"A new year, a new you" is the expression often used at this time of year to signify hitting the reset button on our lives. But does a new you mean flushing the old you down the toilet? Some believe it literally does — with a cleansing or detoxification plan that claims to rid the body of harmful toxins.
Since health-related resolutions are among the top promises we make every January, the practice of cleansing continues to draw many people in. But it also draws mixed opinions from health care professionals.
There is a wide variety of products and routines that claim to "cleanse" or "detoxify" the body. The Master Cleanse is a popular regime that requires drinking a mixture of maple syrup, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and purified water. The Juice Cleanse calls for only freshly squeezed fruit, veggies and herbs blended together into a drink. Or simply restricting your diet to fruits and vegetables is another alternative.
Glenn Gero, a naturopath and nutritionist at the Holistic Naturopathic Center in Clifton, is a strong supporter of cleansing and believes it should be done at least once a year.
Gero compares cleansing your body regularly to routine auto maintenance. "If we didn't change the oil in our car what would happen? It would break down. But nobody thinks, 'Maybe my body needs a tuneup.' "
Gero notes that our bodies are exposed to millions of tons of toxic chemicals in the air, water and soil that can cause headaches, joint pain, fatigue, allergic reactions, constipation, sinus congestion, chronic backaches, skin conditions and hormonal problems.
"We have the capacity to detoxify," says Gero. "The problem is because of a number of different factors our bodies become overwhelmed … by toxins and elements."
With an abundance of cleansing plans out there, Gero suggests visiting a professional to determine the right type of regime for your body.
"When I put somebody on a proper cleanse designated for their body, for them individually — more than 90 percent of people feel amazing, many said they feel better than they have ever in their entire life," Gero says. "They have more energy, feel internally clean and there is no way to explain that than to experience it. Better breathing, better skin and more regular bowl movement."
Dr. Adam Palance, a gastroenterologist at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, says the body does not need a detox and is capable of keeping itself clean.
"A normal person on a normal diet doesn't really need to utilize these things," Palance said. "I am not at all an advocate for these particular ideas … The colon is the most efficient organ at reabsorbing water and cleanses itself. These [cleanses] are, if nothing else, a waste of finances and I think it doesn't offer any benefit."
Palance also warns that undergoing a cleanse may be harmful by causing electrolyte abnormalities and dehydration.
"The truth is your body is excellent at breaking down all the different components of things that you eat," he said. Drinking lots of fluids, eating a well-balanced diet and taking a multivitamin regularly are the keys to keeping your body healthy, says Palance.
"Just living a clean active lifestyle," he said. "That's the most important thing for people to do in the beginning of the year and all year long."