majority of chemicals are removed from your body. Chemicals you are exposed to in the course of your daily life, and which can remain in your body’s fat stores long-term, include:
- Hormone disrupting pesticides in foods
- Cancer causing food additives
- Food additives that have been linked to hyperactivity in children
- Hormone disrupting toxic metals in fish
- Chemicals in household cleaners that are carcinogenic, and have been linked to birth defects
- Chemicals in air pollution that have been linked to heart disease
- Hormone disrupting chemicals that are ubiquitous in the environment (e.g., in fire retardants, non-stick cookwear)
- Liver-toxic chemicals in medications (e.g., antibiotics, acetaminophen [Tylenol®])
How does metabolic detoxification work?
Many organs participate in metabolic detoxification, but the organs most involved in this process are the liver and lymphoid tissue in the gastrointestinal tract.
“Toxins” you are exposed to are carried in your blood. Metabolic detoxification is a multi-stage process:
- “Phase 1” of metabolic detoxification involves “extraction” of these chemicals from your blood.
- “Phase 2” involves binding of these chemicals, usually to proteins, that act as “carriers”, to be, ultimately removed from your body.
- Once “packaged” for removal, toxins are excreted in the urine, or into the gut via bile for excretion by bowel movements.
Is a metabolic detoxification protocol appropriate for me?
Anyone can benefit from periodic metabolic detoxification: we are all exposed to potentially harmful chemicals daily; we are not all genetically “efficient detoxifiers” (some of us are as much as 1000 times less efficient at detoxification than others); and research demonstrates that detoxifying efficiency can be improved using a metabolic detoxification program.
Completing a metabolic detoxification program may be ideal for you if you:
- Have been diagnosed with a health condition that may be related to exposure to toxic substances (e.g., fibromyalgia, infertility, obesity, hyperactivity)
- Frequently experience non-specific symptoms such as fatigue, poor concentration, headaches , abdominal bloating, constipation or muscle aches
- Work (e.g., farmer, painter) or live (e.g., old home, urban environment) in an environment where you are exposed to high levels of potentially toxic substances
- Are a “smoker”
- Are planning to become pregnant
- Have a score of greater than 15 on completion of a “Metabolic Screening Questionnaire” (a measurement tool for symptoms such as fatigue, poor concentration, headaches, abdominal bloating, constipation, muscle aches, etc. that may be related to inefficient metabolic detoxification)
Is there scientific support for use of metabolic detoxification programs?
Research has demonstrated that a metabolic detoxification program of as few as seven days can increase removal of chemicals by the liver by 23%, and reduce “Metabolic Screening Questionnaire” scores by 47%.
In a different study, a 10-week metabolic detoxification program decreased “Metabolic Screening Questionnaire” scores by 52%.
Are metabolic detoxification programs safe?
Metabolic detoxification programs are safe, with very few exceptions.
You should not participate in a metabolic detoxification program if you are:
You should not participate in a metabolic detoxification program without the guidance of a healthcare professional if you:
- Are using a prescription medication that has potentially dangerous side effects
- Are using a prescription medication to manage a potentially fatal health condition
- Have diabetes mellitus
- Have a liver condition
- Have a kidney condition
- Have a history of an eating disorder
I have none-of-the-above, should I consult with a naturopathic doctor guidance for my metabolic detoxification program?
Although you can safely complete a metabolic detoxification program on your own, you will optimize the results of your program with guidance from a naturopathic doctor.
A successful metabolic detoxification program requires management of many biochemical and physiological factors, including:
- Minimization of potentially toxic substances in the diet
- Mobilization of fat-soluble toxins from body tissues
- Consumption of nutrients that support your body’s “phase 1” and, more importantly, “phase 2” metabolic detoxification pathways
- Consumption of foods that minimize potential for side effects of a metabolic detoxification program
- Consumption of foods that optimize kidney excretion of water-soluble toxins
- Increasing of bile production and secretion to maximize excretion of fat-soluble toxins
- Maintenance of daily bowel habits to ensure excretion of fat-soluble toxins
- Protection, if appropriate, of liver cells
Many commercially available detoxification products address only one or a few of these parameters.
Naturopathic doctors are the most qualified healthcare professionals in the biochemistry of metabolic detoxification; and nutritional counseling and use of nutritional supplements and botanical (herbal) medicines to optimize your body’s metabolic detoxification potential.
