It's that time of year when people start thinking about their health and lamenting the excess of summer. The burgers, the beer, the oceans of Palm Bay (the sophisticated vodka cooler) - they tend to catch up with us at the same time, resulting in a little extra flab or just an overall sense of heaviness as we move into autumn. And because we're human (read: impatient) we jump at the chance to reverse the situation as fast as possible. But is the urge to cleanse just another way for humans to avoid having to sacrifice the good life? Is it the health version of a get-rich-quick scheme, where long years of improper self-care can be compensated for in a matter of weeks?
Supplement companies count on this trait, evident in the rash of advertisements for cleanses and detox programs popping up in prominent locations at drug and health food stores.
By definition, a detox or cleanse means "to make clean," or "to remove by or as if by cleaning." If bodies are cleansable by this method is another question.
"With cleanses I think that they're over-marketed in the sense of a too-good-to-be-true sales pitch - the big reason people do them is for weight loss and they think that it can often kick start things so that a big shift in weight can happen," said naturopathic doctor Ashely Gordon. "It can do that for some specific types of people who are determined to carry on with the healthy eating, but for a majority of people they give it all they have for a week or 10 days but then not only do they go back to eating poorly, they end the cleanse in the worst way possible by going for pizza or to McDonald's."
Especially for first timers, Gordon recommends those pursuing a detox program to do so under the supervision of a health care professional.
"They're hard to do if you've never done something like that before...a lot of things can come up that weren't expected - like having to rush to the bathroom or maybe the opposite, where people are completely constipated and they have nobody to ask if it's normal," she continued. "I think people think because you can buy it in a health food store it has to be safe and okay to use and that's not necessarily the case - it comes with side effects that can be dangerous for some people. They might be on certain medications that can interact with certain herbs or maybe they're diabetic and need to eat more frequently."
Gordon isn't against cleanses, but would rather see people adopt better eating habits overall instead of looking for a quick fix.