It’s that time of the year when we’re looking for a reset. We’ve all heard a lot about cleanses and detoxes throughout the last few years, when they’ve really started to gain traction, yet most of us are still confused about whether they can really help us feel better.
We’ve been introduced to everything from juice fasting to the famous Master Cleanse with maple syrup, cayenne pepper and lemon juice to the simplicity of water fasting and then to the gallbladder cleanse with olive oil and lemon juice, yet these trendy protocols—what most of us think of when a detox or cleanse comes to mind—were surprisingly very different from what I learned during my own health journey.
I was skeptical of cleansing and detoxing many years ago because all I had known were these few options, yet it wasn’t until a brilliant doctor in Manhattan introduced me to the benefits of real detoxification and cleansing that I realized how beneficial it can be for our bodies. I was used to following the allopathic medicine route and “Band-Aiding” my symptoms for decades, until I shifted to functional and integrative medicine in my early 30s. That is when I learned the power of removing the toxicity we’ve stored and accumulated in our organs since we were young, starting with everything from car exhaust to what’s lurking in our tap water to pesticides, herbicides and more.
I first met Dr. Jeffrey Morrison, author of Cleanse Your Body, Clear Your Mind and the founder of The Morrison Center in NYC, halfway through my 12-year chronic illness journey. His approach to cleansing and detoxing felt authentic and true after years of being confused by what was best for my body. I had the pleasure of catching up with Dr. Morrison this month, and asked him to share his knowledge about cleansing and detox. Dr. Morrison says, “In general, a detox and a cleanse both refer to a focus on improving the body’s ability to remove toxins. A detox is more of a systemic and total-body focus, while a cleanse is more GI- and intestinal-focused.”
While most people (including myself back in the day) roll their eyes at the idea of a detox or cleanse benefiting your health, Dr. Morrison says, “If a person is just having digestive symptoms (gas, bloating or constipation and loose bowel movements), it may only be necessary to focus on intestinal cleansing. This can help remove bad bacteria or parasites that could be contributing to the symptoms. However, if a person is having more systemic symptoms, like fatigue, brain fog, poor focus or concentration, achiness, rashes or any other chronic condition, a more comprehensive detox is usually a better strategy.”
“There is no question that allopathic medicine is amazing for taking care of acute infections or trauma,” he continues. “However, when it comes to chronic conditions like auto- immune conditions, chronic infections, chronic digestive issues or anything else chronic (even blood sugar problems), the process of detoxification is a really powerful aid to improving how we feel and how our body can heal itself. This can be a game-changer for patients that have been struggling to find a way to improve how they feel or just for preventative purposes. And even though our body does detoxify itself all of the time on its own, there are certainly benefits to focusing on a short detox to enhance our body’s natural detoxification processes. Just like it’s important to keep our home or apartment clean for our overall health, it’s just as important to focus on a detox process for keeping our body functioning at its optimal level.”
Compared to the trendy cleanses back in the day, the cleanses and detox protocols available these days are more refined and sophisticated. I suggest working with a functional or integrative MD if you’re dealing with symptoms, because these doctors can tailor a detox protocol just for you with powerful agents such as glutathione, milk thistle and vitamin C. Moreover, these doctors can test your methylation, which is a huge missing piece of the bloodwork puzzle. It offered me many answers as to why I was so unwell, and why my body was unable to remove toxicity on its own. The full bloodwork test for this, along with a very detailed explanation for methylation (MTHFR), can be found in my best-selling book, Eating Clean, The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body.
If you’re looking for a simple reset for the New Year, I suggest an organic juice cleanse. Organic is key here because if you’re not drinking organic juice, you’re ingesting condensed pesticides and herbicides, which will add to the toxicity in your liver and the onset of symptoms over time. I also suggest reaching for a juice cleanse that does not contain a lot of sugary fruits and vegetables—stick with leafy greens and lemon juice to keep your blood sugar stable.
For anyone who’s doing a cleanse or a detox, it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting as your focus should be on keeping your blood sugar balanced so you don’t feel light- headed, and make sure you’re getting enough amino acids to support your liver as you’re removing the toxicity.
Dr. Morrison suggests, “It’s good for people to make sure that a detox or cleanse program involves an alkaline diet modification and then a process that has been either published with patient outcomes on success, or at least is guided by a qualified integrative or functional medicine provider to help personalize the program. Doing a detox and cleanse can be very life improving, but, if too strong or not appropriate for an individual, it could also make them feel worse. When it comes to detox, slow and steady wins the race.”