The idea of cleansing or detoxifying the body has been around a very long time and is a big part of where the foundations of Naturopathic medicine come from.
Fasting is very old school and basically where people do not eat at all and only drink water . At this point this is far too dangerous as we are all too toxic, except for the rare instances where someone is in medical care and monitored.
What you can reasonably look at is a cleanse, which is also a type of detoxification. Where you are changing some of your intake to make it cleaner and easier for your body to use.
In my practice once someone is well I suggest doing a cleanse, once to twice yearly, typically at the change of season to keep themselves healthy. This is based on the idea that one of the main reasons that the body becomes unwell is that it becomes overwhelmed with the toxins that we come into contact everyday in our food, water, air and on our skin and can then not perform it’s normal functioning.
The most common times to do a cleanse are during the fall and spring. In Chinese medicine the fall is when the lungs or immune system are at their weakest and the spring is when the digestion and liver function are weaker. By doing a cleanse during these times you can strengthen these parts of the body.
The spring in Chinese Medicine is ruled by the liver and gallbladder. The health of the liver shows itself through the health of the eyes and vision and also through the bowel movements. When the liver is overwhelmed and under functioning, symptoms that can show themselves include; seasonal allergies, constipation or diarrhea, bloating, red or tired eyes, worsening vision, skin outbreaks of rashes or acne and overall sluggishness.
Foods and spices that I would suggest increasing for a Spring cleanse include; curry, cayenne pepper, ginger, black pepper, dark greens (cooked or raw), the stinky vegetables like; broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, asparagus and also beets, garlic and onions.
A really great mild way to strengthen digestion and also the efficiency of the liver is to have the juice of 1/2 a lemon unsweetened with water in the morning, 15- 20 minutes before breakfast.
The following are a few more things that you can do during this cleanse and in general as daily practices to encourage different parts of your body to function more efficiently.
Something that can be helpful for your lymphatic system is dry skin brushing. Using a dry facecloth or something more abrasive like a loofah sponge, use light brisk strokes always heading toward your heart. Your skin will feel warm or look pink as a sign to let you know that you have done enough.
Epsom salt baths are fantastic at not only helping with achy muscles but also encouraging toxins to be eliminated through the skin and therefore giving the liver and kidneys less work to do.
As long as sugar is not in the first 3 ingredients of a food do not be concerned. It is best to avoid artificial sweeteners like Aspartame as they make the liver work harder which in part is what we are trying to avoid with a cleanse. Stevia or agave syrup are great substitutes for sugar and have a balancing effect on the glycemic index.
Like when I mentioned that one of the main reasons it is believed that we get sick is being full of toxins, another is that our body has chronic inflammation (unlike acute) which causes irritation to our tissues and has the ability to turn genes on that we inherited from our kin, then expressing illnesses that our family is prone to. By keeping blood sugar stable, we avoid chronic inflammation of the tissue. Besides keeping sugar and most other sweeteners low in our diet the other two main ways to keep blood sugar stable is by having close to 30g daily of fiber and having protein almost every time we eat (12- 15g for a snack and 25- 30g for a meal).
Our liver is our main organ of elimination. Alcohol, along with caffeine and aspirin are the only substances that we ingest that do not need to be digested before they are used. They are actually able to be absorbed directly into the stomach lining and then go straight to the liver. Ever notice how quickly you feel alcohol if you have some on an empty stomach? Anything that get’s absorbed into the body that quickly makes it work harder.
When I talk about avoiding caffeine, this includes the obvious coffee and black tea but also, green tea, white tea and chocolate. To help you avoid caffeine withdrawal the tea yerbe mate is great and contains a chemical called mateine which binds with our caffeine receptors so that our body thinks it is getting caffeine. It provides a bit of a lift but is easier to process and non-habit forming.
Something to keep in mind if you are feeling run down now or in the future when you are considering a cleanse, is that there are times when it is not suitable to cleanse. The body either wants to be strengthened or cleaned. And strengthening is always done first. If you are considering doing a stronger cleanse than mentioned above you might want to consider coming in to see me so that I can not only make sure your body is ready but also give you advice regarding the best one to choose.