Seasonal and dietary influences can enhance the accumulation of waste and impurities in our bodies. (Think: Holiday excess, supersize portions and grab-and-go meal options.) In today’s busy world, supporting the body’s natural abilities to eliminate toxins is more important than ever.* We have become separated from a life of regular vigorous exercise, fresh air, whole foods, sunshine and the natural environment in general. Our air, water, food, landscape and emotions all contribute to our intake of toxins.
Though it has gained mainstream attention only recently, periodic cleansing is a tradition that has been practiced for thousands of years by cultures around the world. Therefore, it is recommended to cleanse periodically, stimulating and supporting your body’s digestion and elimination.*
While cleansing, it is important to eat the right foods and have the proper balance of exercise, energy and rest. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you decide it’s time for a “fresh start.”
Consider the season. January is a popular time to cleanse, due to a combination of holiday excess and New Year’s resolutions. Late spring is another time when we hear about cleanses quite a bit, as a way to prep for “bathing suit season.” As you plan your cleanse, consider the time of year. The height of winter is not a time when the body naturally craves cold juices and raw vegetables; Traditional Chinese Medicine even advises against consuming such foods during this cold, wet season. Save those types of brief cleanses for warmer weather, when produce is abundant and our bodies could use more cooling energy from fruits and vegetables.
In winter, choose fiber-rich soups with seasonal vegetables, whole grains and slow-simmered bone broth for belly-warming nutrition. Another option is a kitchari cleanse, a simple yet tasty Ayurvedic dish of lentils or other legumes, rice and herbs. Herbal tea can hydrate and naturally help facilitate cleansing.*
Find your motivation. Though cleanses are often portrayed as a diet, they are actually a natural way to press “reset” on bodily functions and activities and should be considered as such. While not a weight-loss program, a cleanse could be motivation to continue healthy habits that could lead to weight loss.
Digestion normally consumes quite a bit of the body’s attention and energy, so by streamlining your meals to include plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and water, your body can shift more of its focus elsewhere. By cutting out excess dietary fat and limiting salt and added sugars, your body might naturally begin to shed weight, but it might also be water weight. If you do lose a couple of pounds while cleansing, the natural way to sustain that weight is to continue to eat a “clean” diet.
Ease into it. Consider your cleanse to be a sacred time to honor your body, so plan ahead to allow the time you need to commit to it 100%. Depending on your lifestyle, you might need to schedule a few days or a week of cleanse “prep.” Use this time to reduce consumption of foods and beverages (e.g., alcohol, sugar, caffeine and heavy foods like meats and dairy) you will cut out during your cleanse. Many people find this easier to manage than going “cold turkey.” In all aspects of life, gradual changes are more sustainable than big, sudden ones. (You also should consider easing out of your cleanse, too.)
Find a partner. When you feel like you’re going it alone, your motivation can start to slip. Enlist a friend or loved one to join you on your cleanse, so that you have someone to lean on during those moments when your resolve weakens. Strength in numbers!
Plan ahead. Cleanses can be done for one day up to several weeks. Whatever timeline you choose, make sure that it that works for your life, and plan ahead. Stock up on healthy groceries, and schedule time to prepare food and do light workouts daily. Choose a time of year that’s not your busiest, and, for women, schedule your cleanse so that it does not coincide with your menses. You might even want to rearrange your social calendar to allow more time for rest and reflection—and fewer temptations to break your cleanse.
Add healthy habits. In addition to removing habits and foods during your cleanse, integrate these tasks into your routine:
Begin the day by drinking a glass of warm water with fresh lemon or lime juice.
Lightly dry brush your entire body before bathing in the morning. Brush in the direction toward your heart to support lymphatic and blood flow.
Drink water throughout the day (8 to 10 glasses).
Engage in at least 20 minutes of light exercise daily.
Chew solid food until thoroughly liquefied before swallowing.
Maintain a balanced routine of rest and activity.
Try to get more sleep than usual, between 7-9 hours per night. Take a nap if the day allows.
Here are a few general tips to help ease your cleanse. Avoid these foods:
Products containing refined sugars
Dairy products such as milk, cheese and ice cream
Soda and juice that is not 100% fruit or vegetable
Breads and other refined baked goods
Shellfish and high mercury fish such as swordfish
Soy (except fermented soy foods)
Excessive caffeine (If you are a coffee drinker, consider switching to green tea)
Instead, eat plenty of these foods:
Lightly steamed vegetables and vegetable soups
Mixed green salads
Fresh vegetable and fruit juices
Whole grains (brown rice, millet, oats, amaranth, quinoa)
Garlic, onions and ginger
Legumes (beans) such as lentils
Fresh broiled fish: wild salmon and sardines (high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury)
Fresh fruits in season
Herbal tea (especially green tea)