Whole Body Cleanses – Worth It?

No.  This post is not about the ongoing need to take regular baths.  Although that topic might be worthy of a post, too 🙂

I thought I’d write a little about the concept of whole body cleanses.  You know….the internal kind.  Before I get too far in on this, let me be clear about a couple of things:  (1) I am not a nutritionist.  If you saw the kinds of junk I regularly eat, you’d be appalled.  Beer?  Check.  Bacon?  Should be its own food group.  Fried stuff?  Ummm…I grew up in the south – eating fried things is second nature to me.  (2) I have never done a cleanse before – at least purposefully.  There was that one time I pretty much cleaned everything out of my body after eating 25 blazing “nuclear” buffalo wings, but that’s a different story. (The “exit tax” was high).

To be completely honest, up until recently, I don’t think I really even knew what a cleanse was.  Sure, I’ve read on blogs and a variety of articles or posts where people said they were doing a cleanse, or that they have done one.  Lots of people essentially give up one type of food or another as part of a strategy to cleanse themselves.  I suspect, for example, that for lots of folks the concept of being gluten-free has nothing to do with irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease, but rather more a choice to limit the amount of gluten that they consume.  But, I don’t think I really knew what a cleanse was until just recently.

I guess I thought that a cleanse was basically when you drank a bottle of laxative and spent a day or ten doing nothing but pooping.  Holy Hemorrhoids, Batman!

And I guess that may actually be part of a cleanse…but I get the sense that there’s more to it.  If you consult the Oracle of all Knowledge (a/k/a:  Google) about “Body Cleanse” you will quickly find about 39 million (yes, MILLION) results.  If you refine it to “Juice Cleanse” you will find another 15 million results.

The bottom line is that there’s a lot of people talking about, and apparently doing, these cleanse things.

But, why?  What’s the purpose of fasting or drinking nothing but green smoothies or a strange concoction of water-lemon-cayenne-pepper-and-maple-syrup?

First and foremost, there’s a clear linkage between these types of activities and dieting.  People believe that fasting and following these cleanse routines will help you lose weight.  Some people will tell you that a cleanse will help strip all the extra crap out of your intestines (yes, pun was intended).  According to some folks, you, me and the person next to you are all carrying around several pounds of poop that is stuck to our innards and doing nothing but making us heavier.

Another common reason given for doing cleanses is that they can help with detoxifying the body.

Some folks think, apparently, that over time bad junk builds up in our bodies and causes irreparable harm. Toxins like heavy metals, excess garlic, and other waste products build upon each other and need to be assisted out of our body.

There are quite a lot of data regarding the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of cleanses.

Renowned medical providers such as Mayo Clinic offer some concerns about colon cleansing.  In this article, they warn that colon cleansing can lead to dehydration, increased risk of infection and changes in electrolyte balance.  They also mention “bowel perforations”.  While I’m not exactly sure what those are, I get a mental image of a little guy running around the inside of your bowel with a hole-puncher thingie making little divots in your intestine.

The Harvard Medical School calls detoxification diets or products “dubious” and question the scientific effectiveness of cleanses.

I’m a little skeptical about the body’s need to have a little help cleaning out toxins in the first place.  After all, we were created with a pretty intense filtering system already in place.  Our kidneys, liver, and intestines do nothing but filter stuff.  It’s what they were made to do!

All this said, though, I’m not looking to pick a fight with anyone that believes cleanses are the bees-knees.  I honestly don’t know.  Do they work?  Are they harmful?  Are they placebo?  I’ve got no clue.  As I said, I’ve never done one, so I can’t personally vouch for their effectiveness or lack thereof.  At the end of the day, there might be a good thing associated with some of the cleanse diets:  they get people to eat more fruit and veggies.  People all across the globe – and in particular in America – often don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables.  So, if doing a cleanse is the only way to boost make a change in that department, why not do it?  All things in moderation, I suppose.

Now excuse me while I go work on my own version of a cleanse.  20 extra-spicy “nuclear” chicken wings.  And a beer.

And maybe some Mexican food.

…just don’t forget the toilet paper!


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