Cleansing: Good Idea or Unnecessary Restriction?

| July 15, 2008 | 9 Comments
  • 9 Comments

soap-cleanse.jpgAll of a sudden, it seems that everyone around me is doing a cleanse. I went to a work meeting a couple weeks back, and one of the women ordered a salad with no dressing, lemon on the side, and had an at-length conversation with the server about sugar in the dressing. “I’m on a cleanse,” she explained.

Dooce did it. Bay Area blogger extraordinaire Jennifer Jeffrey did it.

And in the greatest tipping point of them all, Oprah got into the cleanse craze after reading Kathy Freston’s book Quantum Wellness. Oprah ate a vegan diet and gave up alcohol and caffeine for 21 days. Of course in typical Oprah style, she had a private chef cooking for her most days who even overnighted vegan food to her in Las Vegas when she was desperate.

Generally, a cleanse is a strict elimination diet which usually requires eating lots of fruits and vegetables and eliminating items such as meat, animal products, alcohol, caffeine and processed foods. Some extreme versions of cleanses go even further. The Master Cleanse eliminates all solid food, has the cleansers drink a fresh lemon juice and use laxatives for up to 45 days.

People who are cleansing do so in order to re-set their system, remove toxins, and lose weight.

But not everyone is a proponent of a cleanse. Many people in the medical community say that cleanses are unnecessary and dangerous, stating that the science is “deeply flawed” and ineffective long term.

I am in the midst of a five-day detox of my own — cutting out alcohol, meat, cheese, fried and processed foods, sugar, and most dairy. I am basically doing it because I have been over-indulging a ton lately and had a few days open in my social calendar where I could just focus on eating good food at home. But I can’t imagine doing a master cleanse — good, satisfying food is too much a part of my daily life.

Have you cleansed? Are you a proponent of giving your digestive system a break every once in a while, or do you agree with much of the medical community that we already have systems in place to do this on a regular basis without cleansing?

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Category: health and nutrition

About the Author ()

"My passion for food began young." I am the editor of the influential website www.EatLocalChallenge.com which encourages readers to support local farmers and producers. I began my personal website, Life Begins at 30, in 2003. I have been published in Edible San Francisco and Fine Cooking, write regularly for Bay Area Bites, Serious Eats, and have been quoted in many nationwide publications. Photography is a passion, and I have had photos printed in National Geographic Traveler and Travel + Leisure. I contributed to a Williams-Sonoma cookbook: Cooking from the Farmers' Market, which was released in February 2010. I live in San Francisco, California and can often be found at local farmers markets seeking out the best of what's in season and chatting with farmers.
  • http://watkinslynn.typepad.com/pages_pucks_and_pantry/ Mrs. L

    Years ago I followed one where you drank hot water with lemon juice, gave up meat and just ate come veggies and fruits…but it was only for a weekend. I keep hearing about these “cleanses” and also wonder if they really do anything? (except maybe make you lose a pound or two).

  • http://theatricalmilestones.blogspot.com charlotte

    Every January, I do a Daniel Fast, which translates into what you describe as a cleanse. While I usually don’t lose weight, I’ve seen dramatic health effects happen in my cholesterol level. I even blogged about it here: http://theatricalmilestones.blogspot.com/2008/01/foodie-friday-daniel-fast-psa-and-tofu.html

  • http://jenniferjeffrey.typepad.com Jennifer Jeffrey

    Thanks for linking to me – I’m such a big fan of the cleanse.

    In fact: I did that last one in January, and it’s been over 6 months now. Perhaps it’s time for another round.

    The cleanse isn’t about weight loss for me (I think I lost 3 pounds – not exactly life-changing), but rather the sense of being renewed and refreshed and “de-toxed”.

    I hope yours is going well – hang in there! You’ll feel great in the end.

  • http://makan-mania.blogspot.com Christine Tham

    Not necessary to go through this suffering. Just watch what you eat, no junk food, plenty of fruits, vegetables and soup. I am 50 years old and weight only 50 kgs having given birth to 4 children.

  • http://saraspeaking.wordpress.com sara no h.

    *shrug* It sounds an awful lot like yo-yo dieting to me. What, you eat superhealthy for five days or a month, and then go back to whatever you were doing before that necessitated the cleanse in the first place? Why not just take the time to learn healthy eating habits, so that you can phase all that bad stuff (er, the overprocessed, sugary junk food stuff – not necessarily all solid foods!) out permanently?

    Also, taking laxatives for longer than medically necessary just sounds like a bad idea. :p

  • MrsBug

    Actually, dooce cut her’s short (see her post here http://www.dooce.com/2008/06/25/revelations.

  • http://wildspace.wild949.com/jon Jon Manuel

    I’m just wrapping up day 6 of a 7 day “juice fast.” I usually do it once a year in the summer. It’s a week worth of nothing but 100% fruit juice and caffeine-free herbal tea that allows your system to flush out. By giving your digestive system a break from having to process much, you give it a chance to build up all of the junk that naturally builds up. I feel great after I do it, and though weight loss isn’t the goal in doing it, I always lose upwards of ten pounds. Feel free to contact me through my blog if you have any questions!

  • http://ColonCleanserTips.net Jan Smith

    Jennifer,
    I am glad you posted this. I was looking for a follow up to your 7 day cleanse.

    What we often forget is that not everyone is right for a cleanse. But most will benefit greatly if they will expand their thinking beyond what “science” says.

    I cleanse every year and feel so much stronger because of it.

    Best wishes,
    Jan Smith

  • laurie

    Cleansing is not about weight loss at all. That is a by-product is restricted calories and detoxing! Eating better as some people state here is always important BUT letting the body rest and renew (most animals instictively do this) is the real reason to cleanse. The total amount of toxicity in our environment today along with our packaged. processed, preservitve , chemical laden food supply is the reason. Even if you eat “GOOD” I have never met a person that did not need to cleanse. Once in awhile depending on their health …they may need to buildup their body prior to the cleanse. Most people do not understand the cleansin process and since it now the POPULAR thing to do .. people think it is a fad. It has been around since anciet times and it will continue to be around… the health benefits mentality, physically and spiritually are to many to number! I have been in the business of detoxification for years and as a Certified Nutritionist, Colon Hydrotherapist and Herbalist I design cleanses for people bsed on their health issue and what they are looking to accomplish.
    Learning to keep your body’s cleansing organs in top shape is a priority today! No one wants to go down the road of so many Americans with chronic illnesses … this does not need to be the future. Knowledge is power and the answers are out there!