How To Lose Weight - Part 2

A weight loss message from Coach Tonda...

Cleansing.  Browse Facebook and there are a ton of cleansing suggestions to lose the post-Christmas pounds, right along with the top 3 foods to melt fat off your body, yada yada yada.  Okay whoa!  I’m not criticizing cleanses AT ALL, but I think there is a misunderstanding about their purpose that leads to a lot of hype, things done not entirely correctly, people feeling like crap for several days, and ultimately the desired outcome not necessarily being reached.  So let’s take a look and wade through the --- stuff.

Cleanses come in all shapes and sizes from coffee enemas to gallbladder flushes to digestive system cleanses, and so on.  They have a purpose, for sure, but in most cases it’s a specific purpose and none of them really are weight loss.  While dropping a few pounds of toxic material is often a happy side-effect of cleansing, remember what I said last article about scale weight?  If not, I’ll wait.  Okay, see what I’m saying?  Cleanses are for detoxification, which in turn leads to greater functionality of the organs, especially the organs of elimination (bowel, liver, kidneys, skin, lymph system) which means the body functions better – YAY we win!!
Fat loss?  Not likely.  Even fasting?  Still, not likely.  I fasted for 10 days in my 30s – I started at 128lbs and I finished at 125lbs.  I can bet the loss was digestive system contents, particularly after the salt-water flushes every second day (More on that later).

But can the body function better after detoxifying?  Absolutely.  If it’s functioning better could you burn fat for fuel during exercise more efficiently?  Sure! So it can be an indirect result of cleansing along with many other benefits!

Because there have been tens of thousands of new chemicals introduced into our environment in the last 50 – 75 years, detoxification is a good thing.  Many environmental toxins interfere with sugar metabolism, cholesterol production and use, and can interfere with insulin regulation. Some also store in fat cells, so the loss of toxins will shrink fat cells not burn fat. Unfortunately, with the weight loss industry being what it is, cleanses have become misrepresented from what their true purpose is.

First we’ll explore some of the types of cleanses and why we might want to do it.

We have a few options under this category as there are many ways to detoxify.  Detoxification in this context denotes lessening the toxic load on the body, generally by eliminating foods that would contribute to toxicity such as highly processed foods, non-organic foods that have been subject to pesticide chemicals, hormones, and other ‘non-natural’ ingredients, etc.  At the same time, certain supplements (usually herbal) are used to enhance the function of the liver, kidneys, and bowel – the major organs of elimination – so toxins will flush from the body more quickly.  Bitter herbs like dandelion, burdock, red clover, etc are used for the liver, and uva-ursi, marshmallow (not the candy!), celery, and parsley are helpful for kidneys (others too, specifically for infections and stones).

Natural food or supplement stores generally carry ‘kits’ that provide all you need to know to follow this type of cleanse.  They usually include the herbal formula and an eating guide to guide you through.  There are several that I know of that last anywhere from a week to 15 days or so, and the choice would be made according to how toxic you think you are, and how long you are willing to commit to the process.

Fasting is also an acceptable form of cleansing, but requires a little more preparation and work throughout.  It is also not necessarily recommended for everyone, particularly those with pre-existing medical conditions that may be adversely affected by long periods of not eating.  Sometimes a fasting regimen is available as a kit to guide you through, or has a book as a guide for the process.  Regardless, if you choose to go this route, investigate the process fully and follow it!  Fasts can be intermittent, say a weekend every couple of months, or a full-on detoxification and reset like the Master Cleanse, that is a 10-day fast (also known as the ‘lemonade diet’ – but it’s not a diet!!!!) that was recommended by the author to be performed about every two years.

Fasts must be entered into in a specific way, maintained in a specific way, and concluded in a specific way.  Eating regularly then just stopping, or eating nothing then suddenly returning to your regular eating habits will cause havoc with your digestive system, so make sure you have researched and understand the whole process and follow it to the letter!  I know when I did the Master Cleanse I felt amazing afterwards, but I took 3 days to slowly reduce my food intake first using salads and lots of fresh, raw foods, then soups and broth before the onset, and using the same process in reverse to return to eating solid foods.

