To detox or not to detox? That is the question.

should i detox? old-person-confused

With spring the arrival of spring, you may be feeling the need to let go of stale beliefs and habits that are dragging you down and start fresh. Perhaps you want to let go of the belief that you’re not good enough and pursue a passion you’ve been afraid to follow, or get off the couch and start training for that 5 km marathon you’ve teetered on running for the past three years. If you are at all immersed in the alternative health community, spring is the most likely time to hear about detoxification programs. These programs can range from a three day juice or water fast, to simply removing allergens and toxic foods from your diet for a period of time. I am neither a lover or hater of detox programs, but I do believe that they have an important role to play in maintaining health in a world where we are bombarded with toxins. Most chronic diseases today are related to congestion, stagnation and toxicity, making a cleanse an integral part of the healing process.

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are some questions and considerations we must grapple with before embarking on any detox program. The first time I tried a juice fast I was so nauseous and fatigued by the end of the first day, I had to eat something. Why? I was also struggling with adrenal fatigue and hypoglycemia and a juice fast put further stress on my adrenals as they worked overtime to maintain my blood sugar. Needless to say, it was a failed attempt and put me off of any sort of detox or cleanse for a long time.

Do not follow in my footsteps and consider these three questions before running out to purchase that juicer for your fast:

1. Is it the right time for ME?

Just because it is spring and all your friends and health gurus are on a cleanse, doesn’t mean it is the right time for you. If you are going through a particularly rough transition in your personal or work life, or struggling with difficult emotions right now, you might not want to take on the additional stress of changing your diet dramatically and/or going on a fast. Detoxing isn’t only physical, it’s an oppourtunity to process and release emotions (which will be more readily available at this time) and cleanse our minds of negative beliefs and thought patterns. Therefore, to get the most out of the cleanse, we need the time and space to let everything flow naturally (and trust me, there will likely be stuff flowing from every direction). If you are able to lighten your workload and social commitments, or take some time off, it’s probably a good idea to do so. Ideally, you would be with other people who are also cleansing (like at a meditation retreat), or somewhere where you can spend a lot of time alone. Detoxing should be a time of turning inward, being honest with yourself, shedding the old and committing to making healthier, more loving choices in the future.

2. Is it the right time for MY body?

When I attempted my juice fast, it clearly was not right for my body because I was in a state of depletion, or deficiency. Elson Haas talks about cleaning or detoxification as being one part of the “trilogy of nutritional action” – the others being building (toning) and balance (maintenance).  If you are already in a state of depletion (i.e. chronically or acutely ill or elderly), it might not be wise to do a detox and it could make matters worse. Likewise, individuals in a state of building (toning), such as young children and pregnant women, are not advised to go on a cleansing regime. If you have a condition like adrenal fatigue, diabetes, hypoglycemia or anemia, beware of how fasting and altering your diet will affect your blood sugar levels and energy. Lastly, anyone on prescription drugs or addicted to alcohol/drugs, should consult an alternative minded MD before attempting a detox.

3. Am I being mindful of why I want to detox and what I hope to gain from the process?

If you believe a detox is a quick fix to all your health problems, or you are using it as a crutch (i.e. you eat and drink crap the rest of the year and think a cleanse once or twice a year will make your body as good as new), then I challenge you to take a step back and look a little deeper into your beliefs about caring for your body. If you find yourself wanting to start a detox on impulse or because everyone at the office is doing it, take another step back. While a three day fast can result in feelings of rejuvenation in the short term, it is more beneficial to view a cleanse as a transition into a healthier lifestyle and to take it slow, listening to your body every step of the way. If you go into a cleanse with the intention of releasing toxic habits (i.e. alcohol, caffeine, sugar, self-limiting beliefs, etc.) and replacing them with healthier options, it is more likely to be a success in the long run.

So the question again – to detox or not to detox? Well, that is a question only you can answer by tuning into your deepest self and being conscious of your intentions and your current state of health. If you’re ready, hopefully my posts over the next month will provide valuable insight and guidance. In Sunday’s post, I’ll explore where most of our toxic exposure is coming from – a little dreary; but trust me, ignorance is not bliss, especially when it comes to this topic!

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