Cleanses and Detox Programs

If you’ve somehow avoided hearing about diet programs and cleanses to start the new year, then I think you must’ve been living in a bubble. It’s hard to turn on the TV, radio or computer and not see a reference to one of those.

When I went back to school 4 years ago, I thought that cleanses were bogus and unnatural. I wasn’t a fan. Now? I’ve changed my opinion, because I’ve come to believe that we live in a world that is MUCH more polluted than our ancestors’ world, and although our bodies have a system to get rid of toxins, even the healthiest of us who only put the highest quality foods into our mouths and the most natural non-toxic ingredients on our skin and hair, is going to have a hard time controlling everything in our environment.

The amount of chemicals that are in:

  • the food we eat,
  • the air we breathe,
  • the water we drink,
  • the products we use,
  • the clothes we wear, and
  • the materials our buildings and houses are made of,  is mind boggling!

And really, unless you are in a closed environment where you raise your own food, drink from a natural spring, prepare all of your food, oversee your animals’ feed, prepare your own soil for growing your food, and build your own house on private land removed from everyone… you can’t really know for sure what’s in the food you eat or the materials you use.

In addition, I’ve realized that it was a natural turn of events for humans to go through periods of deprivation when it came to food. Even if it was only a matter of the seasons, you know that winter meant completely different eating opportunities than summer did.

In contrast, the way we keep ourselves fed by going to the store everyday and getting fruits or veggies from South America or Mexico wasn’t an option until relatively recently. A grocery case full of meat, chicken, fish, eggs and cheese wasn’t an option either. In short, we’re able to eat on a daily basis in the fashion that would have been more like a feast to our ancestors.

So, I think that going on a cleanse a few times a year is a good thing… it keeps our body on “it’s toes” and gives it a chance to clear itself out and start functioning more optimally again. And winter is a natural time to do it… because it reflects a natural rhythm that I think is programed in our genes somewhere.

So what is a “cleanse”?

The basic idea behind a cleanse is to eliminate as many toxins from your diet as you can in order to give your body a rest. The theory is that if you stop taking things IN that your body (particularly your liver) has to process every day, then you give the body a chance to work on clearing OUT old toxins that the body has stored away in the past. FYI, the body stores toxins in adipose tissue (fat).

The usual “bad suspects” to eliminate are:

  • processed foods,
  • alcohol,
  • caffeine,
  • sugar,
  • wheat,
  • dairy,
  • red meat.

Some cleanses go so far as to eliminate all animal foods. One cleanse I know of takes it down to basically drinking only lemon water.

One thing I think is very important to point out is that, depending on how extreme the cleanse, your body must be prepared for it and your “elimination pathways” must be opened. This doesn’t just mean being sure that you’re not constipated and are drinking tons of fluids. It’s also making sure that your liver and gallbladder are functioning at an optimum level to convert fat soluble waste into water soluble waste.

This really is important, because if your body started releasing lots of  “stored” toxins while being unable to get them out of your body efficiently, these toxins would just recirculate throughout your body. This could end up presenting a much worse scenario than just leaving them where they were.

People have been known to have reactions to this kind of unsupported detox and end up feeling terrible. In extreme cases, you can make yourself sick. And if your health is already compromised in some way, I think you have to be especially careful.

So, I don’t recommend going on a cleanse without proper support for your liver, gallbladder, and all elimination pathways. I also like to provide support for blood sugar, as swings in blood sugar levels, insulin, and cortisol can really wreak havoc while you’re trying to stay on a cleanse.

Bottom line on this….my recommendation is to be nice to your body. Start out slow with cleanses and look for a program that recognizes that the elimination of toxins is an important part of the program and addresses that issue adequately.

A beginner’s cleanse might just be a 3 day cleanse where you eliminate all processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, red meat, wheat and dairy.  Why the last two? Many people are either allergic to or sensitive to wheat and dairy…it’s quite common… and you can’t clear toxins out if you’re still putting them in.

So this diet would mean consuming:

  • whole foods (as they grew from the ground or on a tree), and only organic, very high quality eggs, poultry and fish,
  • grains and starches such as amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats(certified organic, gluten free), quinoa, brown rice, tapioca, and teff,
  • no wheat, barley, rye or malt,
  • beans and legumes… preferably bought raw, soaked overnight, drained and cooked. (If you do buy canned, try to get “Eden” brand, as all of their cans are steel with a baked on ceramic liner that doesn’t contain the endocrine disruptor BPA, which can leach into the contents).
  • salads, as long as you make your own dressing from extra virgin olive oil and vinegar with herbs, a little organic mustard added, etc… (check the label if you buy a dressing… bottled dressings and sauces are notorius for having all kinds of toxic ingredients in them).
  • herbal teas, filtered water, diluted fruit juice, and soda water.

Following a diet like this for 3 days would be a safe, healthy way to eat for anyone. If you think that you’ve been exposed to lots of toxins either through your food or your environment, or that you might have a gluten or dairy intolerance, you might consider approaching this “cleanse” at a deeper level.

If anyone is interested in going on a more in depth “cleanse”, check out the “services provided” section and get in touch with me. I can get you set up for going on a 2 week program with a transition week into and out of the actual cleanse.

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