GI Cleansing Fun: Q&A

GI Cleansing Fun: Q&A

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I am in the middle of a 7-day Arbonne detox cleanse and am starting to feel cramped. I have learned that this is normal when the body is cleansing itself (similar to being sore after a massage). I am curious if this rings true with your experience as well. Your opinion is appreciated! 5 days till I can have M&Ms for breakfast!

Amy Eddy



Thanks for you question. I believe the answer to your question is a quite simple one, but allow me this opportunity to share a few thoughts on the issue for those who are not “on track” quite as much as you obviously are.

First, so I’ve covered my bases, I need to reiterate that I am not a nutritionist or registered dietitian. That said, as a Personal Trainer and Strength Coach for over 10 years I have found that one of the greatest hurdles to clients achieving health/wellness/performance goals is nutrition. It’s something who’s value most people drastically underestimate.

One common example, if I may digress for a moment:
Which is the easier method to achieve a daily calorie deficit necessary for weight loss?
A. A 5 second decision not to eat the fast food burger and fries, which contains at least 500 calories (empty at that).
B. A 45-60 minute cardio session to burn 500 calories.

Simple answer, of course. But many who read this will have that knee-jerk reflex answer, “But I LOVE the burger and fries…I can’t give it up.” Whether it’s the emotional response, the comfort food, will power, or simply a habit-changing issue, the point is that many choose against the obvious answer.

As such, I have found myself constantly seeking information from trusted sources in the field of nutrition to help me better work with my clients so I can safely aid in goal achievement on the nutrition end.

The “Cleanse” issue is something that I have found to be more and more common in both popular and scientific literature over the past 5 years. And though it seems a quite separate issue than the example above, I have found that it is not entirely unrelated.

From the nutrition conventions I have attended, I have learned more and more that the U.S. has been a bit behind the curve on this health practice. In fact, Europeans have been keyed in on this practice for several years (if not decades). Quick Sidenote…have you ever had a conversation with individuals from Europe who visit the U.S.? Interesting to hear their take on the American diet. Our practices and quantities tend to be significantly different than theirs (and not for the better).

From what I have seen, there are many forms of “cleanses” available in the marketplace now. Some of them found in pop literature range from simply homemade recipes to liquid fasts of sorts to products purchased containing various pro- and/or prebiotics and fiber. Whichever the method of cleanse used, the oft-cited benefits usually involve some of following:

-Greater clearing/cleaning of the GI tract
-Increased probiotics (good bacteria in intestines aiding in digestion/absorption)
-Decreased constipation and diarrhea
-Decreased effects of Crohn’s Disease, IBS, Ulcerative Colitis
-Decreased yeast infections, Chronic Candidiasis, Canker Sores, Food Allergies, Eczema.
-Increased Immune Function.
Source: Carl Keen, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Nutrition & Internal Medicine

I often site the act and need of cleansing to that of decreasing artery plaque and serum LDL’s. If our body struggles to function when our arteries are clogged due to increased demands on the heart and difficulties getting nutrients in and wastes out, doesn’t it make sense that the same is true for our GI Tract?

The fact of the matter is that in a world (and society) that not only doesn’t consume the most nutrient dense foods (nor do we have them as easily available do to processing and distribution issues), but also doesn’t consistently get in enough fiber (both soluble and insoluble) to keep things moving through our system…we need a little help. Of course beyond the obvious benefit of regularity, fiber has been associated with decreased colon cancer, decreased diverticulitis, decreased CHD and Type II Diabetes.
Source: Robert M. Hackman, Ph.D., Research Nutrition

Now back to my earlier contention—the relationship between Weight Loss and Cleanses. A fact I gained at a convention a year ago was that 50% of the U.S. not regular (defined as 1 gentle daily bowel movement). Now compare that to the overweight numbers in the U.S.: about 66%. Of course many other factors play in, but is there a possibility that even simple digestion/excretion plays in? Many nutritionists I know hold to the mantra, “If it ain’t comin’ out…it ain’t comin off!” I know…good stuff, huh? I even heard it said at a Personal Training conference about 10 years ago that by age 35 or 40, most people are carrying around about 10-15 pounds of waste in their intestines (and they’re wondering why they just can’t seem to lose those last 10 pounds to get down to their high school weight).

Amy, you’ve been patient. With all of that background I believe the simple answer to your question is, “Yes.” Most often, when people do a cleanse for the first time—especially if they are not consistent consumers of nutrient-dense, high-fiber foods—there is usually some intestinal discomfort early on. There may even be some feelings of diarrhea at times as the body is literally purging itself from a bunch of…well…you know. Empirically, I have found that the more regular consumption of nutrient-dense, high-fiber foods along with regular cleansing (approximately every 3 months), this cramping tends to diminish.

Rules of Thumb for achieving the benefits labeled above associated with a health and cleansed GI Tract:

1. Eat several servings of fruits and veggies daily (
2. Strive for 25-35 grams of fiber each day.
3. Avoid refined/processed foods as much as possible (eat whole foods, grains, wheats, etc).
4. Cleanse every 3 months as a preventative measure.
For those searching for a good product, this is the product I use and recommend for my clients:

Hope that helps. And by the way, hope the M&Ms were worth the wait.

Does the answer “Inside the Box” still exist?…Plus, the Wisdom of 10 Year High School Reunions.

