Have you been hearing more about detoxes, cleanses, and elimination diets lately? Confused about what it’s all about? Let’s see if I can eliminate the confusion.
So What’s the Difference?
Samantha (Sam) Gowing, Australia’s spa cuisine guru, puts it this way: “Detox is a clinical state. It takes months to detoxify the liver and kidneys, It requires food that has low or no chemicals, no additives or preservatives. Cleansing is about taking the load off the body for a few days, detoxifying is about restoring the body to a natural, nontoxic state.”
A detox focuses on long-term dietary and other lifestyle changes. By contrast, a cleanse — especially a short-term one (cleanses can last just a few days) — could restrict the diet far beyond what is sustainable.
An elimination diet focuses specifically on eliminating, in addition to all processed food, foods that are known allergens, such as dairy, eggs, wheat and other sources of gluten, peanuts and tree nuts, soy, fish and shellfish. Any meat or fowl consumed would need to be raised naturally without caging or steroids and so on.
At the end of the elimination diet proper, there is a period of reintroducing the possible allergens back into the diet one at a time. The idea is to learn whether you are allergic or sensitive to any particular foods.
Why Do One or the Other?
Some of the “why” is inherent in the “what.” For example, I would recommend an elimination diet if there’s any indication that you might have a food allergy.
A three- to seven-day cleanse is a great way to kickstart a weight-loss program or simply to give the digestive system a break. I would not recommend cleansing for more than a week. Cleanses tend to be more extreme.
An all-out detox — which can last several months — is great if you’ve been exposed to a greater toxic load than usual. It’s a demanding regimen for us with our convenience foods and on-the-go lifestyle, but it’s worth it.
Who Should Do What?
Well, truth to tell, we should all do all three at least once a year! That’s the bad news. The good news is that they can be combined into one grand scheme.
A cleanse is a natural lead-in to a detox, which can be structured as an elimination diet. Pretty cool!
I don’t always preface my detoxes with a cleanse. I find that many people are better served with three days to a week of gradual transition to the detox/elimination diet. But that’s okay since the detox itself will give the body a rest.
My detoxes stress eliminating the potential allergens and generally last one to two weeks. For people who are exhibiting symptoms of allergies (e.g., Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease) or are exposed to high toxic loads (e.g., hairdressers and cleaning personnel who are constantly breathing in chemicals) I would recommend at least a month of detox.
The next phase of the detox is actually the elimination diet, which reintroduces each food one at a time.
By this point, your body is in top digestive form. It’s going complain if there’s something it doesn’t like. So — introduce eggs. Eat them three days in a row and listen to your body. How does it react? What does it TELL you about that food?
If you continue this gradual transition, you’ll be able to determine what, if anything, you’re allergic to. You could be surprised at the results!
Have you ever done a cleanse or a detox yourself? (Yes, the week you ate only grapefruit counts!) Would you like to experience one? I run several detoxes (elimination diets) each year, so keep tuned to these pages. Better yet, subscribe to my newsletter. That way, you’ll get advance notice of detoxes to come!