Detoxes or cleanses tend to get a bit of an unfair rap- but who can blame the nay-sayers? Cleanses and detoxes can be extreme, ridiculous, tedious and downright dangerous so it’s no wonder people consider them to be cruel and unusual. However, if done properly, under the appropriate circumstances and with the right supervision, detoxes can be healthy, rejuvenating and put a little extra pep in your step.

The change of season is a popular time to conduct such human tests of self-control because each season feels like a new beginning in a sense- especially in the transition from summer to fall. The school year revs up, teachers and students alike are clambering to get back into the classroom, everyone is back from vacation and you can finally emerge from your spot in front of the portable AC unit.

Nearly every cell in the body has a finite lifespan, ranging from 3-4 days if we are referring to a neutrophil (the white blood cell responsible for fighting off acute foreign antigens) to hepatocytes (liver cells) or osteoblasts (bone cells) which fully regenerate over the course of years. Red blood cells live for about 140 days, whereas keratinocytes (skin cells) take about 2 weeks to regenerate. As you can see, the body does not cycle in a simplest or predictable way and therefore it is tough to say how long it would take the body to fully detox. However, I must add, that there is no harm in being more diligent about what one is eating, or how one is actively living as it pertains to our overall health.

When I suggest detoxes or cleanses to patients, it is typically for one of the following reasons:

1. They have specifically asked to do a cleanse or detox. Call me crazy but I listen to the wishes of my patients. Sure, it is up to me to educate and counsel my patients but it is not my job to talk them out of something they want to do. And often times, and with my more intuitive patients, they are listening to their bodies and that is what it is telling them. For these patients and depending on their individual health, I often recommend some basic dietary changes and adjustments, along with some simple drainage techniques, ranging from UNDA protocols, to dry skin brushing (and yes, dry skin brushing is as enjoyable as it sounds).

2. A patient is looking to lose weight. Often, weight loss is a secondary byproduct of detoxing or cleansing because as was mentioned above, dietary changes are implemented and can be a stark contrast to one’s summertime habits (come on, don’t pretend you didn’t dabble in the pinot grigio…). Weight loss achieved through this manner is not typically sustained unless the patient is committed to maintaining the dietary changes. I only typically recommend detoxing for this purpose if a patient feels like they need a little kick start to get back to their previous and consistently healthy way of living. In my experience, weight loss is almost never actually about the weight and thus rarely ever rectified by detoxing.

3. The post-holiday “downs”. Nothing can distract you from the end of vacation or the end of a fun holiday like taking away all of the yummy enjoyments of life, amiright? But it’s a great time to re-evaluate how you’ve been living- especially for those with chronic issues like eczema, IBS or high cholesterol. These patients in particular will notice flare-ups of symptoms post-vacation/patio season so I like to transition them back into a healthy, anti-inflammatory state by supporting the emunctory organs (organs responsible for primary elimination of body byproducts and toxins), such as the intestines, liver, kidneys and digestive tract. This is achieved through a multitude of different modalities but mostly involves lemons, cayenne, maple syrup and nothing else for 30 days. I kid, I kid- that cleanse is CRAZY and I NEVER recommend that to anyone unless of course you are stranded on an island and there is nothing else to consume except the above ingredients.

In summation, detoxing and cleansing, while not mutually exclusive terms (that’s another post), can both be achieved successfully when utilize properly and under professional (and adult) supervision. Be careful not to fall victim to fad/crash diets or juice crazes and be wary of anything that suggests the extreme restriction of food. Because spoiler alert: our bodies need food. Before jumping into anything, see your physician (Family Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor) to learn more about what would be most appropriate for you.