Resetting our organs of elimination will absolutely increase energy, reduce the load our organs need to deal with daily, and allow greater absorption of nutrients in the intestines.  However, it can be a double-edged sword:  at some point in a cleanse, you will likely experience a sudden elimination of toxins that can temporarily overwhelm your system.  Often this is accompanied by lethargy, flu-like symptoms, skin eruptions, diarrhea, just to name a few.  Not that this is a bad thing, the cleanse is working, but some people find it really uncomfortable and will quit the cleanse before it is actually done.  This is why, if you’ve never cleansed before, it’s a good idea to enlist the help of a nutritional practitioner or naturopath who have experience with this process.  A natural health practitioner can help you determine the likely severity of your toxic load and can recommend a process that is appropriate for you with the least amount of debilitation. 

Should adverse symptoms continue for more than a couple of days, however, slow down on the cleanse.  If you are taking herbals to enhance organ function, stop them for a day or so and see if the symptoms persist.  If you are fasting, take some vegetable broth with some thoroughly cooked vegetables to no overwhelm your system.  Check with your health care practitioner to determine your next course of action.

Another cleanse I’ve used with my clients is a yeast cleanse.  This would be done if there is evidence of leaky gut, which is generally a direct result of a candida albicans overgrowth.  This one is pretty uncomfortable, and we can cover it more in depth in another article.  I tend to recommend this one when an autoimmune condition is present as leaky gut is often the root cause.  The diet is very strict (no sugar!), and supplementation involves something such as caprylic acid, oregano oil, or olive leaf extract as an antifungal, fiber to clean the walls of the digestive tract, and a potent probiotic to rebalance gut bacteria.

Gallstones can be painful and often result in the removal of the gall bladder.  This results in a reduced ability to digest fats, since bile is distributed into the digestive process by this organ.  The gallbladder flush is kind of a nasty cleanse also that entails drinking copious amounts of fresh organic apple juice and ending the day with an olive oil and lemon juice cocktail, and some use Epsom salts as well.  Gallstones are made mostly of cholesterol, unlike kidney stones that are usually calciferous, so this mixture is designed to soften them up and allow them to squeeze out of the bile duct to be passed during bowel movements.   They will be seen floating in the toilet and can be green to red colored.  If you are in the throes of a gallbladder attack, do not perform this cleanse without seeking assistance from a naturopath or someone well versed in this procedure!  It’s highly unlikely, but on extremely rare occasions, a stone could get stuck in the bile duct and that would require surgery.  It can be done periodically, however, to reduce likelihood of future gallbladder problems.

Parasite cleanses are not as necessary in our Western world as our food (we hope) is stored and delivered in such a way that parasites would not be common.  However, sushi is pretty popular, and that can be one culprit that might worm its way into our food chain (see what I did there? Haha!).  Again, not particularly pleasant, but if you have animals at home, especially if they love to share much of your living space with them, like your bed, or if they have had fleas, it is something you could consider doing periodically.  Tapeworms, ringworms, pinworms are all possible parasite infections, I’m sure there are more, but those are the first that come to mind and can be spread through food and pets.  Black walnut, wormwood, and cloves are some common herbs used, and are generally most effective in a tincture form.  There are kits available from a number of companies and are found in most health food stores. 

So these are the most common cleanses, there are more, but much more specific. Ultimately, nothing wrong with detoxification, but call it what it is – this is not about fat loss, but it will make your body more functional!  I personally would rather cleanse during temperate times of year like spring or fall, but there is no hard and fast rule about that.  Just ensure that if you have no experience with detoxification you enlist the help of a knowledgeable practitioner to guide you through, and enjoy the boundless energy you will have afterwards, at least until next time!!

Tonda McGillis BASc. (Nutrition), OHP/NCP

For 30 years Coach Tonda has been active in the industries of natural health, nutritional supplements and fitness.  First certified as a group fitness instructor and personal trainer in British Columbia in the 1980’s she then developed an interest in and pursued education in natural health and human sciences, eventually achieving a Bachelor’s Degree in Holistic Nutrition.  She is an Orthomolecular Health Practitioner (OHP) and Nutritional Consulting Practitioner (NCP) and is completing a Master’s Degree in Holistic Nutrition. Tonda works side by side Andrea Thatcher and leads programs for Andrea and canfitpro.

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