Cleansing: Good Idea or Unnecessary Restriction?

soap-cleanse.jpgAll of a sudden, it seems that everyone around me is doing a cleanse. I went to a work meeting a couple weeks back, and one of the women ordered a salad with no dressing, lemon on the side, and had an at-length conversation with the server about sugar in the dressing. "I'm on a cleanse," she explained.

Dooce did it. Bay Area blogger extraordinaire Jennifer Jeffrey did it.

And in the greatest tipping point of them all, Oprah got into the cleanse craze after reading Kathy Freston's book Quantum Wellness. Oprah ate a vegan diet and gave up alcohol and caffeine for 21 days. Of course in typical Oprah style, she had a private chef cooking for her most days who even overnighted vegan food to her in Las Vegas when she was desperate.

Generally, a cleanse is a strict elimination diet which usually requires eating lots of fruits and vegetables and eliminating items such as meat, animal products, alcohol, caffeine and processed foods. Some extreme versions of cleanses go even further. The Master Cleanse eliminates all solid food, has the cleansers drink a fresh lemon juice and use laxatives for up to 45 days.

People who are cleansing do so in order to re-set their system, remove toxins, and lose weight.

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But not everyone is a proponent of a cleanse. Many people in the medical community say that cleanses are unnecessary and dangerous, stating that the science is "deeply flawed" and ineffective long term.

I am in the midst of a five-day detox of my own -- cutting out alcohol, meat, cheese, fried and processed foods, sugar, and most dairy. I am basically doing it because I have been over-indulging a ton lately and had a few days open in my social calendar where I could just focus on eating good food at home. But I can't imagine doing a master cleanse -- good, satisfying food is too much a part of my daily life.

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Have you cleansed? Are you a proponent of giving your digestive system a break every once in a while, or do you agree with much of the medical community that we already have systems in place to do this on a regular basis without cleansing?

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