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Laura Stark, Naturopatic Doctor, in her office at Cathedral Centre for Wellness. Photo by Amanda SymynukAre you seeing results from those New Years resolutions to hit the gym and eat healthy? If no maybe you need a jump start. 


Detoxes and cleanses are often marketed to offer fast weight loss.


“I’ve done wild rose detox three times. It’s awesome,” said Melanie Pelletier.


 The main selling point of cleanse and detox programs is that the environment we live in and the food we eat are full of toxins and, to become healthier, we must get rid of those toxins from the body.


Smoking, alcohol, air pollution, hormones and anibiotics commonly used in animals are the main toxins blamed for health problems.


Detox programs promise a lot of weight loss in a short period of time.


“It’s so convincing when you’re reading about it,” said Mehad Atrim, who tried a cleanse in high school.    


“There’s a lot of misleading marketing out there,” says Heather Dzioba, registered dietitian.  She warns to be wary of products which offer a “cure,” “miracle” or “guarantee.”


There are so many detox programs on the market that we often forget our bodies can do this on their own.


 “We are always taking things in and our body is always detoxifying.  If we think of that as a water tank with a tap on the bottom that we open up, we open up that tap and we’re always letting some of that waste come out. We’re always filling up from the top faster than we empty it out from the bottom it overflows and we get symptoms of toxicity,” explained Laura Stark, doctor of naturopathic medicine.


It is very common for people to ask dietitians like Dzioba about detoxifying their bodies.  She said there are different programs.  Some involve strictly drinking fluids, restricting certain foods and taking supplements, colon irrigation or laxatives.


So, after you lose a few pounds from a cleanse you might feel great, but the effects are only temporary.


Dzioba explained the reason a person would feel energized after a quick cleanse is because the weight loss causes the body to produce stress hormones.  One of the stress hormones, cortisol, slows down calorie burning so you have energy to sustain the stressor of sudden weight loss.  “Even if you see some short term effects they won’t be beneficial for long term,” she said.


Jordan Tsang, a University of Regina student, said he usually does a cleanse after a holiday because he doesn’t eat as well as he normally does.  He said he will eat healthier to get back on track by cutting out pop and replacing it with lots of tea.


The restricting of certain food is one of the most ineffective ways to achieve long-term weight loss, according to Dzioba.  She explains that by detoxing you are restricting all junk, but it’s not a long term solution. 


“A healthier approach would be to limit instead of eliminate so you can sustain the change for the long term,” she said.


Do not despair if you have not seen the effects of your hard work.  Stark said that January may not be the best time to recharge.  This is the time of year when our bodies want to hold on to the calories. 


“Like changing an oil filter in a car, doing a seasonal cleanse for maybe a week or two in the spring and a week or two in the fall when our body naturally wants to cleanse is really wise,” she advised.


As for the effectiveness of the more extreme cleanses on the market: “There’s no proof made by any of these diets,” said Dzioba.