At this time of year, we’re all feeling a need to do a little “spring cleaning” – and that includes our physical selves. One of the best ways to get there is with a body cleanse.
Detoxification programs, especially fasting, are nothing new. In Chinese medicine, various forms of fasting have always been an integral part of preventative health, and regular periods of body cleansing are integral to many spiritual traditions—including Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Native American. Undergone for the considerable good of getting out of both your physical and spiritual comfort zones.
But yesterday’s cleanse is not today’s. If you’re even half serious about getting the most bang for your buck and your commitment, there are new superfoods, new fibers, new blends, new supplements, new shakes and brews, and new twists on H2O. Each improvement is good, but better if put together in a comprehensive step-by-step program, one that is right for you and one (most importantly) that you will follow.
But before you get out your blender, how do you know if your liver, nervous system, brain, your whole body even need a tune-up? There are many red flags. Here are a few that may ring a bell.
- Have a dragged-out feeling even after a full night’s sleep?
- Have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep?
- Plagued by digestive issues – gas, bloating, constipation, irregularity?
- Suffering from a lack of focus, free-floating anxiety, even depression?
- Got frequent joint or muscle pain?
- Skin rashes, puffiness, dark circles under the eyes?
- Trouble losing weight?
Assuming you are relatively healthy, your body’s main detoxification engines–kidney, liver, and skin—are working nonstop to dispose of the garbage, so to speak. But never before have they been asked to do so much.
“According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are 85,000 known toxic substances in use. But EPA has no idea what the total number might be. In the last 50 years, we have seen a dramatic increase in chemical production in the United States,” says Tracey Woodruff, a professor at UCSF’s Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies.
Concurrently, she says, there’s been an increase in the incidence of conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, childhood cancers, diabetes, and obesity. The water we run from our taps, the lotion we smear on our skin, the shampoo we rub in our hair, even the dust in our houses is full of synthetic chemicals. In addition, the average person unwittingly eats (and inhales) thousands of microparticles of plastic every day. Obviously not good.
Detox may not be a cure-all. But it is certainly the helping hand your body needs to do the internal repair work.
A body cleanse can be a day, a weekend, a week, or longer. But beginners should start with a day or two. Body cleansing is a matter of subtracting and adding foods, habits, and practices.
So open your pantry and fridge doors and get started.
- Dairy –Dairy has a reputation for creating nasal congestion, stomach disturbances, and even skin eruptions. And then there’s the cholesterol and saturated fat. Taking a dairy break may give your body some relief. There are plenty of other and better ways (tofu, sardines, broccoli, fortified juices, and non-dairy kinds of milk) to get your calcium.
- Processed packaged foods: Those stabilizers, preservatives, flavor enhancers, and dyes, found in all processed foods are unnecessary except to increase the manufacturer’s bottom line and clog up your body’s machinery. Many are allergenic, cause food cravings and some are suspected carcinogens.
- Carbohydrate moderation: We live in a state of carbohydrate overabundance from potatoes and cookies to bagels and ice cream. Carbs produce glucose for energy but in the process cause inflammation throughout the body. By contrast, depriving your body of carb-rich bread, sugary fruits, and starchy vegetables gives ketones (derived from fatty acid metabolism) a chance to step in and fuel your body instead. It’s a good hack because ketones are anti-inflammatory, improve your antioxidant reserve and appear to positively affect cognition. Ask anyone on a ketogenic diet. You also remove gluten when you ditch bread products, an irritant even for those of us not clinically intolerant of this substance.
- Intermittent Fasting allows your body’s digestive system to reset and catch up on the job of disposing of cellular waste. In action, this can take the form of eating an earlier dinner and skipping breakfast, giving you an ideal 12-14 hour window of fasting. But even shorter food breaks are also beneficial. IF isn’t for everybody. Pregnant women, seriously underweight folks, those with blood sugar issues, and athletes who need greater caloric intake should pass. Always check with your doctor before making this change in your diet.
