March is nutrition month in Canada. As we move closer to the warmer spring weather, it is also appropriate to re-think our health following yet another harsh winter. Spring is just the ideal time to let in light and let go of old diet and self-defeating habits.Instead of a crazy fast or expensive ‘packaged’ cleanse, why not try detoxifying with real, living, nutrient dense foods? A real food cleanse can last anywhere from three to twenty-one days and uses juices, smoothies and pureed vegetable soups. All of these foods are easy on the digestive system and nourish the body with antioxidants and phytonutrients (nutrients from colourful plant-based sources). Even if you do not wish to puree your food, going on a clean diet has many benefits. Fresh plants are rooted in nature, literally, and they have natural energy which is passed on to you.
By making the switch from eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) to eating high fibre and nutrient-dense foods, you will give your body the opportunity to “Rest and Digest’. This sounds like a modest goal but it really is the key to good health. It is also the very basis of holistic nutrition which places strong emphasis on digestive health.
For your Cleanse, try a five-day period from Monday to Friday. Weekends are not always conducive to undertaking dietary changes. If following the recommendations properly, you should not feel hungry or deprived while ‘eating clean’, especially if you are choosing low glycemic-load, high-fibre foods which fill you up and keep your blood sugars stable. But first…
Detoxification is about ‘opening all the doors’ of elimination. All of the channels of elimination (kidneys, skin, intestine, blood, lymph, sweat) must be opened before you start detoxifying the liver. Otherwise, your liver will feel overburdened and you will start to experience headaches and malaise (signs of a healing crisis). Your skin is your largest detoxification organ, so remember to rub your skin with a dry brush or old, stiff towel before getting in the shower to rev up your circulation and help you to detox further.
Detoxification does not mean fasting. Most people do not have the proper blood sugar control to fast and end up feeling dizzy, hungry and may even find it difficult to participate in everyday activities.
Undertaking a real food cleanse carries less chance of triggering a “healing crisis”. This basically means that your body has reached its ability to safely detoxify toxins. When that happens, the body tries to ‘help’ detoxification along by bringing on bring on diarrhea, headaches, and inflammation. As your body lets go of toxic waste, and your cells become cleaner, it becomes easier to recognize a hidden reaction to gluten, dairy, soy or any of the other common food allergies. When you are feeling sick and tired all the time, it is harder to ‘listen’ to what is wrong.
People who consume the most caffeine, alcohol, and sugar, (or who have multiple food allergies), may experience some malaise when they first make the switch from a Standard American Diet (SAD) to a whole-foods cleanse. Symptoms of withdrawal (headaches, cravings, fatigue) usually disappear after three to four days. It is best to slowly reduce your intake of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, white flour, and over-the-counter medications (except as directed by your physician) a week or two before you start your program.
Your first step is to put in place optimal conditions for detoxification, so find a time to when your stress-load is not as high, and make sure that you have stocked the refrigerator and pantry with fresh, alkaline-forming foods. Of course, get rid of any prepared and processed foods in the house before you attempt a Cleanse. There is no sense in having a protein bar (yes, that constitutes a prepared food!) in your pantry as you attempt a Cleanse.
Many of the ideas listed here are from Dr. Mark Hyman MD’s article, “Detox made safe and Simple”, and from his books “The Blood Sugar Solution”, and “The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook” http://goo.gl/8Wo3I
1. Do a Kitchen Detox! Toss out any junk or prepared foods, draft weekly menus, and make shopping lists for healthy foods you will be eating. This will ensure your success.
2. Take your measurements and weigh yourself before you begin. If weight loss is your goal, measure your waist, hips, and record your weight so that you can track progress as you complete the whole-foods Cleanse.
3. Using a 5-day Diet and Mood Diary will keep you aware of what you are putting in your mouth and how you feel afterwards. If you are prone to mood changes or migraines, make a note of what you are feeling and track duration, intensity and frequency. Later you can make note of any improvement when do your next 5-day cleanse.
4. Journaling is a great way to “cleanse” your soul and relieve yourself of mental and emotional stress. 4. Have ready any supplements you need to take that have been advised for you by your certified nutritional practitioner.
5. Exercise but easy does it. Aim for yoga, stretching, 20 minute walks in fresh air now.
6. Be prepared – have ready snacks in your fridge and book bag. Since life is ever changing, make sure that you keep healthy foods and snacks prepared ahead of time so that you can be ready for any changes in your schedule. Keep a wrapped organic apple, and a small container of soaked almonds or cut-up vegetables in your book bag for those times. Healthy dips such as zucchini hummus, or salsa or mashed avocado with cilantro and lemon juice and olive oil can also be kept in the fridge.
