If you’re asking yourself ‘should I do a cleanse?’, you’re probably the type of person who loves a fresh start!
Whether that’s the back-to-school ritual of sharp pencils or an 1980s teen movie make-over montage, a new beginning can be a wonderful thing.
Pop legends from David Bowie to Madonna to Beyonce have all successfully reinvented themselves at various points over their career, and several major world religions promote the belief in literal reincarnation. The idea that you get to begin again at the beginning is an extremely powerful one.
But just as karma follows you from one life into the next and Beyonce will never not have been in an Austin Powers sequel, reinvention is not the same as totally fresh start.
Cleanses sell the myth that you can do a factory reset on your body and – perhaps even more harmfully– that your body needs cleansing for health and well-being.
So let’s unpack this a little.
First things first.
Should I Do A Cleanse To Get Rid Of Toxins?
Many cleanses are marketed as a way to flush the harmful toxins out of our systems.
It’s certainly true that our bodies do encounter pretty nasty things on a daily basis.
Sometimes that’s the stuff we put into our bodies willingly, like a double rum and coke at the weekend. Sometimes that’s the stuff we encounter in the world around us, like viruses and bacteria or air pollution.
Either way, we are exposed all the time to potentially harmful substances and the body has to deal with them.
Fortunately though, we already have our own defenses against many of the things that cleanses claim to help clear out.
If we didn’t we’d be dead.
We have two main defenses against the toxins that get into our bodies – our immune systems and our liver.
Should I Do A Cleanse To Boost The Immune System?
Your immune system almost certainly doesn’t need boosting.
And if it does, fruit juice or hot water with lemon really isn’t going to help you much.
To understand a bit more about what we mean by this, you might want to check out this article.
But the short version is this: if you’re generally healthy and not immunocompromised there are things you can be doing to help keep your immune response functioning well.
Getting enough sleep, eating a nutritionally balanced diet, stopping smoking, limiting alcohol consumption and dealing with stress, are all ways to support a healthy immune response.
Not on that list? Cleanses.
A cleanse may actually leave you feeling more run-down and could weaken your immune response in the short-term. Many cleanses involve following a very low-calorie diet – often just juices and water – which may not provide adequate energy to see off the pathogens that our immune response exists to protect us from.
Remember: the immune system isn’t one organ, like the brain or the kidneys. It’s a complex system of different elements that work together to fight off the all things that have gotten into our bodies’ that shouldn’t be there.
The immune system is not a guard dog; it’s an army. And that army needs resources and co-ordination to keep fighting effectively.
Lifestyle factors certainly can contribute to a weakened immune response. If you’re overly tired, eating a crappy diet and drinking too much, you’re more likely to pick up bugs and viruses.
But a cleanse will not help your body’s natural ability to fight off illness.
At very best it may help you break bad habits in the short term. But until you make long-term changes to support your health, your immune system will still keep on fighting the best it can regardless.
Should I Do A Cleanse To Flush Our My Liver?
No magical crystal or healing serum will ever be quite as miraculous as your own lovely liver.
The liver is certainly not the glamour-girl of the anatomy world, but it’s a hardworking organ.
Usually we only appreciate what a wonderful piece of equipment our liver actually is, when something goes wrong. The liver is amazingly good at bouncing back from mistreatment it suffers.
Some cleanses market themselves as a way to spring clean your liver, but unlike some other internal organs the liver has an amazing capacity for regeneration by itself. Even when up to 25% of its original mass has been lost, the liver can regenerate back to its full size.
The liver does not store toxins. It processes and eliminates them, by transforming them into forms that can be safely excreted from the body.
If a cleanse claims that it will ‘remove toxins from the liver’, it’s a good sign that the person selling it is lying to you about the health benefits. It’s like someone selling a sea-salting apparatus or ice cold-ifying machine. Be very wary!
Should I Do A Cleanse To Repair Liver Damage?
If you take in a huge concentration of a toxic substance then your liver may not be able to handle it. Think overdose or accidental poisoning. But in these cases you would require urgent medical attention in a hospital setting – not DIY cleanses.
It is also possible to damage the liver over a long period of time. Sometimes this damage is a result of lifestyle decisions on our part, like smoking and drinking.
But liver damage can also come about as a result of illness, like hepatitis or haemochromatosis, a hereditary condition that results in a build-up of iron in the liver.
If you suspect you may have contracted hepatitis or developed any other form of liver damage, it is important to seek medical attention.
You absolutely should not do a cleanse as a form of treatment.
So What Should I Do Instead Of A Cleanse?
If you still want to do a cleanse, go ahead. But hopefully, you can see by now that the answer to ‘should I do a cleanse?’ is pretty much just… ‘do you have a liver?’.
As we said before, the liver is amazing in its capacity for regeneration. But like all meaningful changes, this takes time.
In the same way that the effects of too many wild nights, builds up slowly but surely, repairing the damage done by poor lifestyle choices is a long-term project.
Cleanses promise quick results, but can’t deliver.
The single best thing you can do to support your body’s own defenses against the toxins in your environment is to look to your all-round health.
If you currently smoke, make quitting your main priority. All the juice in the world can’t compete with the damage that tobacco smoke does to your organ systems, including your liver.
Moderating alcohol intake to within recommended limits comes in a close second.
Eating a well-balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as nuts, fish and possibly tea and coffee all promote liver health.
Foods high in salt, saturated fats, sugar and alcohol can all cause liver damage over time.
You do not need to flush toxins out of your liver… if you’re fortunate enough to be in good health then you liver is literally doing that for you right now, every single day, for free.