- Prebiotic vegetables will feed the good (probiotic) bacteria in your gut. That means more tomatoes, bananas, asparagus, artichokes, onions, and garlic. You can eat them steamed, raw, or juiced.
- Coffee Fasting: Coffee is both good and bad. Coffee beans contain high levels of antioxidants and caffeine improves both mood and brain function. But caffeine has lots of negative effects on the body, as well (more for some of us than others), adversely affecting blood pressure, digestion, the nervous system, and sleep patterns. Chances are you may be dehydrated from all that coffee drinking as well and dehydration has many health-busting side effects. Water (filtered) on the other hand helps with digestion, elimination, and absorption of nutrients. Try replacing your morning cup with decaf coffee or tea or herb teas. The best herbal detoxifiers are ginger, lemon, turmeric, and mint. No tap water, please.
- Mocktails not Cocktails: Alcohol is a notorious metabolism destabilizer. Affecting every body organ and system from your heart and lungs to your liver and kidneys. (90% of it is metabolized by your hard-working liver). It is also a serious dehydrator, depleting important vitamins and minerals from your body.
- Dark Green Vegetables: Kale, spinach, collard, beet, and dandelion greens. And don’t forget broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and other cabbages. All great for juicing, raw salads, soup, and homemade dips. Benefits? Lots of gut-healthy fiber, high in water, low in calories, and of course, fat-free. Greens are rich in anti-inflammatory antioxidants, micro and macronutrients — and you can eat your fill.
- Exercise: A miracle detoxifier. This means anything from jogging in place in your living room to lifting weights in a gym, to cycling outdoors. Also, yoga and core strength practices like Pilates and Tai Chi. They all reduce inflammation in the body and support the body’s detoxification system. And there is no better “pill” for living better. Pick a favorite and aim for 20 minutes daily as a minimum.
- Sleep: Only during sleep are certain waste removal processes in the brain activated. Those 40 winks literally rinse your brain of toxins as medical experts like David and Austin Perlmutter, authors of BrainWash tell us. Practice good sleep hygiene by putting some space between your last meal and bedtime, getting to bed early, turning off both lights and blue light-emitting devices. Use a white noise machine or a mediation app to buffer any external noise.
- “Clean” cleaning products: You are no healthier than the products you use to clean your living space, from carpet and floor cleaners to air sprays to dish and bath soaps to personal care products. Read labels. Look for just a few honest ingredients and watch for scary-sounding additives. Use fewer and safer products. It’s amazing what a little lemon juice and baking soda will do.
- Let your spirit re-set: Your mind and body need to declutter and tidy up during a detox. Carve out time every day for some mindfulness meditation, a prayer break, or a nature walk. 10/20 minutes morning and evening may seriously downshift your tensions and uplift your mood. Schedule a reset break at sunrise and sunset, if possible. Write the commitment into your calendar. Add a bit of journaling for more impact.
SUPER CLEANSING SMOOTHIE (2 servings)
- 1 ½ cups almond or other non-dairy milk
- 2 cups fresh spinach (or use 1 cup each kale and spinach)
- 1 medium ripe banana (frozen)
- 1 cup fresh or frozen berries (strawberry, raspberry, blueberry)
- ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 3 crushed ice cubes
Optional adds: Coconut oil, flaxseed or hempseed, powdered collagen, cinnamon, raw honey, pomegranate, or blueberry juice or concentrate.
Combine all ingredients in your blender, puree till smooth or chunky smooth.
Helpful Takeaway Tidbits
-20 minutes of exercise daily is one of the very best detoxifiers.
-Sleep is where our organs cleanse and restore themselves. Don’t eat too close to bedtime, turn off anything (like cell phones) that emit distracting light, and practice going to bed earlier.
-Limiting dairy (there are so many tasty substitutes) and processed foods as much as you can will support your body’s natural detox efforts.