Trust your Gut: How Cleanses Impact Your Gastrointestinal Health

The start of a New Year means cleansing of all types. From cleansing bad energy, cleaning out your closet, and, recently, cleansing our body’s internal systems. There are many different ways to go about hitting reset on our lives and our bodies, but one of the more controversial routes to choose is detoxing or cleansing.

In the Boston area and across the United States, detoxes and cleanses have become more and more popular. The practice of ‘cleansing’ refers to the act of flushing toxins out of your system, typically through a liquid only diet accompanied by plenty of water. The gut is said to be the key to cleansing, losing weight, and improving overall health.

However, detoxing and its benefits are not cut and dry.  It’s time to flush out the truth from the trends on cleansing.

The Good

You can increase your vitamin and mineral intake.

Depending on the cleanse you choose, you may increase your intake of leafy green vegetables, fruits, and healthy proteins, in turn giving your body a boost of vitamins and minerals. However, these benefits may be short lived and often outweighed by the other negative impacts of the cleanse.

You may lose weight.

The truth is, you may lose weight. But, the weight you lose is typically a result of a loss of water and stool. If you are drinking only liquids day in and day out, your body will work to restore energy by slowing down your metabolism. When you resume eating normally, it is likely that you will gain weight rather quickly.

You can identify food sensitivities.

When on a cleanse, you will be eliminating a large number of foods.  This practice may help you identify potential triggers for your health. However, a doctor supervised elimination diet is more highly recommended for this practice.

The Bad

Cleanses do not help to eliminate toxins in the body.

One of the main allures of cleansing is that it is reported to eliminate harmful toxins in the body. However, our bodies don’t need additional help in the task of eliminating these toxins. When functioning properly, your liver and kidneys have it all under control.

Cleanses do not give your gastrointestinal system a break.

Another argument in favor of cleansing is that is gives the GI a break from having to digest and process food. However, there is no scientific research to back up this claim.

You may get sick.

Some cleanses offer unpasteurized juices which may put you at a higher risk of illness. Additionally, if your cleanse includes a laxative, you may be at risk of losing too many nutrients in your stool. With a low caloric intake, your immune system may be weakened leaving you more prone to common spreadable infections and viruses.

You may feel awful.

With a low caloric intake, you may experience the following,

  • Irritability,

  • Fatigue,

  • Hunger.

When your body is running on less calories, you are likely to feel the impacts in a number of different ways, as will your coworkers and loved ones.

Ready to pour a glass?

There are many different opinions on juicing or cleansing. If you’re not ready to fully commit to a side, you can still take a step in the right direction. Gut cleansing can be incorporated into your already existing diet, not just by juicing, but by eating a clean diet with unrefined gut-friendly foods. A few examples of gut-friendly foods are:

  • fresh vegetables,

  • unsweetened almond milk,

  • gluten-free grains,

  • organic chicken, and

  • herbal teas (especially green tea).

Foods that should be avoided for gut cleansing and those with serious gastrointestinal issues are:

  • dairy,

  • gluten,

  • foods high in sugar, and

  • coffee.

If you’re in the Boston area and want to learn more about the do’s and don’ts of gut cleansing, make an appointment with your gastroenterologist. The gastroenterologists at the Gastroenterology Healthcare Associates specialize in the digestive system and can help you set up an individualized plan for your gut health.