Photo by Lulu & Georgia
These days, people do all sorts of things to stay healthy. Between juice cleanses and full detoxes, one can get confused about what is actually healthy and what is just a fad, especially when your body is going through a pregnancy. This elicits the question: can you detox while pregnant? The term “detox” can mean many things to different people, so let us start with what “detox” could mean.
“Detox diet”: According to dictionary.com, a “detoxification” is the metabolic process by which toxins are changed into less toxic or more readily excrete-able substances.
The term can take on its own life, when looking online or in drug stores for a “detox.” Examples could be:
● an extremely low-calorie diet
● extracting certain macronutrients out of a diet
● focus on one or two macronutrients
Sometimes, detoxes also include:
● skin resurfacing
● colon cleansing
When you look at a typical “cleanse diet” or “detox diet” that are sold in stores or shared over the internet, they are not recommended for pregnant people. The label itself will say this, and there are many doctors that say “absolutely NOT.”
Why would this type of detox not be beneficial?
“There is not enough information or scientific studies on the effects of detox diets or treatments during normal times. Even less is known about their effects during pregnancy. I would not recommend doing a detox cleanse while pregnant. If you are concerned about toxins during pregnancy, a better approach would be to avoid being exposed to pollutants in the environment that can affect the developing baby.”
–Dr. Luz Claudio, Medical Doctor and Expert in Environmental Studies
In essence, the idea of cleansing the body of toxins and chemicals may be well-intentioned, but there is so little research done on the effects on people, much less a fetus, that this type of extreme measure is not recommended by members of the medical field.
When asked, “Can you detox while pregnant?” Dr. Mona Morstein, a naturopathic physician, states:
“Absolutely not, a patient should never detox while pregnant!
“Detoxing before one is pregnant is a an excellent idea to cleanse the body of heavy metals, environmental pollutants, to reduce the body burden and decrease having those toxins enter into the fetus and developing baby. Newborns have been reported to already have up to 232 chemicals in their blood. Adult women have those chemicals in them as well, obviously, if they got into the newborn. We live in a polluted world.
“Before pregnancy, eating very clean, doing a juice fast for a couple of weeks, cleaning the house of chemicals, switching to organic exterminators if you need pest control, using green home products to paint the baby’s new room, and green flooring, organic bedding and clothes are fantastic.
“But, during the pregnancy, doing a detox will only push toxins into the blood of the pregnant mom, where it can much more easily settle into her developing child. In fact, even the US government doesn’t want women eating much fish during pregnancy, (and really no tuna) due to the high mercury levels. So, detoxing while pregnant is dangerous to the fetus, and should never be done. Perhaps some detoxes are possible when considering pregnancy, but not during.”
“Detox” is such a loose term, that in some instances, people actually intend to use the term as an “all-natural diet.” Here, we find that doctors and therapists agree that as long as the mother is eating enough calories, that this is the best way to go. This kind of “detox” actually just means cutting out processed and unnatural foods in the diet.
Dr. Janet Hull (PhD/CN) says mothers should:
1. Avoid ALL food chemicals during pregnancy and focus on eating and drinking only whole foods, preferably raw fruits and vegetables, fresh grains, and organic meats.
2. Drink water as your primary fluid.
3. Detox through foods. Research the foods known to aide in the removal of food toxins, such as cilantro, kelp, olive oil, and apples. The body will sweep out harmful toxins while it digests your food; this is a safe way to eliminate toxins as quickly as they enter your body, and this won’t inundate the fetus with toxic chemicals.
4. Eat more often throughout the day. Eat smaller portions, but more often. Graze every hour, and allow your body to pluck the nutrients from whole foods on an on-going basis as opposed to having blood sugar dips and spikes when eating portions that are too large at irregular times.
5. Eat the foods that you crave. Cravings represent the nutrients your growing fetus prefers for its personal body type, which may be different from your specific metabolic type. Some babies are protein eaters while mom might be a carb eater. Worry about your baby’s preferences above your own during pregnancy.
6. When eating whole foods, you should not need to worry about your pregnancy weight. Rarely does anyone gain weight when drinking water and eating healthy. Baby weight is just that – baby weight. Prenatal yoga, or other gentle exercises, can help with this as well.
7. If you suspect you are exposed to toxins, eliminate the source during pregnancy. If you eat too much canned tuna, for example, and are concerned about mercury poisoning, then eliminate the canned tuna until you can detox – after delivery.
8. Don’t diet during pregnancy; diet after the baby is born.
9. Avoid using unnecessary medications. If you have a headache, go take a nap and avoid the pain relievers, if possible.
10. Avoid all diet sweeteners at all costs, and read your labels for hidden chemical sweeteners found in foods that are not labeled sugar-free.
11. Avoid the No-Fat/Non-Fat products and purchase the Low-Fat products instead. “No-fat” typically means that chemical sweeteners are included in place of the fat.
This way, the mother is not on a “diet,” not on a calorie-restricting plan, but on a healthy plan with the baby taking the priority. The idea is not “diet,” but “healthy living.” That is what doctors and naturalists can agree is best for both mom and baby.
As far as colon cleanses are concerned, doctors agree that this is not necessary for a pregnant woman. If a pregnant woman needs an enema, her doctor will prescribe one, but going through a colon cleanse could actually dehydrate a pregnant mother, which endangers the child.
With dry brushing, there is not evidence to prove whether a pregnant woman should or should not dry brush. Ask your doctor, specifically about where to and where not to dry brush, and make sure to have a good coconut or jojoba oil to slather on after the shower!