The summer is fun, but between travel, cottage life and outdoor parties, we can over-indulge in many treats and stray away from our fitness routine. In September everyone feels like they shift into another gear, and the cooler weather, darker days and on-coming flu season can take their toll on our energy and health.
A cleanse is like a tune-up. We take our cars in to clean out the filter and ensure everything is in working order, and we should do the same with our bodies. There are so many stressors in our environment, and the reality of our lifestyle doesn’t allow for perfect eating all of the time, so a cleanse gives us a set amount of time where we are a little more diligent about what goes into our body, thereby giving our organs a break and a boost at the same time.
What’s the best way to cleanse? There are so many cleanse out there, and I’ve probably tried most of them over the years. When most people think of a cleanse they think about a strict diet without coffee and alcohol, or dairy, wheat, and in some cases even citrus, peppers, tomatoes etc. This is not very realistic and not very fun. And it’s not the only way to do it.
While there’s a place for such a cleanse, when working with a naturopath or trying to heal a specific condition, I’ve found that over the years, I’m more likely to be consistent with something a little more manageable. If it’s manageable and realistic, I’m more likely to do it – proactively rather than only as a last resort when I’m feeling terrible. And that’s the key: proactive prevention.
So I thought I would share what I do.
Essentially there are two parts – diet and supplements. Diet is the most important; so don’t worry if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on supplements. They are a nice boost to your cleanse, but pills and herbs aren’t a magic cure.
How long? While 7 days sounds quick and painless, the reality is the longer the better. Our organs are constantly regenerating, so the more time you spend eating well, the better. About 3-4 weeks is ideal. That may sound like a lot at first, but if you use the moderate approach I outline below, it’s really not that hard.
Part 1: Diet
The key for me is moderation. I don’t go to extremes these days. For the most part, I decrease the bad stuff and increase the good stuff, rather than eliminate and avoid; except for the toxic processed stuff of course, which you should do your best to avoid all year round.
- I try to eat out less and when I do, I stick to clean and healthy choices and try to pick restaurants that are known for healthier meals (this is not the time to try that new steakhouse you’ve had your eye on… but if you find yourself at a steakhouse, that’s okay too, there are plenty of healthy salads and grilled protein choices).
- I try to stay away from alcohol as much as possible for 3-4 weeks, but limit to a few occasions or 1 glass of wine per week, if I can’t avoid certain occasions.
- I drink less coffee and more green tea.
- I aim to eat more fresh vegetables and salads and vegetarian protein sources, avoiding red meat and limiting even white meat. A vegetarian diet is so much easier on your system and it’s a great way to give your body a break – you don’t need to declare yourself a vegetarian, just choose more vegetarian meals during the time of your cleanse. You may find you feel so good that you will want to make it a habit.
Below are some guidelines….by no means an exhaustive list:
All processed and fast foods, deep-fried foods, etc
Deli meats (including hot dogs, smoked salmon etc)
White processed bread
Anything artificially colored or flavored
Sugar (even healthier dessert items… just eat less than you normally do)
Sauces and condiments
Dairy (stick to organic where possible, and yogurts or feta cheese)
Vegetables, especially dark greens like kale and spinach and bright colors like carrots and beets
Raw, fresh salads
Beans and legumes
Whole grains like quinoa, oatmeal
Here’s typically what I eat:
Healthy cereal with soymilk for breakfast, or whole grain bread with almond butter, and Greek yogurt. (Feel free to do eggs if you like them). A big meal-size salad for one meal – filled with dark greens, avocado, tomatoes, peppers, grated carrots and/or beets, and add some quinoa and black beans or chickpeas. Sometimes I do grilled chicken or grilled tofu. I use balsamic vinegar and olive oil rather than a pre-made dressing. Then one other healthy meal – rice, grilled fish or chicken, or at a vegetarian restaurant or Amy’s vegetarian organic frozen entrees. For desserts or snacks, I stick to nuts, kind bars and dark chocolate…. And occasionally soy ice cream or vegan cookies.
Part 2 – supplements
The benefit of supplements is that they boost the effects of the increased healthy diet. It’s like adding another layer to the results because they work to increase the rate at which your organs detoxify, and tone and strengthen at the same time.
There are so many supplements and cleanse kits that it can be a bit overwhelming. Here’s my take on it: for the average healthy person, the liver and the colon are key. They are your largest organs and perform key functions of digestion and detoxification on a daily basis. So choose supplements that support these two organs first and foremost.
Here’s what I use:
1) Probiotic – take 2 capsules in the morning upon waking. I like to take these all year, but at the very least take them during cleansing to support a healthy microbial balance of the intestinal tract, improving regularity, immunity and digestion (I like Udo’s Choice Adult Formula)
2) Liver support – take something that contains cleansing and toning herbs for the liver, including milk thistle, dandelion and antioxidants like NAC and Alpha Lipoic Acid (I like Liver Detox Kit by Renew Life)
3) Adaptogenic formula – the adrenal glands are always on over-drive, they regulate stress hormones like cortisol in our body and how they function can impact everything from energy levels to metabolism. I like to cycle this formula at least 2x a year for 2-3 months at a time. (I like Ortho-adapt Vegan by AOR)
4) Fiber – a basic fiber formula is great and can be taken year round to keep things moving. During cleansing it is particularly important because the fiber absorbs the increased release of toxins into the digestive tract. If you are not having 1-2 bowel movements a day, you should be looking at your fiber and water intake. If you still experience constipation, try taking magnesium at bedtime. The fiber I recommend is FibreSmart by Renew Life – it is gentle for even the most sensitive systems, and does not bulk up too much like psyllium-based products. Start slowly, that’s the key with fiber. Work your way up to a full scoop, either at bedtime or in the morning – can be added to plain water, juice or a smoothie. During the cleanse you can increase up to 2 scoops per day.
**Another good cleanse kit that I like is Cleanse Smart by Renew Life – it’s a bit more ‘whole body’ herbal support than the Liver Detox – so choose either one (not both) but still add the fiber, probiotics and adaptogenic formula. You can also alternate them, do Cleanse Smart in fall and Liver Detox in spring.
Hopefully this is helpful and not too overwhelming. Remember: something is better than nothing… and moderate 4 weeks is better than extreme 7 days. So don’t obsess about getting it perfect. Just eat better for as long as you can… and if you have a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, that’s okay. That doesn’t mean you have to have a burger and fries and blow the whole day. Just do the best you can and know that every healthy choice adds up. If you are consistent with healthier choices you will most definitely feel the difference!
Live fit. Live happy.
*The content in this article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace advice or prescriptions from your Medical Doctor. For specific amounts, usage, and drug interactions please see your personal health care practitioner.