So you have heard of doing a “detox”, but have you heard of doing a “nutritional cleanse”?
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A DETOX AND NUTRITIONAL CLEANSE
First off, it should be pointed out that detoxification is a central component of any good health and wellness program. There are many detox regimens out there today, ranging from a simple colon cleanse, to the use of enemas, colonics, other detoxes like the liver detox, candida detox, parasite detox, and many others. Typically, detoxification programs target one area of the body or one function of the body. These forms of detoxification are perfect for specific issues one might be facing, or addressing certain disease processes in the body. But what about something for those people who wish to lose weight, feel good, reduce stress, sleep better, and have better energy and mood? The good news is, there is this concept of “nutritional cleansing” which targets the whole person, in order to address these kinds of common concerns that most people experience.
NUTRITIONAL CLEANSE DEFINED
A good nutritional cleansing program helps remove harmful toxins and impurities from the body, but done as part of a healthy diet, and includes food as a key part of a cleanse. A nutritional cleanse feeds your body with quality nutrients, herbs and botanicals to help it return to its natural balance. Ultimately, a nutritional cleanse is a way to get the junk out while putting the grade A fuel into the body.
Cleansing is happily different from other “diets”. With a nutritional cleanse, a more holistic approach is taken to detoxification, where food, high-quality protein, and targeted formulations for stress, detox, and, metabolism help you achieve optimal health for the whole body. In addition, periodic, intermittent fasting for 1-2 days helps the body focus its energy on organ repair and regeneration.
There is a body of evidence in both animals and humans has been steadily building to support nutritional cleansing as a foundation for weight control, appetite regulation, improved insulin sensitivity, brain health, cell and tissue maintenance, and detoxification.
For any successful cleanse or detox program, some form of intermittent fasting is key. Common intermittent fasting methods involve daily 16-hour fasts or fasting for 24 hours, twice per week. Humans have actually been fasting throughout evolution. Sometimes it was done because the food was not available, and it has also been a part of major religions, including Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism. When you think about it, our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t have supermarkets, refrigerators or food available year-round. Sometimes we couldn’t find anything to eat, and our bodies evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time. If anything, fasting from time to time is more “natural” than constantly eating 3-4 (or more) meals per day.
Weight loss is the most common reason that people try intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting changes hormone levels to facilitate weight loss. In addition to lower insulin and increased growth hormone levels, it increases the release of the fat burning hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline). Because of these changes in hormones, short-term fasting may actually increase your metabolic rate by 3.6-14%. There is also one study showing that intermittent fasting causes less muscle loss than the more standard method of continuous calorie restriction.
Without further hesitation, here are 6 great reasons to do a nutritional cleanse program:
Reason #1: Weight Control
One of the first things that people notice when they embark on a nutritional cleanse, is weight loss. Studies on intermittent fasting have shown that it is just as an effective approach for weight loss as compared to cutting calories. In one study, overweight women who fasted intermittently for six months lost more weight than women who restricted their calories each day.
Reason #2: Reset Food Cravings
It would seem that after a day of not eating, one would be more likely to gorge on food when it was re-introduced. Not so. Evidence suggests that when intermittent fasting becomes a habit, less food is commonly eaten during normal calorie days. Some theories imply that this could be due to the shrinking of the stomach on fast days so that you are less likely to overindulge at meal time.
Reason #3: Reset Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin sensitivity—how well insulin does its job of ushering glucose in the blood (after eating food) into the appropriate body tissues where it is used for energy—also looks to be “reset” by fasting. One study showed that healthy men who fasted for 20 hours every other day for 15 days had increased rates of glucose uptake, signifying improved insulin sensitivity and better blood sugar control.
Reason #4: Brain Protection
Research on fasting’s effect on brain and mood has so far been done on animals, but the results are still promising. It appears that fasting stimulates the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which increases the resistance of brain neurons to degeneration and preserves learning and memory. Fasting has also shown to be beneficial in the brain for stimulating the growth of new brain neurons, called neurogenesis. When levels of BDNF increase, so do levels of serotonin, otherwise known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter. This could help explain why one study among aging men found that after two-day fasts, their moods and perceptions of quality of life were improved.
Reason #5: Time for the Body to go to Work–On Itself
One of the most important defense mechanisms the body has to guard itself against aging is a process called autophagy. Autophagy can be thought of as the body doing its own internal “housekeeping” so that all organ systems and processes continue to run smoothly. Old, damaged cell components are repaired or discarded so that cells can continue to function optimally. Autophagy in the body decreases as we age, so the body’s ability to self-help itself is reduced as well. Calorie restriction, including fasting, has been found to promote autophagy to mend the body’s cells. It’s as if the consumption of fewer calories allows the body to rest and to go into recovery mode. This has been proposed to be the reason why calorie restriction and fasting have an “anti-aging” effect.
Reason #6: Detoxification
Often misunderstood, improved detoxification (or the increased efficiency of phase 1, 2, and 3 enzyme systems) while on a nutritional cleanse may be one of the most fascinating parts of the scientific story behind detoxification and cleansing. Nutritional support in the form of antioxidant vitamins and botanicals is essential in the detoxification process because some toxins are produced as the result of free radical activity. Additionally, nutritional support is needed to counteract the oxidative damage caused by toxins.
A nutritional cleanse does more than just help you lose weight. As science has shown, cleansing benefits aspects of the entire body, helping it to reset, and restore. By including a nutritional cleanse in your lifestyle, you are committing to living healthier and for longer.