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For When You Think You Need to Detox or Cleanse

Updated: Jun 27, 2019

Please note: I am not talking about intermittent fasting in this article.  IF has both spiritual ties and credible research to support its benefit.  This article is not focused on that. 

Somewhere along the way, we’ve gotten this very misguided notion that good health means constant vigilance, control and near perfect behaviors to keep us “healthy.”

But that mindset totally ignores the fact that the body, an incredibly well tuned and adaptable machine, doesn’t need to be controlled and doesn’t need any level of perfection to do its thing.

Quite the contrary, the body is amazingly resilient and capable of adjusting to circumstances; be it the food you just ate, the climate you find yourself in, a virus you picked up at your son’s preschool or merely a lack of sleep from putting the finishing touches on that big presentation for work.

The body knows what to do. And knows what to do in far better promotion and scale to fit exactly what is needed for optimal functioning than our controlling little brains ever will.

And when something isn’t right, your body will give you signals to get your attention.  These are signals to get you to listen and care for your body in the ways it needs.

It may ask you slow down on the processed food, get more sleep or drink more water, but never, is the body asking you to starve and detox through juices and expensive supplements. It won’t get your attention for that.

That would be like the sun asking the sky to hold it up- the sun is mighty powerful enough to do its thang without asking the sky to step in.

I was talking to a woman at a party the other night and told her what I do in the world- that I help women create a sane and powerful relationship to their body and relationship to food- and she said to me “right, like this whole idea of detoxing, it’s like the last socially acceptable way for women to starve themselves.”

This sentiment actually came from a male friend of hers who saw the continuation of the story line that women’s body’s are dirty and need to be cleaned up.

So all this emphasis on things like “detoxing” or “clean eating” is clever marketing on the part of the diet and health product companies to convince you that something is wrong with your body and that you need to take control and fix it, already!

Take a moment to consider where you first heard the idea of clean eating or about the need to detox- was it a multi level marketing company or a weight loss product detailing all the ways your body needs what they sell?

Or maybe it was with the more recent outcropping of fresh juice shops peddling their wares and talking about how good fresh juice is for you.

Let’s not even talk about the negative impact of the fructose load on your liver, the blood sugar-insulin spike when you ingest a ton of juice without nature’s built in balance of the pith and pulp of the whole fruit-or that the liver can’t “detox” without the presence of bitter foods or fats present- neither of which are usually found in a $10 bottle of fresh squeezed juice that is devoid of all the things nature creates a piece of fruit with.

Suffice to say, all that juice detoxing is the OPPOSITE of the actual detox pathways your body is constructed for, unless you’re attempting to detox the money right out of your wallet.

Your body has wonderful detox systems- like the one I just mentioned with the liver.  When fat or something bitter (think vinegar, lemon juice, dandelion greens or sauerkraut) is present, the liver is signaled to release bile.  And in that bile?  All the “toxins” your liver no longer wants.    Or your colon or kidneys, designed to eliminate the waste products from your liver and digestive processes.

For sure, if you are eating a highly processed food diet, or foods low in fiber or not drinking adequate water or using a lot of alcohol or drugs (pharmaceutical or otherwise), all these natural detox processes may be stunted or fail to operate at full capacity.  But consider that if you've been eating that way or using other substances, your body may already be in a state of depletion.  To then go on a juice cleanse is to exacerbate the depleted state your body is already in- drinking just juice will give your digestive system a rest, but it will not fuel or rebuild the body in the way that will build true vitality and vibrancy from that depleted state.

But Amy!, you say, I feel so light and happy on a juice cleanse, its almost like I'm high on energy!   I understand.  Your body has kicked your stress hormones into action and those hormones will give us that high energy, light kind of feeling.   You *can* continue to pump your body for that stress hormone high, but eventually, the body will say "no more" and you'll wind up feeling more depleted and exhausted than you first did when you sought out the cleanse.

Make no mistake, I am not suggesting that sometimes we do need gentle support to help the basic processes of our body function better.

But that gentle support is easy to come by and requires simply coming back to a whole foods approach with some simple, brilliant herbs that support the liver to do its thing or support the lymphatic system to function better.  And while you’re at it,  maybe do the radical thing and eat a vegetable or two a day.  Drink a few more glasses of water.  Do some enjoyable movement- another great way to kick start your body into detoxing and “cleansing” all the “bad” stuff out of your body.   The body’s intelligence simply needs you to follow what humans have done for thousands of years: ingest more things from nature.

Or, maybe it's the body that is bad, rather than just the food?  

Hang with me here.

We know that women have been considered unclean or needing to be kept under control for almost as long as western history has been recorded- hundreds of years ago women were not allowed in a church during their menstruation or more recently,  we’re used to being shunned, vilified and called all variety of names for an expression of sexuality not deemed appropriate by the status quo.  Not to mention all the products designed to pluck, prune, douche and generally, improve these unruly female bodies.

Remember the gal whose comment I mentioned above?

If you really put all the puzzle pieces together around our under the radar beliefs and viewpoints on a woman’s body, it isn’t too far fetched to see that maybe detoxing is just another outcropping of the belief that this female body is unclean, unruly and needs to be fixed.

And there, under all of the slick marketing and carefully crafted statistics is the real rub- detoxing is one more way to get the female body to conform to the standards we think it should be, another way for women to feel good about themselves and perform the “good woman” role.

It goes something like “See, I’ve been detoxing, so I really am trying to be a moral, appropriate, good woman.  I don’t want to be one of those women who trust their bodies and let their desires lead their lives, those women are dirty heathens.”

I might be adding just a little jesttful sarcasm here, but the truth of the matter is, none of this really comes through when you read about the SkinnyFit 28 day detox tea or the 10 day belly slim down.  What we see there is the seductive promise of a smaller body, of purging ourselves of the impact of food habits we judge as negative and the holy grail of a smaller, cleaner body (and way of eating).

Here’s a tip: just start eating more nutrient dense food, lay off the bottle of wine at night or begin moving just a little more.

No gimmicks, no 10 day juice starvation cleanses.  Just simple, whole, delicious food from the earth.

Add some green veggies to a meal, squeeze lemon juice into your water, go for a walk around the block (or two blocks!).

And then put all that money from the juice cleanse into a fund to really upgrade your health through the tried and true, time tested health habits that have sustained humans for thousands of years- none of which include a juice cleanse.

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