Recently, conversations with colleagues in the field of Strength & Conditioning (Steve Plisk—a dear, dear friend) as well as Post Rehab training (colleagues at Hayashida & Associates) have given rise to a similar topic: “What if the answer is inside the box?” (I must admit I stole this question from a colleague…thanks Jez). Be it in the fields of nutrition, performance, physical therapy, fitness, etc. It seems as though we are constantly looking for the “new pill”…that answer that lies outside the obvious fundamental tried and true inside-the-box knowledge.
It is interesting to see the similarities in progressions and advances within our society and within human nature. One such similarity is our attraction to a new idea or philosophy (not unlike bugs to a bug light) and our ability to take it to extreme. We love new ‘stuff,’ and more is always better. There’s that little adrenaline rush of excitement that comes with it. Not only is it true in the realms of the health and wellness industry, but it’s true in the consumer market.

Why do we continue buying new clothes when we already have enough to last us for years to come?

Why do I continue buying new DVDs when I have more than any sane person could ever want?

Why does marketing work? It’s that funny ‘need’ that is created in us because we love new stuff. It’s new, it’s exciting, and it must be the answer.

It’s no different in the health and wellness and strength and conditioning fields. In the industry for the past several years is this desire to seek the new answers to maximize performance and bodyfat losses. And while we are certainly continuing to gain in our understanding of the human body and it’s adaptations to the stimuli we apply to it, it seems we’re taking it a bit too far.

One such example was at the onset of “Functional Training.” I remember back in 1997 when much of this “new” information started to hit the training industry. People (myself included) took it and sprinted into the realms of extreme. If swiss ball work was good to improve coordination, neuromuscular control, and stabilization based on the Physical Therapy research, then we might as well apply it to everything.

Crunches on Swiss Ball = Good
Barbell Loaded Squats Standing on a Swiss Ball while Blindfolded = Better

You think I’m kidding. I honestly think I still have some old articles with pictures of guys doing this, and what’s more…encouraging it. By the way, if you haven’t taken a gander to the right, it took me about 2 seconds to find this recent picture on a google search.

I hear some others of you saying, “What’s wrong with that? I do those on Leg Day along with Barbell Single Arm Single Leg Olympic Snatches standing on a Bosu Ball.”

Funny how this process works. It’s pretty consistent whether we’re talking Health/Performance/Nutrition or other ideas (bare with my process here):

1. New Idea = Excitement…the New Answer/Solution to our problems.
2. Excitement = Application to everything.
3. Application to everything = Applications taken to extremes.
4. Applications are exhausted = Boredom of New Idea.
5. Realization that New Idea was not much unlike a New Idea we had about 20 years ago = Reevaluation of how New Idea Improved upon Old Idea.
6. Identification of true benefits of New Idea = Ideas that stick around (new fundamentals).

The problem with this process I see is that we often get caught up in steps 1-4. And when we get to the end we often begin looking for a new Step 1 and never allow ourselves to gain the value of Step 5 and 6 (not to mention we spend too much time and focus on Step 3—i.e. Barbell Squats standing on a Swiss Ball).

For these reasons (or maybe if I’m honest with myself, perhaps it’s just because I’m a cynic) I often have trouble with the “new” trends coming through the fitness, nutrition, and performance industries. I get so tired of hearing about the new pill or new training method that blows the rest away. Right now some of the biggies I am aware of are: Old School/Odd Lift torture type workouts (i.e. CrossFit, the “300” workout), Low/No Carb diets (i.e. Atkins) are giving way to Increased Carb diets again, Food Allergy/Gluten Free/Dairy Free/Nut Free issues, All Natural/All Organic diets. Now if you’re a fan of one of these topics, don’t get bent out of shape. I’m not saying there’s no value in these things. There certainly are. But evaluate them for what those values truly are and then apply those to the correct populations. My contention here is that these ideas are not always the BEST answer for everyone.

I find that the longer I’m in the industry I really enjoy hearing the perspective and wisdom of professionals like Mike Boyle (, John White (formerly of USF and Velocity Sports Performance, Dublin, CA), and Steve Plisk–nationally renowned Strength Coach ( I have learned a tremendous deal from men such as these about the process of taking in new information, sifting through it, and keeping what makes sense and will help for the long haul. While “real science and research” may not always be attractive or sell (as Plisk has said), it works. Pretty simple. Problem is that many times we aren’t interested in what’s fundamental. Matter of fact, Plisk mentioned that he was going to discontinue offering some of his performance workshops because he felt not enough people were interested in what the research was telling us about how to maximize athletic performance. Scary. This guy is one of the most intelligent guys I’ve heard speak, too.

Sidenote: Again, just so that it’s clear…Steve Plisk and I are the best of friends, have known each other for decades and have shared many a beer together.

If you read one of my articles several months back, I referred to one of the most important program variables. It was simply this: Consistency. Too easy right? Yeah, you’re probably right. It’s like saying that icing soft tissue injuries isn’t really very helpful for recovery because it’s just to simple a concept. Oh, wait… Exactly! This stuff works…IF applied. I just had this conversation with some of my Personal Training students. It’s doesn’t need to be about the flashy stuff all the time. Throw some of that in for fun, but do the fundamentals regularly. Why? They’re fundamentals simply because they work.

Had your 10 year high school reunion yet? All the jokes and funny stuff aside, one of the most interesting observations I made at mine was that the people who “made it” were not necessarily the ones I expected would have. Without getting into what truly defines success and such, I noticed that the individuals who were doing well in life and family and work had some commonalities:

1. They usually weren’t the smartest or most intelligent though they had worked hard to increase their knowledge base and continue to do so.
2. They had integrity, character, and cared about others.
3. They worked consistently and diligently toward goals.
4. When things didn’t go well they dealt with the situations and then did what they could in the meantime until things picked up for the better again.

What in the world am I talking about here? The answers are NOT always outside of the box. Sometimes they might be…true. But don’t immediately seek them out to the detriment of tried and true fundamentals. True in performance, true in nutrition, true in life.

Prevail Conditioning