By: Alison Dunn Nov 24, 2010

Interested in doing a nutritional cleanse? There are plenty of great reasons – but weight loss isn’t one of them

You’ve seen them at the drugstore, the health food store, the book store and maybe even in the local discount department store – “cleansing” products or books that promise to help you clean out your system and lose weight fast.

But are these fad cleanses simply too good to be true? They are, says Laurie Burrows, a registered holistic nutritionist in Oakville/Burlington, Ont.

“There are many benefits to cleansing,” Burrows says. “But I would be very leery about anything that promises quick weight loss. You have to exercise caution. It’s very concerning when you see some of the things out there.”

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a time or a place for cleanses, Burrows adds. It is simply that no one cleanse is right for everyone – and certainly there isn’t one that can help you safely lose 20 pounds in one week either.

Why cleanse?

What’s the purpose of doing a cleanse? Burrows says a cleanse can clear out the body of toxins or congestion. Those toxins can come from anywhere, she adds, including non-organic dairy and meat products, pesticides, drugs, alcohol, nicotine and even environmental toxins, pollutants and the things we put on our skin every day.

“We’re being bombarded with toxins, and although you can make a conscious effort to avoid some of them, sometimes we can’t help but be exposed because we can’t live in a bubble,” Burrows says. “A good, healthy body is able to handle those toxins we’re exposed to without knowing it, but if the body is in any way congested, it is not able to break them down as well. A small cleanse to eliminate toxins can often make a big difference for a lot of people.”

Why else should you cleanse? Burrows says it’s often recommended for someone who may have a congested liver, parasites or candida. A food-based cleanse or elimination diet involves removing common allergens like eggs, red meat, dairy, wheat and gluten for approximately three weeks, then slowly reintroducing them. This type of cleanse is helpful in determining food sensitivities or intolerances and as such to reduce inflammation within the body.

However, a cleanse – particularly one involving supplements– isn’t something to self-prescribe. “You always want to be supervised,” Burrows says. “It is better to be monitored by a health professional if you are feeling the signs and symptoms of a larger health issue.”

Beware one-size-fits-all cleanses

“There is no one-size-fits-all cleanse,” says Burrows. “We are all so unique, and we’re all at very different levels of our health.”

That’s why Burrows recommends only undergoing a cleanse after seeking advice from a health professional. And of course, no cleanse can replace the health benefits of clean eating, drinking clean, filtered water, exercising and getting enough rest.

“It’s our lifestyle, our dietary choices, how we manage stress; all that in itself, every day, is going to keep the body more calm and less toxic,” Burrows says. Simple, healthy living is truly the key to long-lasting good health.

A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.