Chris Ecklund is a Strength and Performance Coach in Santa Barbara, Calif. He works with athletes from youth to elite levels in one-on-one or group settings, provides health and fitness consulting, and corporate fitness workshops.
Chris can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at
GI, Oh My!
By Chris Ecklund
Strength and Performance Coach
CBN.com I am in the middle of a seven-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! Five days till I can have M&Ms for breakfast!
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 more than 10 years, I have found that one of the greatest hurdles to clients achieving health/wellness/performance goals is nutrition. It’s something 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 five-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 five 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 United States? 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 LDLs. 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 due 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, and 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 percent of the people in the United States are not regular (defined as one gentle daily bowel movement). Now compare that to the overweight numbers in the United States: about 66 percent. 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 three 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 (www.mypyramid.gov).
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 three months as a preventative measure.
For those searching for a good product, this is the product I use and recommend for my clients: Advocare's Herbal Cleanse.
Hope that helps. And by the way, hope the M&Ms were worth the wait.
This article first published on Chris Ecklund's Blogsite.
Chris Ecklund is a Strength and Performance Coach in Santa Barbara, Calif. He works with athletes from youth to elite levels in one-on-one or group settings, provides health and fitness consulting, and corporate fitness workshops. Chris holds an M.A. in Kinesiology, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, a USA Weightlifting Olympic Lifting Club Coach, and a certified SPARQ trainer. Chris is an instructor at Westmont College, UCSB, and SB Business College and is a contributor to various local and national publications in the areas of fitness, wellness, and performance.
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