Detox and Colon Cleanse Diets

As usual, this time of year brings heavy marketing on detox and colon cleanse diets. Many celebrities offer advice and push benefits to their personal “detox diets.” Many popular diets tout health and weight loss benefits. Well-respected medical experts and specialists try to debunk cleansing protocols, but they do so based on theory and not real experience. Colon cleansing and detox diets never fail to stir debate between those who practice Western allopathic medicine and those who practice “alternative” medicine. Just as is true with any issue, there are two sides to this argument. One of the reasons for persistent controversy is that researchers have devoted little study to this subject. Most practitioners advise only on practical experience and theory.

Diets Throughout History
Ancient Egyptian and Greek theory purported that toxins built up in the gut and remained there to spread throughout the rest of the body (autointoxication).  In the 19th and early 20th Century mainstream medicine promoted the idea of autointoxication and different detox diets and colon cleanses were developed. Everything from simple diets to colon enema cleanses (colonics) were practiced. Even procedures such as surgical colon resections were done despite no true clinical indication. As time passed, many of the symptoms blamed for so-called autointoxication were found to originate from symptoms of other diseases not yet discovered (endocrine deficiencies, specific bowel neurologic problems, etc). To date, no autopsy, biopsy, or direct visual studies have supported the autointoxication theory. The last few decades have seen a resurgence of detox and colon cleanse diets. No current studies have shown that impacted feces or chronic toxins build up and remain “stuck” in the colon.

Colon Cleanses
Colon cleanses are used specifically to prepare patients for medical procedures. Practical experience has shown some benefits to colon cleanses for temporary relief of mild to moderate constipation and more long term improvement in digestion. There are three organs involved in your body’s extraordinary detoxification system: The kidneys, the liver, and the colon. They work together to continually flush toxins from your system. Maintenance of this system is critical to long term health and optimal living. Intermittent detox and colon cleanse diets can help support these three organs.

Detox and Gut Cleansing Protocol
Here is an example of a simple and practical detox and gut cleansing protocol.

First, the primary premise is to do no harm. Detox and colon cleanse diets are not for weight loss or treatment of specific diseases. A detox and colon cleanse protocol can be used to kick start your gut system, provide a general support of your three organ detox system, and help begin a healthier long-term change in your diet.

You do not want to suddenly begin a dramatic detox protocol that could cause colon irritation or worse, perforation. Preparing for a cleanse or detox protocol is as important as the protocol itself. What you do after the protocol is just as important, if not more so. It is not to be used as an excuse to binge or support bad habits. There are general detox protocols and others that target specific issues. Some are mild and others can be more involved. Many can be tailored as appropriate for diabetics, oncology patients, people with heart conditions, specific gut conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or non-specific constipation. All must be directed by an experienced provider. Products used must be from high quality ingredients and known sources. Most involve using organic sources of whole and unprocessed foods. Temporary elimination of meats and dairy products are essential in any colon cleanse diet. Maintaining proper protein intake, hydration, and varied nutrition is important. Fad detox diets such as lemon water and maple syrup cleanses and other such strict “diets” touted by celebrities simply dehydrate you, put you in a poor nutrition state, and set you up for a bad rebound effect. They do nothing for your long term health and metabolism.

The key to taking advantage of a detox cleanse for long term improved overall health is what you do after the protocol. Improving your diet, exercise habits, and remaining consistent and persistent in those improvements will allow you to improve your long term health.

Do’s:

  • Drink water — at least eight glasses a day. Teas with half or none of your usual sweeteners are also acceptable.
  • Continue any of your prescription medications.
  • Understand your usual bowel movements will change. Allow it to happen.
  • Call your primary doctor with any concerns while doing a detox or colon cleanse diet.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t take colon health advice from a celebrity and expect to come out the other end looking like that celebrity.
  • Don’t begin a colon cleanse after any type of alcohol or food binge.
  • Don’t spend hundreds of dollars on fancy prepackaged detox diets.
  • Don’t stop any of your regular medications to include supplements you are taking without speaking to a physician knowledgeable in your detox diet of choice.
  • Don’t use a detox or colon cleanse diet for the primary purpose of weight loss.
  • Don’t use a colon cleanse to treat a disease.
  • Don’t purchase any detox or colon cleanse product without knowing the source of the ingredients.

If you or someone you know wants to learn more about medical nutrition in Silver Spring, MD, contact Atlantis Medical Wellness Center for a consultation with a wellness doctor.