Cleanse your way to good health

Don’t hop on any old cleanse bandwagon. We’ve got the skinny on doing it the right way.

So is your bestie doing the ‘Master Cleanse’ and she can’t stop going on about how amazing she feels? Is this tempting you to try a cleanse and get that glow? It can seem like everywhere we turn there are ads for “detox” products making all kinds of promises, but many of them could be more dangerous than they are helpful. We got the lowdown from Dr. Sara Celik, a naturopathic doctor in Toronto who has 10 years’ experience in clinical practice on the right way to cleanse.

So what does a cleanse do? “It’s hitting the reset button,” says Dr. Celik. She prefers to use the word cleanse, because “detox” is what the body already does on its own.

“The body naturally detoxes every single day,” Dr. Celik says. “A cleanse is essentially supporting what the body already does.”

She’s a huge fan of cleanses, but only when they’re paired with eating and feeding the body well – she does not recommend the common liquid-only or calorie restrictive systems that are out there because they lack nutrients and fibre.

She does recommend total body cleansing kits, which use a combination of herbs to “gently stimulate the removal of toxins” via the seven channels of elimination in our bodies.

Seven Channels of Elimination

  1. Blood
  2. Colon
  3. Kidneys
  4. Liver
  5. Lungs
  6. Lymphatic System
  7. Skin

While cleansing, it’s crucial to continue consuming your regular number of calories, enough fibre (30-40 grams a day) and enough water (take your weight in pounds, divide it by two, and the resulting number is how many ounces of water you should drink a day). It doesn’t hurt to eat healthier during a cleanse – avoid processed foods, excess sugar, and alcohol, for example – but by no means should you be starving yourself, which is what many restrictive “detox” programs essentially call for.

What Dr. Celik recommends are total body cleanses, as opposed to systems that target just the colon, as they can be very aggressive and, for the average person, not practical or healthy. If you’re interested in trying a cleanse, you can visit a specialist or naturopathic doctor like Dr. Celik, or buy kits over the counter. Dr. Celik says be sure to look for ingredients such as the following:

  • Artichoke Leaf
  • Ashwagandha Root 
  • Burdock Root
  • Dandelion Root 
  • Milk Thistle Seed - for the liver 
  • Mullein Leaf - for the lungs and especially helpful for people who have chronic congestion 
  • Red Clover Flower - great for the skin 

For gentle colon cleansing in particular, look for:

  • Cape Aloe Leaf
  • Ginger Root
  • Magnesium Hydroxide
  • Rhubarb Root
  • Triphala

The key word when doing any type of cleanse is gentle. Dr. Celik suggests trying half a dosage to see if you’re particularly sensitive to any of the herbs in the product, especially if you are self-treating.

When Should I Do a Cleanse?

People often try cleanses if they’re dealing with skin issues, experiencing low energy, or want to lose weight. However, “You don’t necessarily need to feel awful to do a cleanse,” Dr. Celik says.

It’s important to note that you should see a practitioner before starting a cleanse if you have a medical condition or are taking a medication that could make you sensitive to the cleanse ingredients. Dr. Celik also never recommends a cleanse to pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Otherwise, if you don’t fall into any of those categories, she suggests doing a total body cleanse twice a year, reiterating the point that a cleanse is like a reset button for the body.

Bear in mind, if you’re doing a cleanse and you’re not having a minimum of one bowel movement a day, Dr. Celik says stop. Check in with your doctor to make sure everything is functioning well before continuing your cleanse.