First of all, the short answer is that a cleanse is traditionally designed to focus on digestion and healing the gut, while a detox primarily focuses on supporting the liver and kidneys, your primary organs of detoxification.
In truth though, anything you do to support the health and function of a specific organ is going to benefit all of your organs –– and by extension, your overall health! No organ, gland, tissue, hormone or artery in your body functions in isolation. The interconnectivity is vast and biochemical. In essence, participating in a cleanse or a detox designed scientifically to support our physiology, offers whole-body benefits.
That said, let's look at how a detox might benefit the liver specifically. This hard working organ is your largest organ and is responsible for hundreds of functions. Its key responsibility is to filter all toxins and foreign substances from the blood stream, break them down and prepare them for excretion.
If this is an ongoing function of the liver, why do a detox?
We are now faced with unprecedented levels of toxins. Our foods and soils are laden with pesticides, chemicals and preservatives. The quality of the air we breathe continues to erode, and we have a beauty industry is that is largely unregulated. It's estimated that women in the US are exposed to over 168 chemicals on average daily. Those include isobutane, aluminum, fragrance and propylene glycol.
Can you see how your liver might need some support? We are essentially asking it to do the job of 10 livers. What the liver cannot manage to break down and excrete has to go somewhere. The body and its never-ending goal of protecting us, chooses to store them safely out of circulation in various tissues throughout the body.
Detoxification happens in phases
I mentioned earlier that the liver's key responsibility is to filter, break down and eliminate toxins. This process happens in phases and as science and research continue to uncover more of the biological detail involved, we are learning there are actually more than 3 phases to detoxification. I'm not going to further complicate this, but rather focus on the basics. But the more I learn, the more I'm committed support my liver and body in these critical processes.
This first phase is activated by external toxins. Those include things like alcohol, certain medications like sleeping pills, and contraceptives, caffeine, It's activated by It's that first line of defense against toxins and uses a group of enzymes (cytochrome P450) that protect your cells from oxidative damage. It does this by attempting to convert toxins into smaller substances and make them water soluble and pass them onto the second phase.
This phase is all about conjugation and moving these broken down metabolites out of your body through stool, urine, lymph (excreted through urine or stool), respiration and sweat.
The problem is that we do a great job promoting Phase 1 with our sugar, caffeine and refined carb intake and an increasingly poor job at Phase 2. A liver overwhelmed by toxins yet underwhelmed by antioxidants, B vitamins, amino acids, sulfur containing vegetables and leafy greens is going to struggle and be sluggish. These are the substances that support and enable this phase.
Think of this as the transportation phase. The actual transport of these substances out of the body. How do we do that? Proper hydration, optimal nourishment that includes foods that support the biochemical process, while also practicing habits the support optimal digestion to ensure at least one complete bowel movement a day. Urine output varies, but 4-10 times daily is considered healthy. Urine should be pale in color and odorless. Clear urine is a sign of over-hydration and darker urine is a sign of dehydration.
Why a Bwell program?
I often think the terms "cleanse" and "detox" are cliche and off-putting, and inspires a solid eye-roll even in myself! While the terms themselves may be misused and misleading, there simply does not exist a better way to express what is ultimately a very natural process of the amazingly apt human body.
My programs are designed to support the process by removing toxic substances where possible and increasing the nutrients our physiology needs most. Using food as medicine, I highlight seasonal foods that have been used for millennia to provoke cleansing and detoxifying processes. Historically, various cultures were able to store certain foods that nourished them through harsh winters. Spring brought the emergence of lighter foods like sprouts, dandelion greens, arugula and watercress. Perhaps this is natures way of helping us shed our "winter coat" 😉.
My cleanse and detox programs are a total of 4 weeks. The first week is dedicated to preparing for the process. The detox phase is a full 3 weeks. This is to allow for a slow, gentle process. More importantly and why I believe my programs are life-style changing is that the biggest focus is on the habits that, when practiced regularly, your body will thrive. Think of my programs as a 3 week runway that will prepare you for flight!