Cleaning House

Health tips for the season.

Spring detox cleanses originated over 5,000 years ago by the Chinese—going the entire winter without vegetables left them a little bound-up by spring. Metabolic toxins and wastes collect in the body, interfering with normal cellular processes and promoting disease and infections. Long Montana winters makes spring the ideal time to clean house.

Today, most of us eat vegetables through the winter, so why the need to cleanse? A hundred years ago, we were exposed to roughly ten environmental toxins daily. Today, that number is over 10,000. What the liver is not able to process is stored in the body, preventing proper function. Removing collected metabolic and environmental toxins allows our physiology to function optimally, improving energy, mood, and athletic performance. A person’s health will determine which type of cleanse is right for them.

The Master Cleanse entails drinking a maple syrup, water, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper concoction for a week to a month, a laxative tea, and a daily guzzle of warm sea salt water that mimics a rectal Old Faithful. Stanley Burroughs created this cleanse in the 1940s and falsely proclaims we don’t need to worry about protein intake, as we breathe in enough nitrogen to synthesize amino acids. Also, such starvation diets increase the risk of gallstones.

The Isagenix Cleanse For Life is also popular. It includes antioxidants and herbs, supporting liver function and gastrointestinal health. In the short term it is worthwhile, but be wary of recommendations to stay on it indefinitely.

The Natural Cleanse, Super Cleanse, and other cleanses available at local health-food stores will include various herbals. Cascara, and senna are irritant laxatives, which are only to be used in the short term with constipation. Long-term use can lead to dependency.

People who are thin, on medications, or who have heart, digestive, kidney, or liver conditions should consult a physician before starting a cleanse. Cleanses should not be used for weight loss. Spring cleanses are useful tools to improve health and performance, but do not replace the need for regular detox habits, just as two weeks of exercise does not keep us fit for the year. Improved food choices, drinking enough water, castor oil packs, deep breathing, meditation/prayer, and weekly fasts are not replaced by a spring cleanse.

Lou Walters is a naturopathic physician at The Source Wellness Center in Bozeman. For more information visit