The article below has been submitted for publication to the Huffington Post. It states my views on the importance and value of cleansing. I was INSPIRED to write this article for a number of reasons. First, our next group cleanse will be happening later this month at the Loews Beach Hotel and I wanted to introduce people to Akasha’s unique approach to cleansing. Second, my own health has improved tremendously since I started cleansing regularly. In contrast to a decade ago, I am now filled with energy from morning to night. I am able to focus for hours at a time and I feel happier and spryer. Third, I have seen my patients, family and friends experience similar benefits after completing a cleanse. My stoic dad chirped, my friend who was bloated and constipated, became regular without bloat, my sugar-addict patients no longer obsessed about sugar and patients struggling to lose weight and have a healthy relationship with food met their goals. The benefits of cleansing are enormous and I feel inspired to share.
There is an overwhelming amount of information and products available dealing with cleansing and detoxification of the body. Parasitic purges, Candida eradication, maple lemonade tonics, fist full of capsules at specific times of the day and swigging an unappetizing amount of olive oil are examples. The options are many and a decision as to which cleanse to try, or even if a cleanse is safe, can be intimidating. Undertaking a 3-week cleanse does not need to be a daunting regimen of calorie restriction and laxatives. Rather it can be an empowering and enjoyable experience filled with nutrient-rich, flavorful REAL food that leaves you with a clean body, mind, spirit and palate.
What is Cleansing?
Cleansing is a hot topic today and if you were to ask 5-different professionals to define it, you might receive 5-different answers. I think of cleansing as giving our bodies a vacation. Our liver, kidneys, skin, colon and lymphatic systems are always working to detox, neutralize and excrete both environmental and internal toxins which we are exposed to daily. In simplistic terms, when we commit to a cleanse, we minimize the ‘bad’ in, maximize the ‘bad’ out and optimize the ‘good’ into our bodies.
A Closer look at our environment:
We are exposed to toxins everyday-both externally in the environment and internally through our body’s normal byproducts of digestion and metabolism. A toxin is anything that interferes with our normal physiology and has a negative impact on bodily functions. Humans have an amazing ability to adapt to challenging situations and environmental insults. Our own natural cleansing systems work constantly to keep our bodies healthy. So when we are exposed to chemicals, our bodies can generally process and metabolize them without affecting our health. However, a lifetime of exposure to these ubiquitous chemicals taxes our natural cleansing systems. As a result, our health is affected adversely. We reach a boiling point when our bodies show signs of toxic overload. It is this toxic overload that underlies many chronic diseases by affecting our immune, endocrine, neurological and cardiovascular systems.
Externally, we are exposed to environmental chemicals and pollutants which contaminate the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. Chemicals permeate cosmetics and the home environment. We are exposed to off-gassing from paint, carpet and new furniture. Plastics leach chemicals, such a phthalates, into our water and food supply. Pesticides are sprayed on produce. High levels of mercury are found in tuna, halibut and swordfish. Internally, our bodies produce waste byproducts as a result of normal metabolic functions. Our own metabolism exposes our bodies to free radicals, carbon dioxide, uric acid, homocysteine, lactic acid and ammonia. Our bodies can process and eliminate these toxins, but all avenues of elimination need to be working optimally in order to achieve efficient detoxification.
Unfortunately, we are limited in controlling our environment. We can certainly gain awareness of where chemicals are found and attempt to avoid them and find non-toxic substitutes. We can eat organic, nutrient-dense foods rich in antioxidants in order to optimize our body’s natural cleansing processes. We can purchase (or even make) nontoxic cleaners for our home and use cosmetics that are not laden with chemicals and “fragrances”. However, the reality is we live in a toxic world and complete avoidance is unrealistic. The exciting news is the easy accessibility to a cleanse where, for a period of time, we minimize exposure to chemicals and optimize our body’s natural cleansing processes.
Common symptoms improved with cleansing:
PMS, low libido, brain fog, fatigue, allergies, constipation, bloating and gas, IBS, acne, anxiety, depression and moodiness, insomnia, headaches, joint pain, weight gain, food cravings and susceptibility to infections are affected positively through cleansing.
3-Week Cleanse Suggestions
The most affective cleanse should be tailored, by a doctor or healthcare professional experienced in cleansing, to an individual’s unique health needs and goals. However, some general principles can be embraced by someone seeking
to improve their health through a cleanse.
It takes 3-weeks to eliminate sugar cravings and other food addictions. I also believe that 3-weeks are necessary to cleanse the palate and experience the full benefits associated with cleansing. My recommendations for a 3-week cleanse include the following:
1. Follow a hypoallergenic, anti-inflammatory and cleansing diet.
- Hypoallergenic: Eliminate all common food sensitivities from your diet:
gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs and citrus.
Anti-inflammatory: Emphasize foods high in omega 3 fatty acids (flaxseed oil, wild salmon, sardines, and flaxseeds) and limit foods high in the pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids (vegetables oils, chicken, red meat and egg yolks). Also, avoid the nightshades vegetables (eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers and potatoes) since they contain alkaloids that can contribute to joint pain in susceptible individuals.
- Cleansing: Consume foods which are nutrient dense, fiber-rich and high in anti-oxidants. Include liver supportive foods such as beets, artichokes, burdock root, dandelion root and carrots. Eliminate sugar, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, hydrogenated fats/oil, alcohol, caffeine (green tea is OK), chocolate, condiments, fish high in mercury (tuna, halibut, swordfish, mackerel), soda and all artificial sweeteners.
- Eat slowly and mindfully, and chew your food thoroughly without the interference of TV or reading. Listen to your body and stop when you are full. No counting calories or points. Learning to listen to your body and honor its signals is more challenging but absolutely necessary to have a healthy and trusting relationship with food.
2. Drink filtered water- generally 1/3-1/2 of your body weight daily in fluid ounces.
3. Sleep- the goal is to fall asleep easily, sleep through the night and wake rested. Do not sacrifice sleep in order to stay up late to watch a movie, read or study.
4. Exercise- this is not a calorie restrictive cleanse. You should move your body, break a sweat and get your heart rate up.
5. Stress Management – it can be achieved through meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, walking or journaling. Find an outlet to express yourself and decompress.
6. Fresh Air – get fresh air everyday.
7. Joy- nourish your soul and do something you enjoy each day. It can be as simple as reading a few pages of a book, painting, crafts, bike ride, walk on the beach- anything which brings you pleasure.
8. Supplements- it is best to consult with a doctor or healthcare practitioner who is experienced in cleansing before starting a new supplement plan. However, some gentle cleansing products you may consider include:
- Probiotic- good bacteria for the gut. Probiotics are vital for metabolism, cleansing and immunity.
Fiber – such as freshly ground flaxseed or psyllium to support healthy digestion and elimination.
- Liver support- this can be specific nutrients to support the phases of detoxification or herbs to facilitate the liver’s role in detoxification.
- Green Superfood- many options available at health food stores. These contain a rich source of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants to help facilitate cleansing.
When you follow this clean, hypoallergenic and anti-inflammatory diet with a nourishing and cleansing lifestyle you are giving your body, mind and soul a gift. You actively remove obstacles to health while giving your body the tools it needs to heal itself and reach a higher level of optimum wellbeing. All of this while experiencing a clean palate, less bloat, no food cravings and endless energy.
Dr. Maggie Ney is a Naturopathic Doctor and co-director of the Women’s Clinic at
the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine. To read articles by Dr. Ney visit her
blog at drmaggieney.com. Or, to schedule an appointment, call 310.451.8880