Which Cleanse is Right for You?

From pre-packaged cleanses to nothing but lemonade, these 6 options will help get you on the path to better nutritional habits  

Credit: Helga Weber

Kickstart healthier eating habits with a cleanse that works for your body

Committing to an energy-boosting, detoxifying cleanse (and losing a few pounds as a result) is not unlike making New Year’s resolutions—made with the best of intentions, they still tend to fall by the wayside. I’m guilty of it.

I’ve done cleanses before. The Master Cleanse. The Wild Rose. I’ve even tried fasting for a day, drinking only water (horrible). The thing is, unless you commit to real, lasting change post cleanse, it’s all a bit moot because a cleanse is meant as a jumpstart to a better diet. It’s a way of flushing the system—literally and figuratively—to start with a clean, slate.

As nutritionist Eden MacDonald, co-founder of Vancouver-based Feed Life, says, “Cleansing shouldn’t be about losing weight (although this can happen) but rather about rebalancing the body with an infusion of nutrients.”

With that in mind, what cleanse should you do? There’s the pH cleanse, meant to rebalance the body’s acidity. There are colon-, kidney- and liver-specific cleanses, candida and parasite cleanses, even a brown rice cleanse and one that incorporates apple cider vinegar.

With so many options, from celebrity endorsements like Gwyneth Paltrow’s cleanse kit and Dr. Oz’s 48-hour detox plan to a traditional Ayurvedic cleanse, here are some cleanses to consider.

Credit: Wild Rose Products

Wild Rose Cleanse

Pre-packaged cleanse kits, usually found at health-food stores, are a step-by-step way to tackle the trials of cleansing. Included guidelines, charts, supplements and so on make this route pretty foolproof. One of the more popular options is the Wild Rose Herbal D-Tox, a long-time (close to 40 years now), go-to, 12-day kit.

Formulated by clinical herbalist Terry Willard of Alberta (thus the “wild rose”), it comes with supplements and a laxative formula to get things moving, so to speak (it’s relatively easy on the wallet, too, at about $40). And you can eat as much as you want, albeit from a limited selection of “at least 80% alkaline and neutral ash foods with less than 20% acid ash foods.” There’s a chart and recommendations to stick to (almonds yes, bananas no).

Credit: Clean Program

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Clean

Gwyneth’s go-to “Clean” (she’s even partnered with Dr. Alejandro Junger on a Goop version) is another similar option (and steep at more than $400).

Easy to follow, the 21-day cleanse involves the elimination of certain foods, as with pretty much all cleanses—no dairy, meat, grains (and definitely no alcohol or caffeine).

Credit: Joshi Clinic

Joshi’s Holistic Detox

There are plenty of cleanses that outline a plan of attack – including menus, recipes and recommended supplements – without being boxed up. The three-week UK clinic Joshi’s Holistic Detox (about $15 for the book) cuts out refined, acidic and supposedly toxic foods (wheat, potatoes, red meat, alcohol, dairy) to make the body’s pH balance more alkaline (and, of course, lose some weight).

Do this cleanse and you’ll be joining the ranks of Kate Moss and, again, Gwyneth Paltrow (this cleanse is said to have inspired her own boxed version).

Dr. Oz’s Meal Plan

Dr. Oz is another celeb who outlines a six-meal plan to make your body “run better.” He sees a cleanse as “a strategy that helps your body rid itself of toxins” four times a year or whenever you feel run-down or bloated. His 48-Hour Weekend Cleanse is basically about eating nutrient-rich whole foods that boost enzyme activity and efficiency in the liver, lungs, kidneys, colon (the detoxifying organs). A sample breakfast is quinoa with prunes; dinner is veggie broth with a side of sauerkraut. And he claims the process promotes spiritual as well as physical rejuvenation.

Spiritual wellness has long been part of the mind-and-body tradition of Ayurvedic cleansing. It involves a prep phase of Purva Karma (think brown rice, beans, veggies and meditation), then actual cleansing or Pancha Karma (including enemas and laxatives and more meditation), followed by rejuvenation (eating whole foods and continued meditation). All bolstered by plenty of hydration and yoga. The idea is to take time to focus on the body’s natural elimination processes.

Master Cleanse

Beyoncé famously did the Master Cleanse to lose weight for her role in Dreamgirls. The lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water concoction has been around for awhile (since the 1940s) and there’s a whole industry of books and products surrounding it. I first read about and tried this while working at an alternative health magazine, and it has its advocates (and it’s frugal friendly, basically amped-up lemonade). But no food.

Forget any kind of social life while attempting this; it’s all about hunkering down and fighting light-headedness (think super endurance). Some people rave about glowing skin and weight loss (once a day, you drink a “salt water flush” and senna tea to help eliminate your colon) but ultimately, what amounts to lemonade isn’t going to cut it in terms of beneficial long-term results. As Dr. Oz says, “These rapid weight loss regimens can deprive you of crucial nutrients and calories, forcing your body into starvation mode. You do lose weight, but as your metabolism slows, the pounds eventually creep back.”

Credit: The Juice Cleanse / Blueprint Cleanse

Juice Cleanses

Juicing may be the simplest and most surefire way to cleanse. About 10 years ago, the Blueprint Cleanse burst on the scene in New York City as a pre-juiced, delivered-to-your-door liquid-only cleanse—six juices a day for three days, from kale to cashew milk. The service starts at about $85 per day, and is now available across North America (yes, Canada too). But, better yet, we have a local version right here in Vancouver.

The Juice Cleanse started this year as result of the success of The Juice Truck phenomenon. Zach Berman and Ryan Slater started the juicing truck biz after travelling in Southeast Asia and sampling amazing fresh-pressed juices everywhere, everyday. And the pair felt great. “About six months into the launch of the truck regulars began asking if we could create cleanses for them,” says Zach. “We started making cleanses in mason jars and the word spread.”

Now The Juice Cleanse is a whole separate business. They enlisted Eden MacDonald of Feed Life to design the nutritional aspect of the cleanse—from “The Digestive” juice of cucumber, apple, spinach, celery, parsley and lemon, to “Protein Milk” of hemp seed, walnut, date, cinnamon, vanilla and water. Yum.

If the mixes are anything like The Juice Truck’s Almost Chocolate smoothie, I’m sold. And business is booming (the three-day cleanse is $185). As Zach says, “Vancouver is a health-conscious city and has embraced the cleanse thus far. We were sold out all of January and February and have been near capacity since.”

Credit: mingaling

Cleanse with Caution

Of course, cleanses have their detractors. After all, if you slow your metabolism down enough that usually translates to weight gain in the long term (counteracting the reason, rightly or wrongly, many go on a cleanse in the first place). Some MDs have even equated so-called cleanses with snake oil—pie-in-the-sky cure-alls that, at best, are placebos that come with side effects of fatigue and headaches (not to mention hunger).

But these effects are temporary and part of the body’s reaction to any significant switch in dietary intake (as those who’ve tried to get off of coffee know). Push through and the results are typically positive, whether glowing skin, flatter belly or clear-headed energy.

Ready to cleanse? Be open-minded. Clear your calendar. Do your research. Enlist a cleansing buddy. Don’t be fixated on specific goals (like weight loss). Stay hydrated and active. And be smart. Talk to your doctor before trying anything that significantly alters your current intake.

As holistic nutritionist Eden MacDonald says, “Cleansing has been done for thousands of years. Many cultures and traditional healing modalities use cleansing practices as a way of purifying and healing the mind and the body.”

It’s nothing new. Spending three days or more focused on your health is always a good thing, and cleansing—whether boxed, juiced or by-the-book—is just the impetus to recharge and start some healthier eating habits.