7. Move those bowels! If you experience constipation, consider taking 300 milligrams of magnesium citrate a couple of hours before bed. First thing in the morning, have a cup of warm water with lemon. You could also try soaking in a warm Epsom salt bath the night before (2 cups of Epsom salt dissolved in the water with a few drops of lavender oil). The salt’s key component, magnesium, supports hundreds of enzymes in the body. An even better, (although a more expensive option) would be to soak in pH 8 ‘Alka Bath’ crystals, which draw acidity and toxins from the body. The product is available through Dr P Jentschura alkaline living products.
Let’s say that you want to do a cleanse, but don’t like the idea of liquid meals…
|EAT A whole-foods diet.
Digestion takes work and slows down other functions such as detoxification. As digestion work eases, there is a point at which the body receives a signal to enter detoxification mode intensely. As it does that, it releases trapped toxins and mucus.
|DON’T EAT Anything out of a package, box or tin or which contains chemicals.|
|Whole leafy vegetables, leafy greens. Dark leafy greens are also a great way to get natural calcium.||Dairy – No dairy for 5 days. If you can, cut it out entirely. Almond, hemp or coconut milk can be substituted for milk.|
|Naturally detoxifying vegetables – cauliflower, broccoli and leafy greens, help eliminate toxins and normalize hormones.||Frozen, canned or dehydrated vegetables and fruits. Aim for fresh and ‘living’ produce of every colour. Avoid any foods which your system might be sensitive to, or cause stiff joints. Some people are sensitive to ‘night-shades’ such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, potatoes, yams and sweet potatoes.|
|Low Glycemic Grasses, grains and Seeds: Brown basmati rice (lower glycemic), black or mahogany rice, and quinoa (a seed which cooks like a grain), are good choices. Some gluten free grains are fine however keep in mind that grains raise insulin levels.Instead of wheat, try almond or coconut flour.||Gluten grains and wheat.|
|Stevia as a sweetener (or do without – fresh, natural food is sweet enough).||Sugar – even ‘natural sugars’ should be removed from the diet as they also spike insulin, get converted in the liver into glucagon and triglycerides, make you fat and create inflammation in the body.|
|Beans, lentils (avoid soy beans) provide fibre to help regulate blood sugar, as well as help move toxins out. If you have sensitivities to legumes, avoid.||Soy (even non-GMO tends to be contaminated). If eating soy, make sure that it is fermented soy (i.e., Tempeh, miso).|
|Green and white tea (unroasted green tea), with lemon slices can help bridge you over the hump of coffee withdrawal headaches. They will also help to detoxify you. Otherwise, herbal teas without caffeine, such as dandelion root tea, or ‘Alka-Tea’ which contains 49 alkalinizing wild-crafted herbs, are great choices.||Coffee, soda, alcohol. Coffee is acidic, a diuretic and can make you feel less calm during a Cleanse. Soda contains carbon dioxide (waste product) as well as ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, which creates enormous stress on your liver and body tissues.|
|Wild fish, organic chicken and turkey (if choosing to eat meat protein on this cleanse).||Corn (corn is a processed grain made from maize and usually this is genetically modified).|
|Good Saturated Fats – Avocado and coconut, their oils and butters.||Avoid commercially raised red meat and farmed fish for 5 days. During a Cleanse the goal is to put less stress on your liver and kidneys. If eating protein, make sure that it is grass-fed, hormone-free lean protein such as egg whites, chicken, turkey, or sustainably caught Cold-water fish. Proteins secrete the hormone glucagon which helps in fat loss.|
|Nuts, seeds and nut butters, extra-virgin olive oil.||Avoid peanuts. They are a legume, grown under-ground and can harbour mold. They are also acidic.|
|Fruits – whole fruits and berries.||Fruits that are highly sprayed or prematurely ripened – eat organic. Otherwise, take caution around strawberries, oranges, grapes and bananas.|
As you embark on your whole-foods Cleanse, keep in mind:
1) Try not to cheat as you eliminate all refined sugars, flours, caffeine, alcohol, dairy, gluten, or addictive substances. By allowing certain triggers to stay in the diet the body stays on the vicious cycle of cravings and addictive behavior. Reset your biology to eliminate all triggers. After a few days without sugar or refined flours, you will not miss them.
2) Eat in Season – Visit the farmer’s market, learn what is in season, and eat whole foods when they’re fresh and abundant.
