Cleansing, or helping the body get rid of accumulated congestion, is one of the most important things we can do to live a long, vigorous life. In both spring and fall this happens naturally—and we can help it along by doing an internal cleanse. If we don’t follow this natural rhythm, we can end up with low energy, food cravings, irritability, headaches, flus, joint pains, poor sleep, foggy thinking and other discomforts.
If you are healthy, you can undertake an internal cleanse on your own with complete confidence as long as you proceed gradually. Radical changes in diet can lead to unpleasant side-effects!
People should avoid cleansing or seek supervision in the following situations: during pregnancy or nursing; intense stress and/or fatigue; diabetes or blood sugar issues; any debilitating diseases; when on medications; struggling with an eating disorder; hypothyroidism; recent surgery; recovering from substance abuse; or simply being anxious about the process.
If you are still with me, this is how to do a gentle cleanse.
Pick a time when you can be fairly relaxed. Working is ok if it is not very stressful and can be the best time for doing a cleanse by taking the mind off food. Finding a friend to do this with helps enormously.
Make sure bowel movements are daily. If that is not done first, cleansing will backfire and you may never want to do it again. Use gentle methods such as psyllium powder, flax seeds or prunes.
Once you are regular, start to lighten your food choices. Limit red meat, sugar, flour products, coffee (wean off gradually first to bypass the withdrawal headache), eggs (a great food, but too rich for a cleanse), fried food, junk food, chocolate, dairy products and wheat. Emphasize vegetables, fruit, light grains, light proteins and healthy fats.
There are an infinite variety of plans, but a basic cleansing regime could look like this:
On arising: a glass of water with some lemon (to taste), followed by rinsing your teeth. This helps flush the liver and kidneys.
Rice, quick oat or quinoa porridge, stewed or raw fruit, non-dairy milk (almond, rice or coconut milk can be found in health food stores or health food aisles in the supermarket), cinnamon, herbal tea or water or
Fruit salad sprinkled with nuts and seeds or
A smoothie with protein powder, fruit, veggies, non-dairy milk or juice
Herbal tea with unpasteurized honey; vegetable broth; bone broth; veggies with hummus; fruit; a protein shake; more lemon water (hot is more satisfying)
Focus on light protein (proteins are stimulating, so good for the middle of the day)—ie fish, chicken, beans plus a salad with olive oil and lemon juice; if you are craving carbs, add some white rice or non-wheat pasta with olive oil, herbs and a bit of sea salt. Have fruit for dessert. Herbal tea or water.
Focus on carbs, which are soothing, good for preparing for that early sleep—non-wheat grains (quinoa, millet, buckwheat) cooked plain or in the form of pasta; potatoes, yams, squash, corn; plus steamed vegetables like green beans, broccoli, zucchini, cabbage or broccoli. Drizzle with coconut oil, herbs, spices, sea salt. Herbal tea or water.
Best to just have liquids, but if you are anxious about not having enough food, help yourself to another protein shake, fruit and nuts or even some non-wheat cereal with warmed non-dairy milk. This process shouldn’t be too difficult as fear will shut down the cleansing mechanism.
Along with the lighter diet, drink more water or herb teas between meals, take time to walk daily, rest more and go to bed as early as you can. The body works hard during cleanses so expect to be more tired at first. Other transitional cleansing symptoms may include temporary achiness, slight headaches, digestive bloating and irritability. If you change your diet slowly, these will be mild.
A cleanse is also an opportunity to include emotional healing through journaling, talking about one’s issues or using one of the many safe and effective techniques for releasing negativity such as tapping, (see www.thetappingsolution.com for complete directions).
The length of time for cleansing is open-ended, from just a meal to several weeks, depending on your body type, strength, life situation and experience. I recommend planning a short cleanse of even a day or two to get the idea and then go longer or do it more often as you are comfortable. Short cleanses can be done year around.
Finally, here are the benefits of cleansing to motivate you to try this health-enhancing practice: longer life, higher energy, better sleep, clearer thinking, stronger digestion, improved libido and a feeling of lightness. Cleansing is one of those life skills that helps everything. It’s like doing regular oil and filter changes on your car to prolong the life of the engine.
If you do go through a cleanse, let us know what happens and we will share your story and answer your questions in this column so we all learn from each other’s experiences.
Good luck and have fun!
Katherine Willow practices naturopathic medicine at the Carp Ridge EcoWellness Centre, just north of the village of Carp. She is a fourth-generation naturopathic doctor via her family in Germany and has been practicing for 35 years. Her specialties are fatigue, allergies, children’s conditions, women’s health and cancer, although most conditions can benefit from naturopathic medicine. She will be writing a regular column on her experience, knowledge and education related to naturopathy.