Are metabolic detoxification appointments covered by O.H.I.P.?
O.H.I.P. does not pay for naturopathic medicine services, but as a government-regulated healthcare profession, services offered by naturopathic doctors, including metabolic detoxification appointments provided at Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine are covered by most extended healthcare plans.
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Cleaning Supplies and Your Health [Internet]. Environmental Working Group. [cited 2015 Apr 10]. Available from: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/content/cleaners_and_health.
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Over the course of May, we plan to give you a more thorough look at how to eliminate toxins and develop better health, beginning with this week’s blog post on the myths and facts about cleansing. Here are some of the most common myths we hear about cleansing, debunked by our naturopathic doctors:
Myth #1: Your body cleanses all on its own, no help necessary.
In a perfect world, this would be true – but we don’t live in a perfect world. Our digestive tracts aren’t designed to handle “foods” like bleached white flour, “processed cheese product”, artificial flavours and preservatives. Our lungs can’t easily filter out airborne chemicals like road tar, lawn pesticides and car exhaust fumes. We throw toxins at our bodies all day and they do an amazing job of coping, but in a modern environment they need a helping hand.
Myth #2: During a cleanse, you should expect to feel exhausted, sick, and angry.
You might also hear the related myth, cleansing is bad for you.
False! While it’s true that some cleanses will leave you feeling tired or grumpy at first – especially if you’re used to relying on coffee or sugar to keep your mood and energy levels high – the long-term benefits of cleansing include greater energy, more mental clarity, consistently better moods and fewer headaches. On the other hand, some types of cleanses and detox diets are genuinely bad for you, which is why it’s always best to do a cleanse under a naturopathic doctor’s supervision.
Myth #3: You’ll be running to the bathroom all the time while you cleanse.
This is absolutely not the case! If you’ve had this experience before or heard about it from someone who has, we’d love to know what kind of cleanse you or they were on – because it wasn’t a healthy one.
Myth #4: Cleansing is a quick fix for weight loss.
False. Some people do lose weight on a cleanse, but it should never happen suddenly. Cleansing is absolutely not a “quick fix” to any sort of symptoms or body issues.
We discourage our clients from cleansing primarily to lose weight, because weight loss during detoxification is unpredictable. Pulling toxins out of your body may result in weight loss, or it might not. The types of cleanses that guarantee weight loss usually do so by sharply reducing caloric intake, which results in people losing water weight and muscle, not fat. That’s not the kind of cleanse we promote or provide for our patients.
Myth #5: You have to stop eating everything and go on a fast/juice cleanse/lemonade diet to cleanse properly.
Not so. There are dozens of different ways to approach cleansing and many of them are more effective than fasting. While fasts and juice cleanses are well known, they’re very difficult on both will-power and your body. We prefer to guide clients toward a gradual cleanse that incorporates most of your regular diet, editing out only foods that challenge the body’s detoxification organs and adding botanical medicines and other natural supplements that support the liver and colon.
The flip side of this myth, of course, is …
Myth #6: All you have to do is take this over the counter, one-size-fits-all supplement and you’re set. Cleansing is easy!
Whoa, partner. If you’re going to cleanse properly, it’s never that simple. One-size-fits-all supplements are a bad idea as a general rule, and cleansing really needs to be customized to fit your goals and your current health needs. That’s why it’s so important to speak with a naturopathic doctor before you cleanse—you’ll avoid most of the pitfalls and get a cleansing protocol that’s tailored to fit your body and your lifestyle.
If you’re interested in learning more or doing a cleanse, visit our Metabolic Detoxification page, or contact us at email@example.com or by telephone to schedule an appointment. And stay tuned for more information on different approaches to cleansing in the next few blog posts!
Posted: 2013 May 9
Everyone has their own annual traditions, but did you know that your body also has its own habits that are closely linked to the seasons? Spring is a natural time for your body to shed toxins and that makes it a smart time to do cleansing.
Detoxification is part of virtually every holistic health tradition, from Ayurveda to naturopathic medicine, and it can yield significant benefits whether you’re healthy, fighting off a series of flu bugs, or pursuing a cure for a chronic condition.
