Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cleansing 101

Walk down the health and beauty or natural foods aisle of any drug store, and you'll be met with dozens of products promising to cleanse, burn, and detox. For just $29.95 (and up) you too can experience the renewed health, energy, and vigor that a good cleansing program can bring.

While there are absolutely many natural herbs and supplements that are beneficial for cleansing and detoxifying (dandelion, yellow dock, garlic, burdock root, goldenseal and kelp, for example), you can also do an effective cleanse at home, on your own, without buying any fancy or expensive products.

Below are several "levels", or methods, of cleansing that anyone can do.

1. Drink More Water
One of the simplest, gentlest, and cheapest things you can do start the process of ridding your body of toxins is drinking more pure water, at least two liters a day. Water is vital for ALL your body processes, and is particularly important for proper digestion. It also aids in flushing, naturally increasing elimination of waste and harmful chemicals.

2. Elimination
Ideally, you would eliminate all harmful foods, including white sugar, white flour, caffeine, alcohol, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, flavors, and colors, anything with preservatives, etc. But let's be real for a minute. If you're eating the average American diet, replete with its fast food, fried food, packaged food, and soda, your first reaction to such a suggestion might well be, "Are you kidding me?" You can start small! Whatever your vice is, whether it's pizza, soda, Big Macs or Skittles, give it up for a month and see how you feel. Then give up another one. Your body will thank you.

3. Clean, whole foods
For those who are ready to take elimination to the next level, strip your diet of everything but fresh organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains such as brown rice, oats, and quinoa; unprocessed nuts and seeds; and lean organic sources of protein. Eat mostly vegetarian, and if you want to include animal foods, choose only those that are grass-fed, free-range, and free from antibiotics and hormones.

4. Raw Foods
While there are many people that incorporate a raw, or semi-raw diet into their everyday lives, it is also an extremely beneficial practice even on a short-term basic. A few days or weeks of raw eating can help improve your immune system, your digestion, your skin, your hair, and your energy levels. There are many reasons for the healthful advantages of eating raw, but a brief explanation is this: heat and cooking destroy enzymes, vitamins and minerals. It also causes the production of free radicals, which can contribute to a host of diseases and health problems. Eating food raw delivers many times more nutrients, enzymes, and disease-fighting antioxidants. You can read more about raw eating here Raw Food Life

5. Cleansing Fast
At the most extreme end of the scale is the cleansing fast. Just like it sounds, a cleansing fast is a fast - a period of time with no, or limited, solid food - for purposes of cleansing. A fast can last one day, a few days, or several. It can consist of simple waters, juices, raw foods, or a combination. A few benefits of fasting is that it can effectively rid your body of toxins, break addictions to substances such as caffeine and sugar, give all of your body systems a rest, flush your digestive tract, eliminate retained water, alleviate constipation, bloating and other digestive symptoms, improve skin and hair, increase energy, and kick-start a healthy weight-loss program. Side effects? The first few days can be rough, especially if you were a regular user of things like caffeine, alcohol, and sugar. You can experience headaches, nausea, dizziness, joint pain, and other flu-like symptoms as you go through detoxification and withdrawal. Also, the worse your diet was prior to the fast, the worse your side effects will likely turn out to be. The end result - a stronger, healthier, body - is well worth it.

If you would like to try a cleansing fast, one popular method is with lemonade. There are several variations, but the basic recipe is as follows:

Juice of 1/2 a lemon
8 oz water
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1-2 TB organic honey or maple syrup (to taste)

Drink 6-8 glasses throughout the day, along with pure water, and a glass of a natural fiber supplement such as psyllium seed husks. That's it! The cayenne pepper is beneficial for cleansing largely because it helps with circulation, but if you have trouble with the taste, you can use less, or leave it out altogether.

You can drink the lemon water on its own for up to ten days, or you can use it as a stepping stone to beginning a less-restrictive fast. The key is to add foods back in slowly to give your body time to adjust.
The following is a schedule that I personally used, which incorporates both the fast, and several elements of the other cleansing methods.

Days 1-3: Drink 6-8 glasses of the lemon water, plus one glass per day of fiber drink

Days 4-5: Discontinue the lemon water, and drink as much as wanted of pure vegetable and fruit juices.

Days 6-7: Add raw fruits and vegetables, and continue to drink the whole juices

Day 8: Add lightly steamed vegetables and brown rice

Day 9: Add raw, unsalted seeds and nuts

Day 10: Slowly begin adding other foods back into the diet

Whether you do a full fasting cleanse, or just start by cutting out your daily cup of cappuccino, cleansing on any level is an essential first step towards better health. Pick a path and just do it. Today.