These days, with the internet, social media, and all of the many fad diets and trends spreading like wildfire through the outlets provided by our modern lifestyles, I am sure you have heard the word “cleanse” floating around everywhere.
But what exactly is a cleanse, and what kind of cleanse do I recommend?
First, a cleanse is a short period of time in which you follow a strict diet plan (usually one that offers much less solid foods than you would normally eat in a day) allowing your body to more effectively eliminate toxins, hormones, and waste.
A lot of the cleanses you hear about are focused more on weight loss than the health and function of your body. While weight loss might be a nice side effect for your efforts, it should not be the main goal of your cleanse. This can lead to unhealthy and dangerous habits.
A good cleanse should include light, easy-to-digest foods that have been well-cooked, are high in nutrients, and low in sugars. Meat, dairy, bread, sugars, pasta, soy, oils (besides olive, coconut, and grapeseed) coffee, alcohol, starchy veggies, high glycemic fruits, and any foods you know to be irritating to your body personally, should be avoided during a cleanse.
If you are pregnant or nursing you should avoid cleansing until your baby is weaned since the toxins you release during a cleanse will cross the placenta and exit your body through any means available, including breastmilk.
So who can benefit from a cleanse?
Almost anyone can benefit from giving their digestion a break and freeing up your otherwise over-taxed organs to rid your body of harmful substances. A cleanse is an especially good thing to do after the holidays, before making the switch to a healthier diet, after a sickness, or with the change of the seasons, as long as it is done correctly.
Here is my list of 5 signs it might be time to eliminate the waste.
Chronic allergy symptoms
Got a runny nose that just won’t quit? Do you constantly feel like there is gunk in your chest, goop in your eyes, or a sneeze that won’t show up? These might actually be signs that your body is bogged down trying to rid itself of excess mucus that is created by bad eating habits.
Irregular bowel movement
Of course, we all have the occasional irregularity, but if you find that this is happening more often than not, it may be time to give your digestion a much-needed break. This goes for constipation as well as an excessively long bout of diarrhea.
Painful gas and bloating
This one is huge! (no pun intended) The thing about excessive gas and painful bloating is that it doesn’t always mean you have eaten poorly. I thought that after I changed my diet to a healthy and nutritious one, I would no longer experience any kind of bloat. The truth is that even healthy foods can contribute to bloating and gas, which is why it is so important to number one, chew your food fully, and number two, pay attention to the foods that might trigger painful gas for you personally. (For my mother, it is broccoli. For me, it is Quinoa. Just because a food is healthy doesn’t mean it is right for you.) Once these foods are identified, a cleanse is beneficial to calm your system and make a fresh start.
For me, acne never appeared in high school. Instead, it came in college and continued to get worse and worse until I cut dairy out of my diet completely 6 years ago. My body was not able to process the protein found in dairy, and so tried every means necessary to rid itself of the build-up of mucous stored in my system, even through my skin. (Yuck, I know.) Unhealthy eating habits greatly contribute to the cause of acne. If you have found yourself breaking out lately, your body might be trying to tell you to slow down and give it a chance to clean itself.
If you find that you have no energy, you’re drinking more coffee than usual lately, or your brain feels a little cloudy, it is a good indication that things are not running smoothly on the inside.
If you’re used to eating a lot of processed foods, a cleanse can be difficult. You will likely experience detox symptoms (such as the symptoms listed above, only a little worse than you had them before) but that means it is working. Do not stop if you experience uncomfortable side effects! You will feel so much better if you let your body do what it has been trying to do for you.
Remember, a cleanse should not necessarily be a fast. A fast is a period of time in which you ingest no solid foods, but a cleanse just means that you are eating less, and easily digested foods. Avoid eating before 7 AM and after 7 PM when cleansing. Your dinner should be very light as well.
It is a good idea to supplement with herbs while cleansing. Taking them as tea can not only be a relaxing way to enjoy their benefits, but also a great way to help you feel full and satisfied while eating less. I recommend herbs that aid in digestion such as fennel, and ginger. Herbs that soothe the system, such as licorice root, marshmallow root, and slippery elm. And herbs that cleanse the blood, such as burdock, chickory, and dandelion.