Why Cleansing and Detoxification is Important for Lasting Health
What you eat plays a role in your health – but the air you breathe, the water that comes out of your tap (or bottle, or well), and the ingredients in your personal care products are also important factors. All of these can contain toxins that affect health, either in the long run or the short-term.
Short-term toxins are more well-known and better recognized. If something causes immediate vomiting or is life-threatening if swallowed, then it has to be taken seriously. But long-term toxins like petrochemicals and artificial additives are just as serious a concern in the long run, although they may take years or decades to make you sick.
Examples of long-term toxins in our everyday lives include:
- Estrogen-mimicking compounds that leach out of plastic water bottles
- Carcinogenic chemicals in shampoo, body wash or deodorant
- Pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables
- Airborne toxins from gasoline, paint, plastic or floor varnish
The Body’s Own Cleansing Mechanisms
Mainstream medicine tends to take the position that the human body is capable of cleansing and detoxifying on its own. To a certain extent, that’s true. Your liver, colon, kidneys, and lymphatic system are all designed to pull wastes out of your body and eliminate them before they can do any harm. Your lungs and skin play a major role in this process, too, and even fat tissue helps to segregate toxins where they can’t hurt you.
But that’s not the end of the story. In a world where chemicals are everywhere, where it’s hard to buy a meal without ingesting a dozen different preservatives and artificial flavours, our bodies are subjected to more toxins and environmental stress than they were a century or even a decade ago. Sometimes that toxin load is more than your body can handle, and that’s where detoxification comes in, to ease some of that chemical burden and improve health on all levels.
Research Supports the Health Benefits of Cleansing
The science bears this theory out. In one study, chronically ill patients who underwent ten weeks of cleansing decreased their symptoms by an average of 52%. Participants in another clinical trial who cleansed using dietary changes and a detoxification supplement improved their metabolic function in only a week. They also were found to process chemical markers through the liver (including caffeine and sodium benzoate) faster that they had only a week earlier, before cleansing. (Macintosh A., Ball K. The effects of a short program of detoxification in disease-free individuals. Alternative Therapies. 2000 Jul; 6(4):70-6.)
In our practice at TCNM, we’ve found that the benefits of cleansing can be transformative. Our clients report more energy, clearer thinking, less pain, and lessening of other chronic problems and symptoms – sometimes even symptoms that didn’t respond to other treatments.
Don’t Try This at Home
Of course, it’s important to cleanse with care. Cleansing too quickly can lead to headaches, skin breakouts, and other irritating symptoms, and a lot of the information out there in the media is just plain wrong. That’s why it’s vital to cleanse under supervision of a naturopathic doctor who can provide you with the guidance and support to find the right detoxification plan for you.
Posted: 2013 March 25
We’ve talked about the myths, several different approaches to cleansing, and what you should expect during your first cleanse. Now we’d like to dive into the TCNM approach to safe, natural, holistic detoxification.
Your TCNM Cleanse
At TCNM, we believe that cleansing needs to be balanced so you can achieve the greatest health benefits with the least discomfort or inconvenience. That means taking things one step at a time, following your body’s cues, and planning ahead.
The first step in a good cleanse is to ensure regular bowel movements. Flushing toxins from the liver and other body tissues won’t do you any good unless these poisons can exit the body smoothly and easily. In fact, if you’re constipated, cleansing can actually make matters worse, so we begin by ensuring any issues around constipation are resolved, and by increasing your water intake.
At the same time, it’s important to lessen your everyday toxin load. The fewer toxins you’re exposed to, the easier it will be for your body to flush out the ones it’s already stored. That means eliminating processed foods and avoiding things like fresh paint, cleaning chemicals, synthetic perfumes and beauty products. We believe that eating a diet that is organic, allergen-free and intolerance-free is a much better option than fasting, because it supports your body through your cleanse with high quality nutrition.
Once you’re eliminating regularly and your toxin load has come down, the next step is to mobilize stored toxins using herbal medicines that support the liver. The liver is one of the major detoxification organs of the human body, and it’s where the bulk of built-up toxins are metabolized. Enzymatic liver detox needs to be done gradually, to ensure that toxins leave the body safely.
We also recommend aerobic exercise to release toxins stored in fat cells (as your body “burns” fat cells for energy) and increase the movement of blood and lymph. These benefits combine to speed toxins from your body stores to your elimination organs and move them out of your body.
