As the leaves in the trees start to take on their autumnal hues, shifting from the lime, emerald and kelly greens of summer to the gold, crimson and ochre tones of fall, one does not necessarily think of spring cleaning. But as we start to snuggle into fuzzy layers of wool and unpack the long johns from the dusty corners of our closets in preparation for winter, cleaning is just what the doctor ordered. And by cleaning, I mean detoxing from the inside out.
For now, you can keep the Windex and vinegar on the shelf. The kind of cleaning I’m talking about is more like grabbing some Drano and wiping out the toxins your body has built up over an entire year (or years).
Fall is a great time to do a cleanse. As we prepare for the colder months ahead, it’s good to beef up our immune systems in order to deal with all the runny noses and slimy, cold-infested, sneeze-covered rails on public transit systems and heated, enclosed spaces with recycled-air systems. (No, I’m not a germaphobe.)
The basic premise for a cleanse is this: When you take digestion out of the equation — which accounts for 10-15 percent of your total daily energy expenditure (depending on whether or not you had Domino’s for dinner last night), all of that energy can now be redirected toward your body’s supporting systems, like the liver, kidneys, lungs and lymph nodes. Most cleanses also require us to trade things like sugar, caffeine, dairy and alcohol for healthier alternatives, such as water, herbal teas, sleep and exercise so that we may, perhaps, end up as pristine as a snowflake. (Outwardly this does not seem like a fair trade, I know.) A cleanse can last anywhere from 3-10 days, and at the very least is a good opportunity to reexamine and change your eating patterns for the better.
First things first. Prepare for your cleanse. For the sake of your loved ones, it is a good idea to wean yourself off of the list of no-nos slowly. Start planning a week prior to the start date of your cleanse. As a coffee drinker who stumbles from the bed to the coffee pot and cannot speak until that hot, beautiful, bitter liquid has become one with my bloodstream, I understand the seemingly insurmountable challenge of this. Start by cutting out processed foods, white flour and sugars. Choose organic and whole grains. Definitely increase your water intake. Plan a reward for the end of your cleanse — something to look forward to. A great choice is a massage or a day at the spa; not two bottles of wine and a pasta dinner.
Then, choose the cleanse that best suits your lifestyle and activity requirements. It is good to choose a time when you are not full-throttle, crazy busy. Although cleanses are physical, it is just as important to slow down mentally so that you can tune into your bodily functions, changes and needs.
Types of cleanses
There are a couple of cleanses I have tried, in order of, well…ease, but not necessarily in order of benefit. Every body is different. But whichever one you choose, there’s one very important step to remember: Always, always, always drink plenty of water. Seriously. Drink water.
The Ayurvedic Kitchari Cleanse involves a simple blend of white basmati rice and mung beans that you eat three times a day. It is a gentle cleanse that doesn’t leave you feeling hungry, although your taste buds might be a little bored. There are chutneys you can add to spice up your life, and steamed veggies are okay too. Everything is served warmed or at room temperature, which adds to the overall soothing nature of this cleanse. (Insert New Age Indian musical soundtrack here and start practicing your Oms.) Continue this regimen for 3-7 days with a pre- and post period of whole, unprocessed foods, fruits and vegetables. And drink water!
With the 3-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse, you bust out the blender, and for three days it’s nothin’ but liquid fruits and vegetables. The emphasis is on the greensmoothie, so keep in mind that fruits have a high sugar content, and err more on the veggie spectrum. Use mostly kale, collard, spinach, cucumber…or even plain old lettuce in your smoothies, while trying to avoid juices or yogurts. Just add water and blend. Remember that digestion starts with saliva, so give the smoothie a swish around the mouth a few times before swallowing. Look out Popeye, this baby’s got your biceps BEAT! (Keep drinking that water.)
The Master Cleanse is the Grand Poobah of cleanses. It’s not for the faint-hearted. With this cleanse, I do recommend ensuring you have ample space in your life for rest when you need quiet time and, if doing the Salt Water Flush, uninterrupted access to a toilet. Basically, all you “eat” is a lemonade, maple syrup and cayenne pepper concoction for 7-10 days, anytime you feel hungry. You will feel hungry. But then you won’t. You might feel like a sack of s***t, or you might feel like you just got a free tab of LSD. The enzymes in the lemons loosen up plaque in the intestines, the syrup provides you with the calories you need to fuel you through the day, the cayenne pepper raises your metabolism and the Salt Water Flush washes it all….um, down the drain-o.
The all-important colon
No matter what cleanse you choose it’s important to Contemplate the Colon. Toxins, antibiotics, meat, refined flours, sugars and other foods that don’t pass through the digestive tract properly rot and then build up in what is called a mucoid lining along the colon. And this creates colon plaque. Although this is totally gross to think about, what is even grosser is that it stays up there.
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. So while cleansing, make sure to aid elimination by taking an herbal laxative tea or tablet to keep things moving.
What to expect
The first few days of a cleanse are the hardest. You might feel sick and experience headaches or stomach cramps. Just know that this is your body ridding itself of toxins, and it usually passes. But trust your intuition. If you really feel like you should stop, stop. Even a 7-day diet of whole, raw and unprocessed foods will do wonders for your system. (And drink water. Are we clear on this?)
So while putting away the flip-flops, changing over your wardrobe and preparing to cuddle under blankets and wrap your chilled hands around a steaming mug of tea, know that even though the leaves outside are turning brittle and falling, you might just be turning over a whole new leaf inside. (Drink wat…okay, okay. You get the point.)
Note: As always, the advice given by Constant Chatter contributors is in no way meant to override traditional medical advice. Please consult your doctor if you have any questions.