3) Drink lots of water. Drink at least six to eight glasses of filtered water daily. Stay away from plastic bottles. Add a squeezed wedge of lemon – it is great for cleansing, as lemon is nature’s magic cleaner. In the spring, the ice melts and the rivers run strong. Imitate spring in your body with fresh water flowing through it constantly. Be careful not to over-hydrate or you will wash out your body’s natural minerals. Urine should be the colour of pale straw and slightly acidic. If it is very light, you are probably drinking too much water or herbal tea.
4) Don’t wait until you are starving to eat! Balance your blood sugar by eating protein-based meals and snacks every three to four hours. Excellent sources of protein are baked or broiled fish, lean poultry or black beans.
5) Supplement your diet with a high quality multi-vitamin, fish oil supplement and a wide-spectrum probiotic. Acidophilus is “friendly” bacteria that helps to maintain a healthy digestive micro-flora, but it is only one of the many beneficial strains available to you. Each probiotic bacteria has a specific job. Some turn on minerals such as zinc, some activate vitamin D, others turn on serotonin receptors, or protect you from pathogenic bacteria. Still others work with fatty acids in your intestines. Make sure you don’t limit yourself to one strain.
To help you prevent detoxification headaches, ensure that your bowels and body tissues are clean. For your tissues, supplement with 500 grams vitamin C with bioflavonoids with breakfast and dinner. If needed, take 300 milligrams magnesium citrate a couple of hours before bed to aid with elimination in the morning.
6) Add Essential fats and oils – EFAs such as fish oil, Borage oil, and flaxseed oil, are wonderful for putting out the fire of any inflammation that may be in your body. “Essential’ means that you need them – your body cannot manufacture them on your own. You must include these oils (or their food equivalents) in your diet. If not, you absolutely must supplement for them.
7) Detox digitally – turn off your cell phone, television, computer, and stop tweeting! Turn off your phone, computer and television for a day. Spend the day writing a handwritten note to a friend, reading a book, cooking a meal from scratch or reconnecting with nature.
8) Get Moving – Increasing body temperature and blood flow with exercise and stretching aids the body’s ability to cleanse. Start each day by touching your toes in the shower for 10 seconds and end the day by touching your toes in bed for 10 seconds. Practicing this simple movement twice a day not only improves flexibility but also brings heat to the digestive tract, which naturally assists the body in the disposing of toxins. If you can’t touch your toes at first, don’t worry. If you try for 10 seconds every morning and night, you’ll be able to do it in no time. And, as always, don’t forget to breathe!
To boost energy, exercise for 30 minutes a day. Walking outside in fresh air is best. Roll up those sleeves and let the sun hit you with some vitamin D!
9) Take an infrared sauna… or a lavender-scented bath – Heat is a great resource while cleansing as it helps draw out toxins from within. If you don’t have access to a sauna, try an Epsom salts bath for 20 minutes a few times per week.
10) Chill-out – Activating your ‘Rest and Digest’ parasympathetic nervous system helps restore your energy, stops production of the stress hormone cortisol, and helps your body to heal and replenish itself. Meditation, deep breathing, or any calming activity is good. Fatigue is normal during a Cleanse so allow more time for rest.
12) Get deep Sleep – Nature has its own cycles and rhythms. Going to sleep at sundown and waking up at sunrise is one sure way to sync with all of nature. Eight hours of sleep is ideal.
13) Do all those nice things that you like to do – Make sure you fit time for deep relaxation into your plan and things that make you happy, whether that means reading a good book undisturbed, or visiting friends who put the wind back in your sails.
14) Don’t smoke (or spend time around smokers, gasoline or exhaust fumes) – that would defeat the purpose of any health initiative. It goes without saying that you should not be taking any recreational drugs or alcohol during a Cleanse.
In closing, a 5-day whole-foods cleanse is safe and allows the body to heal itself naturally. You will start to make it up the stairs with less creaking of the knees, your skin will glow with vitality and you will feel more energetic. In making these changes, always work with a Certified Nutritional Practitioner to help determine what cleanse (and length of cleanse) will work best for you.
After completing your 5-day whole-foods cleanse, and following the advice listed above, you will be amazed at the amount of mucus that leaves your body. Mucus is the body’s way of defending itself from the irritation caused by toxin accumulation. Keep a journal and track your symptoms. You should feel more energetic in three to seven days after eating a clean whole-foods diet. If you do not feel well at this point, please exercise caution and check in with your doctor.
To your excellent health!