About three years ago I decided to stop eating sugar, consuming caffeine, drinking alcohol and a few other things that had been impacting my thinking and life in general. I bit off a lot at once, it was an unreasonable amount, but I was sick of living the crappy life my poor choices delivered me. At the time I didn’t set a time limit for how long I would stop consuming these things but I don’t recall believing that I would never eat or drink them again. I just wanted to reestablish my baseline way of being so I could correct my course if needed and know what I was dealing with in terms my identity.
There were some withdrawal symptoms – headache, difficulty concentrating, increased anxiety, insomnia, mood swings and minor body pain – but these were to be expected. The doctor didn’t have any concerns and told me that they would decrease over the first few weeks and be gone completely in a month or so. He was right. The end result was that I found my baseline and learned a lot about myself and how consuming those things made me feel – or how going without consuming them made me feel. The lessons I learned were useful and I have invited many of my clients to try the same sort of thing to uncover their relationship with the food they eat and the liquids they drink.
What is interesting to me now is the talk and articles about detoxing your body and all the great things it will help you achieve. On one end of the spectrum are the things like Lent, Ramadan and Yom Kippur which are religious in nature and encourage the faster to reflect upon their relationship with God, atonement for sins and other spiritual awakenings. You do not need to buy anything to participate in these fasts and you probably don’t even need to believe in God given that they are straightforward and require that the person not eat for specific periods of time or give-up eating a particular type of food for a period of time. Worth doing because they’ll teach you something about your relationship with yourself, your food, and your maker.
The other end of the spectrum in the supplement industries version of a detox which they label a cleanse. Unlike the name implies, the whole notion that the body cannot clean itself is unfounded. Medical pathologies or illness aside, the body takes care of cleaning up waste very effectively. The liver and the kidneys do the job, and they’ve done it without the aid of supplements for eons.
Regardless of the product you were sold, the instructions are basically the same. You dramatically alter the food you eat for a period of time while consuming the cleanse products. The rational is that you need to stop doing the damage first to allow the cleansing products to work. Don’t be concerned with you initially feel worse because, as the instructions say, this sickness is proof that there were toxins in the body and that the cleanse is working.
But since you have adjusted the food you have been eating, you are actually going through withdrawal (much like I did when I stopped eating sugar and drinking coffee). The symptoms that are experienced are a result of the dietary change and have nothing to do with toxins being released by the body. This is an example of illusory correlation where two unrelated things are assumed to be related because they happen close to the same time.
What can you learn from those who buy cleanses?
- Do not buy one, they don’t do what their sellers claim.
- Do adjust your diet, there is a good chance you could be eating better.
- When you adjust your diet, there is a good chance that you will initially feel unwell or sick; this will pass as the body adjusts to a new normal state.
- Once a year for a few weeks, consider taking some time off of eating certain foods to see what this does to your body. If you experience withdrawal symptoms or cravings, notice these feelings and be mindful that your body has adjusted to eating them; this may not be how you want to live your life.
- Always be aware that people who have something to sell will say whatever they need to say in order to sell you their product or service. With reference to cleanses or detoxes, your liver and kidneys do an almost perfect job and you already own them.