It’s A New Year; Should I Cleanse or Detox?

Connie Pretula Headshot

Connie Pretula

Connie Pretula is an inspiring health coach and Menopause Navigator to mature women, using a holistic approach to nutrition and life.

July 13, 2020

We are moving into a new year and many people want to start the year by focusing on their health and that is always a good thing.

I’m often asked by friends if they should start their new year off on a particular diet, cleanse or detox. I also subscribe to various newsletters, Facebook pages and Instagram accounts and a number of them have been talking about starting out the new year with a cleanse or detox. Not to mention Dr Google and Pinterest, there are endless numbers of protocols that are available. This concerns me!

In most cases, you can potentially lose 5-10 pounds. Reducing sugar, alcohol, refined and processed foods will allow the body to release extra fluid it has been holding. If you follow a high-fat low carb diet, your body will use up its glycogen stores which accounts for about a pound of weight, glycogen is what our body naturally stores for energy. Our body will release water equivalent to approximately three times the amount of glycogen. So the initial weight loss in the short term will be three pounds or a bit more and sorry to say, you have not lost an ounce of fat. Return to old eating habits and the weight comes back very quickly.

So how does someone decide on a program? 

The first question I would ask myself is; why do I think I need to do a detox or a cleanse or start following a new diet? Is the goal; to start losing weight, improve overall health, I overindulged during the holidays, I have been feeling some symptoms that are affecting my daily lifestyle, I want to improve my eating habits? Or is it because someone is convincing you that they believe this is a good thing for you to do because they did one?

The next question I would ask myself if I was going to do a cleanse or incorporate a new way of eating is; what are the qualifications of the person giving the advice and running the program? Where did they get their education from? Is this something they are recommending because they did the cleanse and it worked well for them so now they feel they can guide others? Or is this a protocol that they have researched and know who should and shouldn’t follow the program? A trained and certified or registered nutritionist will have a proper disclaimer as to who should or should not participate in the program.

Along with having my private practice as a Certified Nutritional Practitioner, I am an instructor at The Institute of  Holistic Nutrition in Vancouver B.C. and teach a course called Comparative Diets.

Through the course I educate my students on the history of various diets and commercial diet programs. Some protocols go back to the ’30s and ’40s and many of the diets of today are versions of these early plans. We talk about the pros and cons of the diets and who they would be suited for and potential deficiencies or risks a particular diet may cause.

Reality is, the way we eat and the nutritional benefits or detriments to our body has been talked about for thousands of years. The effects of food on health has always been a very big component of Traditional Chinese Medicine and well as Ayurvedic Medicine.

As trained and certified or registered nutritionists, when we work one on one with a client, we start out by asking clients to complete a detailed intake form. It is important we understand their medical history and underlying issues. It is also important to understand if they are currently working with a medical professional and what medications they may be taking.

I understand that not everyone has the financial ability to work one on one with a nutritionist so many people do it on their own or join a group. There is nothing wrong with group programs if you are working with a properly trained professional. Unfortunately, the only government-regulated professionals in Canada are dieticians and they are the only ones who can use that terminology and in some provinces they have the exclusive right to use the word nutritionist. Beyond that, in Canada, anyone can call themselves a health coach, a wellness coach, or a nutrition coach without any training, some are even as bold to call themselves nutritionists.

When doing a cleanse you are putting your body through a lot of stress, especially your liver and kidneys. Did you know our liver has over 600 functions? Adding in certain natural products could be further taxing your liver. When you do a cleanse toxins are released from fat into the bloodstream. If you are not drinking enough water or eating the appropriate amount of whole foods to move the waste through your digestive system, you could be causing these toxins to recirculate in your body and that is not a good thing. 

If you have digestive issues and you are trying to figure them out on your own, by doing a cleanse you could be causing yourself more issues that may be harder to fix later. If you have serious digestive issues, I encourage you to seek proper professional help. You might reply, my doctor has not helped me! Perhaps explore talking to a naturopath or nutritionist? Health and treatment are holistic, it is important to find the underlying cause and understand who you are, food is only one component of our health issues.

