Today was the start of my annual cleanse. After the holidays, vacation, followed by a sales meeting, my sinuses are not happy, allergies are acting up, my waist has expanded and my energy is a bit sub par. I’m more than ready to get back on track. This year, I have invited others to join me. Some will be joining me for the full 21 days. Others are joining for 10 days, which is perfect for a first time cleanse. Whether you are participating or just following along, just to check it out, here a few things to keep in mind.
1. This is not a classic Elimination Diet. An elimination diet is meant to tease out food sensitivities. If you have a food allergy, you likely know it, or are having some dramatic reactions to specific foods. Food sensitivities may be much more subtle, delayed and difficult to track down. Bothersome symptoms such as headaches, mental fogginess, skin and sinus issues are just a sample of the many possible manifestations of food sensitivities, which no doubt allopathic practitioners would recommend prescription or over the counter ‘band-aids’ while a permanent solution remains elusive.
My approach this year does not eliminate some of the foods typically avoided on an elimination diet (nightshades, citrus) and does not include the all important re-introduction phase. If you have had chronic health issues, particularly those that our healthcare system is not resolving, you may want to consider a classic elimination diet. This requires the guidance of a licensed practitioner. I highly recommend the Clean Program, designed by Alejandro Junger, MD. The group actually just started their annual group cleanse, but you can start it at anytime. Whether you buy their kit or just follow the book’s guidelines, you can have your own health coach supporting you (for free!) and be part of the Clean community, sharing tips and ideas. Highly recommended. It has changed many people’s lives! Alternatively, work with a dietitian who is trained in functional medicine. Consult the Institute for Functional Medicine for a list of practitioners in your area. Contact me if you are in the NYC or Seattle area. I will have recommendations for you.
2. Why Cleanse?
The body has a system for neutralizing and eliminating toxins. But, the environment we live in is full of environmental toxins, from industrial pollutants in the air, to chemicals coatings on our furniture and rugs, as well as the massive amount of pesticides and chemical additives in the foods we eat, no matter how hard we try to source organic products. If you live in a city, especially if you consume caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, smoke or take prescription drugs, your body’s detoxification system is most likely overwhelmed. Like a clogged drain, the toxins have no wear to go and stay in your body, often depositing in fat tissues. This can complicate weight loss. This can cause a lot nagging symptoms. This can cause you to not feel your best or make you feel downright awful. Often, the only way to unplug the ‘clog’ is by cleansing, eliminating the inflow of toxins as much as possible, to give your detoxification system a chance to process the backlog. I find the topic fascinating. This is but a very high-level overview. If you would like to learn more, Dr. Junger’s book, ‘Clean’ is a great place to start.
3. What Can You Expect From a Cleanse?
I have completed many cleanses and have taken many groups through formal cleanses. People’s reasons for doing cleanses are varied. But, I found that after completing cleanses, participants typically had the same responses.
” It was easy. But, it wasn’t as hard as I expected.”
” I lost my cravings!”
“I don’t want to go back to eating the way I ate before.”
3. Why THIS program?
As mentioned, I have completed many cleanses and used many different programs. After each completed cleanse, my dietary habits changed a bit for the better. At this point, eating on a cleanse is not that different from my regular eating. So, this less-restrictive approach works for anyone who is in generally good health, not pregnant or nursing and:
- Wants to focus on healthier eating habits
- Wants to get control of their cravings
- Wants to get rid of holiday weight
While this program is not as restricted as a full elimination diet, it does provide the body with the nutritional support, including specific amino acids and adequate energy needed to neutralize and eliminate toxins. Programs such as the “Master Cleanse” do not and may result in even more reactive intermediaries and an incomplete cleanse.
4. Supplements -And What Else Should I Consider?
Supplements are not needed during a cleanse, but can significantly support the detoxification process. However, anyone on any medication should check with their doctor prior to using detoxification supplements. As mentioned, this is not a medical cleanse. Please consult your healthcare practitioner if you want to try ANY cleanse with supplements if you are on medication. You need to make sure that the cleanse process, while supporting the elimination of toxins is not also impacting the metabolism rate of your medications. This includes birth control pills!
That said, since some people have asked, I will be taking AdvaClear for detox support. Silymarin (Milk Thistle) is a safe alternative for most people to use during a cleanse and beyond.
Shakes? I will be using UltraClear Renew medical food as the base for my morning shake.An alternate suggestion for a smoothie base would be SunWarrior Warrior Blend, Vega Performance sport, Garden of Life Raw Protein and Manitoba Harvest. These products are recommended by the Clean Program as they all use non-GMO ingredients, including hypo-allergenic protein sources.
Probiotics? In a word, yes. Every day. This could be a post on its own. I highly recommend selecting a professional brand which is stored refrigerated in dark, glass bottles, states not only genus and species, but also the strain (i.e., L. Acidophilus NCFM. NCFM is strain). Without the strain specification, you have NO idea what the health benefits of the probiotic will be, assuming the probiotic is still alive. Finally, look for a potency (CFU count) claim at the time of expiration, rather than the time of manufacture. I use Metagenics probiotics. I work for them, but, would use their probiotics, even if I did not.
Sleep? Making every effort to get adequate sleep will enhance detoxification. Detoxification is a very energy-intensive process. So, don’t be surprised if you feel you are requiring more sleep. Even better, try to go to sleep on an empty stomach, leaving 12 hours between dinner and breakfast. This allows the body’s energy to focus on detoxification, rather than digestion.
Water? The recommendation for 8 glasses of fluid per day is even more important during a cleanse. More is better. Without adequate hydration, the kidneys will struggle to move those neutralized toxins out of you.
Elimination? Ditto above. Elimination is SO extremely important to successful cleansing. So important, in fact, you should not start a cleanse if you are constipated. If you have a fiber powder you like, use it. Many people find that they are consuming so many vegetables during the cleanse, the process takes care of itself. I like to take 600 mg of Magnesium Glycinate every night to help me sleep and avoid constipation. If I am irregular, I take the same of Magnesium Citrate in the evening. If this is new to you, start with a very low dose, and increase each evening until you find the right amount for you, avoiding any unpleasant surprises. Magnesium is needed for about 400 bodily reactions and is depleted by stress, so Magnesium supplements are a good idea for most people.
5. What to Eat?
The plan for the next 3 weeks is listed above. I have combined several programs with the goal of simplicity. Anyone can complete this! The focus is on whole foods, modified Mediterranean and pseudo Paleo (see alternate options).
- Reduction of Joint Pains Digestive Issues: Consider avoiding all foods from the nightshade family. However, as mentioned, a more structured program might be better for these individuals as this plan does not include a reintroduction phase.
- Weight /Cravings Loss or Blood Sugar Focus: Limit starchy vegetables to one serving per day. Limit grains or quinoa to one cup per day. Or, simply keep the Healthy Plate concept in mind, which might work better for larger individuals with higher caloric needs or those exercising strenuously.
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