Who Should Do a Cleanse?
Even if you do everything else right for your health, it’s a good idea to do a cleanse once a year to flush toxins that you may have picked up from air pollution, city water, personal care products or the occasional takeout meal. Cleansing is an especially good idea if you suffer from:
- Food allergies or intolerances
- Poor mental clarity
- Eczema or other skin problems
- Chronic Fatigue Syndome
Who Should Never Cleanse?
Although we are big proponents of cleansing at TCNM, there are some cases where detoxification is not a good idea. These include:
- During pregnancy
- While fighting off a cold or flu
- If you have an eating disorder, or a health history of having had an eating disorder
- Very young children or elderly patients
- If you take pharmaceutical drugs that could be life-threatening to discontinue, or have a narrow therapeutic index (i.e., have a very small difference between the effective dose, and an ineffective dose or a dose potentially having side effects)
Even if none of these situations describe you, it’s always best to consult a naturopathic doctor before beginning a cleanse to ensure that it’s safe for you.
What Makes the TCNM Approach to Cleansing Unique?
Cleansing is something that can change your life by improving your health, vitality, mental fitness, and more, but it doesn’t have to take over your entire life. We believe cleansing can be as simple and as powerful as you make it. With the guidance of a naturopathic doctor and a little bit of smart planning at home, it’s possible to continue all of your usual activities, including work, social life, fitness, and anything else on your plate, all while you do your body a big favour in the long run.
Interested in learning more about the TCNM approach to cleansing, or in doing a cleanse? Visit or Metabolic Detoxification page, or contact us in Toronto at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone to schedule an appointment.
Posted: 2013 May 9
There are a lot of myths about cleansing floating around, many of which we’ve already debunked in an earlier blog post. But if you won’t feel tired and cranky or be running to the bathroom all day, what should you expect during your first cleanse?
Read on for the answer!
Welcome to Cleansing
Although every person will experience a cleanse slightly differently, there are some common features. For many people, cleansing will happen so gradually that the changes are all but invisible. One day you’re going about your life as normal. The next day you’re cleansing, but nothing much feels different.
Changes Can Happen as You Cleanse
Most people will notice a gradual series of changes once they’re one week or several weeks into a cleanse – less fatigue after a long day at work, fewer aches and pains or the realization that your occasional headaches haven’t come around in a while. You may start to have more energy when you exercise. You might notice that you’re using less makeup to cover up blemishes, or that irritating twinge you’ve had in your back for years might suddenly vanish.
For other people, cleansing can cause dramatic changes right from the start. Patients who live with chronic pain will often notice improvements more quickly, as will people with severe allergies. If you’ve been living with digestive problems or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you’re likely to notice quick improvements.
If you’re the sort of person who relies on coffee first thing in the morning or a sugar rush to get you through stressful parts of your day, you may have a rough transition as you begin your cleanse. That’s not really due to the cleanse – it’s your addiction to caffeine or sugar making itself known. These first few days will be a lot easier if you can wean yourself off of coffee, sugar and other vices gradually in the weeks before you start your cleanse.
Planning for Your First Cleanse
There are a few things you can do to make your first cleanse easier and more pleasant:
- Plan your cleanse at a time when you’ll be able to prepare your own meals
- Prepare a list of tasty food alternatives for the things you’re avoiding
- Plan a grocery list and meal ideas
- Wean yourself off of caffeine, sugar, alcohol and other “toxins”
- Ensure that you’re having regular, daily bowel movements before you start to cleanse
- Do what you can to decrease your toxin load by avoiding paint fumes, cleaning products, nail polish, perfumes, hair dyes and other chemicals
- Make sure to stay hydrated by keeping a water bottle with you at all times
- Keep healthy snacks in your desk, purse/backpack, fridge, etc.
- Prepare to slip up occasionally, and try not to feel guilty when you do
- Prepare yourself with the knowledge that cleansing isn’t always easy. You may notice some discomfort, especially in the first two weeks of your cleanse. If you experience headache, nausea, irritability, body odor or any other issues as you start your cleanse, don’t give up! Stay on target and inform your naturopathic doctor of all the details so they can adjust your cleanse as needed.
Posted: 2013 May 9