In the Northern Hemisphere it’s winter! Even if you live in an area where the temperature is cooler (under 26℃ or 80℉) embarking on a juice cleanse or raw food diet is not a good idea. These are very cooling to the digestive system and can complicate digestive issues, even worsen some. Traditional Chinese Medicine focuses on warming and cooling foods depending on the season. In the Central and Southern Hemisphere you may see some benefits to a juice cleanse or raw food cleanse since your temperatures are warmer.

Another common side-effect of a detox or cleanse is release of emotions. If you are going to do a program, what type of support will you receive to help work through these emotions? Is it purely group support or is there someone qualified to provide guidance? The emotions can be strong and can take some by surprise, not having proper support can be very detrimental. 

The other important questions are; is this program teaching lifestyle changes? Is this sustainable or is it meant to be short-term to achieve short term gratification? Is it giving you guidance of how to reincorporate foods after the program is complete? Depending on the program, you need to reintroduce foods properly so that you don’t stress your digestive system. Also, can you work one on one with this person if you want further guidance? Are you required to purchase products they are selling in order to participate? As a disclaimer, I am a dōTERRA Wellness Advocate, and if appropriate, I may recommend to my client topical use of oils to help reduce symptoms while I look for the underlying issue. I am cautious and do not recommend internal use of the oils prior to reviewing recent blood tests for my clients liver and kidneys. You are putting your life in my hands, that is an honour and a privilege and I take it very seriously.

There is no quick fix or silver bullet, each person is very unique. When I work one on one with a client, I ask them to commit to a three-month program. Depending on the issues my client is facing, it can take four to six weeks to see how their digestive system and body is handling the changes. Emotional support and education is also a very big part of what I provide to my clients. If I have a client who is an emotional eater, a cleanse or detox is not going to help them one bit, in fact, it could cause them to binge if they don’t see the results at the end based on what others in the group are reporting. They have failed once again! And once again their failure is due to a fad and not a properly guided program.

I love when I provide a client with a menu plan to improve their health which in many cases includes releasing weight and they say “wow, this looks delicious, I can see I won’t feel deprived!” Changing eating habits is not about deprivation, it is about learning what works best for your body and making those changes over a period of time so they become a lifestyle. 

Now after reading this post you may be thinking, okay, maybe that diet or cleanse isn’t right for me but I can’t afford a nutritionist or naturopath, so what do I do? There are programs I have completed myself and a few nutritionists who I know have great programs starting this month and provide the proper support and guidance at very reasonable prices.

Over the holidays we tend to indulge in some of the sweeter things in life or imbibe in our favourite refreshments. Looking to get your sugar cravings under control for good? I would recommend Sweet Freedom by Sherry Strong. Sherry is a Chef, Nutritionist, former Victorian Chair of Nutrition Australia, and a former sugar addict. Through her personal journey and the success she and participants have experienced; Sherry’s program can help you make changes that last a lifetime.

Because it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere and our digestive system needs warming foods I would also recommend the Hot Detox by Julie Daniluk. Julie is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and through her own health struggles and extensive research developed a program to potentially help heal various digestive issues and reduce auto-immune symptoms. I followed the 21-day Hot Detox and it helped to further heal my digestive system.

Whenever we purchase anything it is always buyer beware. This is especially important when it comes to our health. Think about what you want to achieve through the program, do your research, and ask questions. When it comes to our health we need to be actively involved in the advice and recommendations that are being given to us and we have the right to search for better solutions if what we are being told doesn’t feel right, listen to your intuition.

If you missed the January 1 self-imposed deadline, don’t stress, anytime is a good time to start focusing on better eating habits.

You may be wondering if I will be doing a cleanse or detox for the new year, no I won’t. I may do one in the spring and if I do, it would be a program designed by a trained and certified or registered nutritionist.

Wishing you good health in the years to come.

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