A body cleanse is a technique that is popular among many health advocates. But, will it help you or not? Some evidence shows the diet and possibly even the supplements used during a body cleanse may help you shed excess - and dangerous - abdominal fat.
The surface fat that is easily seen is often subcutaneous fat, which is just under the skin and can hide the muscles, creating a spongy look. Deeper inside, underneath your muscle hides the dangerous visceral fat that normally protects organs. But when there's too much, research shows us that it causes many health problems. (1)
Abdominal fat is not only unsightly and uncomfortable, but it can be a danger signal. The excess fat around the abdomen is called visceral, adipose fat, and is an indication that excessive fat is stored around your organs. This can be dangerous as the fat restricts blood, oxygen and nutrient supply to these organs as well as restricting the organ's ability to fully function.
This fat is known to be "biologically active," meaning it does not just sit there. It pumps out immune system chemicals that raise the risk of cardiovascular disease. Visceral fat is located in the midsection, which is close to the portal vein that carries blood and waste from the intestinal tract to the liver. This close proximity allows the same vein to carry dangerous free fatty acids that can elevate harmful cholesterol, lower healthy cholesterol, and raise the risk of not only cardiovascular disease, but diabetes and other health problems including stroke and even cancer.
The good news is that we can do something about it. Moderate-intensity exercise for 30-60 minutes a day is a great start, but don't rely on "spot training," as that will tone the muscles in the area but not burn fat. Focus more on cardio type of exercise such as biking, jogging or even jumping (rebounding).
Diet is the other factor that can help reduce dangerous abdominal fat. A body cleanse uses a "detox diet" (clean eating is the modern-day term) and nutritional supplements, such as fiber, which acts as a "broom" for the intestinal tract. Some health professionals believe the regular use of fiber and a healthy diet help remove waste before it becomes harmful
Step 1 - Eat a "cleansing diet" that is designed to help your body digest food quickly. When your body can digest food quickly, it can then eliminate more waste, more efficiently. An easy and basic summary of a cleansing diet would be to focus mainly on fresh, organic vegetables and fruits. Eat only whole, unprocessed grains (which means no processed products like bread, cereals, etc.), and healthy proteins such as wild-caught fish, farm fresh eggs, beans, lentils and minimal free-range meats (including poultry).
Step 2 - Along with the body cleansing diet, supplements may be beneficial. The supplements include herbs that some holistic practitioners say strengthen your digestive tract, such as dandelion root or milk thistle and, of course, a healthy fiber supplement.
Step 3 - Exercise. Fast walking is good if you can walk fast enough to raise your heart rate to achieve a moderate intensity. Others include jogging, rebounding, spinning (stationary cycling), cardio dancing, stair climbing and elliptical workouts. Many of these can be done at home, outside or at a local gym. Using music can help make it fun while many gyms come equipped with televisions for those who prefer that to pass the time.
The key is consistency. Try working out at least five days per week. Take your supplements every day at the same time so you remember. And stick to the "detox diet" as often as you can, and if you slip, forgive yourself (you are human, after all) and get right back to it.
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(1) Harvard Health Publications; Harvard Medical School, "Abdominal Fat and What to do About it", September 2005, 2007 update
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