It’s spring time, and many a young (and mature) woman’s thoughts turn to…cleansing. First, what is a “cleanse”, and do you even need to do it? If you asked your family medical doctor this question, she or he would probably take a deep breath and then try to explain to you that unless you are about to undergo a procedure that necessitates prior emptying of the bowels- there is never a reason to “cleanse” the inside of your body. The physiologies of your liver, kidneys, intestines, blood, lungs and skin already do this for you without your help; the roles of binding, detoxification and elimination all steadfastly go on without your conscious attention, thank you.
And while this is certainly true, things can still get bound up, backed up, and just plain exhausted at times. Diet, lifestyle and medications can strain the cytochrome P450 system which determines the rate and types of detoxification that happen in your liver. People get constipated from dehydration, excess, food sensitivities and other reasons (see my previous post for more information here, “Get Your Poop On…”). Skin can get inflamed when irritants hang around from metabolic waste. Those with tendencies for bronchial spasms and irritations can become more reactive when the burden of irritants on and within the body becomes too high.
In my experience, people can feel great after a cleanse. But it has to be done carefully, and some “cleanses” can actually be quite dangerous. Don’t do the following:
1. Stop eating suddenly for extended times. For many people, this kind of abrupt change can be dangerous. Your blood sugar could get dangerously low for your brain and you could pass out, or you could experience electrolyte imbalances that can cause a heart arrhythmia.
2. Please, please don’t do any cleanse that involves swallowing tablespoonfuls of oil. This can actually cause your gallbladder to spasm and expel stones, which can then become lodged in your biliary system and wreak havoc. It is just not worth it.
3. Avoid colon hydrotherapy/irrigation. Is there a fire in your butt? No? Then don’t do this. Your bowels do not need to be “washed,” unless you have a specific medical need to do so. The ecology of the intestines is delicate, and can be upset by forcing water through them at high pressure- Plus, this type of procedure puts one at risk for perforations and other unintended consequences.
Now that you know what not to do, what can you do? At it’s core, doing a cleanse lessens the burden on your body so that it can better do its job to bind up, detoxify, and eliminate. Here are the most important points for doing a cleanse for your chosen period of time:
1. Avoid eating all junky foods. This includes foods with added sugars, fried foods, heavily processed foods that contain “non-food” ingredients, chemically processed foods.
2. Avoid eating lots of rich and meaty foods. These take more resources to process in your body. It is good to lighten the load occasionally.
3. Get plenty of rest and quality sleep at night. This is essential to body repairs and optimal function.
4. Avoid alcohol, and if you can handle it- all caffeine. Both of these things put a burden on your liver’s detoxification system, give it a break for a little while.
5. Eat small meals, avoid excess.
6. Drink plenty of filtered water to stay hydrated.
7. Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cabbage. These are particularly great at assisting the liver to do its work.
And that is it! It is just that simple. In addition, you may also try temporarily avoiding foods that many people can be sensitive to (not everyone)- especially dairy and glutein. Yes, there are herbs and nutrients that can help- which your local friendly naturopathic doctor or herbalist can help explain and guide you in proper use.
I recommend adding in some dry skin brushing, which is a great way to stimulate good circulation of blood and lymph.
I have become a big fan of the recipe for Magic Mineral Broth 2.0 by Rebecca Katz. While she originally developed this veggie-rich recipe for use as a nourishing broth for those undergoing cancer treatment, she has updated with more pizazz (did someone say Shabazz??) for her new book, : The Longevity Kitchen: Satisfying, Big-Flavor Recipes Featuring the Top 16 Age-Busting Power Foods [120 Recipes for Vitality and Optimal Health]
This broth can be a tasty, nutritious powerhouse for supporting your organs of elimination. (Enjoy it anytime!)
If you are looking for an interesting and tasty kale smoothie recipe, here is a good one at Allrecipes.com. Go for one of these daily during your cleanse. Instead of coffee in the mornings- enjoy some hot water with a fresh twist of lemon. Or, perhaps some ginger or green tea (caffeine levels are pretty low in green tea.)
Doing a cleanse can be a great way to reduce your seasonal allergy reactions- for more information about how to prevent and limit allergy symptoms- read my previous blog article, “Nip Allergies in the Bud: 8 Tips for Relief.”
by Cora Rivard, N.D.
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