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How to do a Healthy Detox

Considering a detox? Don’t commit to a juice cleanse or elimination diet before you read what our panel of Canadian health experts has to say about the potential risks and rewards.

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“I’ve been feeling sluggish lately and am thinking of trying a cleanse or an elimination diet to boost my energy. How safe and effective are they? And can I keep up my regular routine-work, the gym-while I’m on one? – Mike O’Connor, Montreal

1. Time Your Cleanse Carefully

Dr. Zoltan Rona, MD: A cleanse or an elimination diet is a great way to kick off a wellness program. Both can reduce exposure to toxins and allow certain organs, such as the liver, to rejuvenate. Some doctors recommend cleanses to boost energy, while elimination diets are used to diagnose allergies and bring down inflammation. Other benefits include improved vision, hearing and taste; better sleep; and antiaging effects. I like a one-day or, if you have some time off, an eight-day juice fast using mostly vegetable juices.

Detoxifying is safe and effective for most healthy people, but temporary reactions can occur. On Day 2 you could experience fatigue, irritability, dizziness, headaches, bad breath, a coated tongue, sore gums, fever, chills and other flulike symptoms. To avoid interference with work, consider starting your cleanse on a Friday night.

Cleanses can be dangerous for diabetics, underweight individuals, cancer patients, those with peptic ulcers, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and people with heart or kidney conditions. Check with your doctor before attempting any extreme dietary regimen.

Dr. Zoltan Rona, MD, practices complementary medicine in Toronto, edits The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing and is the author of the bestseller Return to the Joy of Health.

Each medical situation is unique. Be sure to consult your physician about the specifics of your condition.

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2. Balanced Elimination Diets are Safer

2. Balanced Elimination Diets are Safer

Julie Daniluk, Nutritionist
: Cleanses can flush toxic chemicals, such as the pesticides and insecticides found in foods, from your system and boost vitality if done in a balanced way. But in order to maintain your energy levels during and after the detox, it’s important that you get enough food. I prefer to avoid extreme programs that suggest low-calorie fasting (such as the Master Cleanse) or strict juice fasts that allow only fruits, vegetables and low-fat soups: these can slow your metabolism and cause extreme fatigue.

A much safer approach is a balanced elimination diet that avoids common allergens and toxins to reduce inflammation and increase vitality. Giving your digestive and immune systems a rest-I recommend eight weeks-from gluten, dyes, preservatives, dairy, potatoes, peanuts and refined sugar helps heal inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, asthma, and skin and bowel conditions, and can help energy levels to soar. Simply increasing your consumption of healing foods such as berries, kelp, onions, hemp hearts, small fish, avocado, broccoli and kale is safe and will give you lots of energy for work, gym and life.

Toronto-based certified nutritionist Julie Daniluk co-hosts the reality cooking show Healthy Gourmet on the Oprah Winfrey Network and recently published her first book, Meals That Heal Inflammation.

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3. Adjust Your Exercise Routine

3. Adjust Your Exercise Routine

Amanda Vogel, Fitness Instructor: Depending on the detox you choose, you could be consuming fewer calories than is recommended for your daily nutritional needs. If so, you might find it too taxing to perform vigorous cardio or strength training because the body breaks down and stores carbohydrate and fat from the foods you eat as fuel for exercise and daily tasks.

If you continue to go to the gym during your cleanse, plan lighter workouts, such as moderately paced walking or gentle yoga. And stay hydrated-you’ll need to replace the fluids lost as a result of the exercise and the cleanse.

With an elimination diet, you might still feel up to your usual workouts if you’re eating well and often enough. Since your goal is to feel more energetic, consider working a healthy snack into your post-exercise routine. Doing so helps your body repair muscle tissue and restore glycogen (stored carbohydrate), allowing you to exercise more and boost energy levels. The best post-workout snacks blend carbohydrate with protein: an almond-milk-and-fruit smoothie or hummus on whole-grain crackers are good options.

Amanda Vogel, MA human kinetics, is a Vancouver-based certified fitness instructor and author of numerous books, including Baby Boot Camp: The 9-Minute Fitness Solution.