The Art of Cleansing
The “Art of Cleansing.” I call it an art because cleansing can be simple, beautiful, life affirming and life changing. Cleansing is a journey towards health. Not only does a cleanse clear the body of toxins, it also clears the mind. It is an exercise in will power and strength. It is listening to your body and knowing what to give your body in its time of need. It can give you renewed energy and start you on your way to a balanced and holistic body.
Your body is working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week ridding itself of toxins. It does this naturally through the various detox organs such as the skin, kidneys, liver, lungs and colon. Your body works very hard to keep itself “clean” and balanced. But sometimes the body falls behind in ridding those toxins because we are exposed to so many. There are environmental toxins, toxins in our food and toxins produced in our body via the metabolic processes. Did you know we consume 14 pounds of food additives each year? ..And don’t forget about pesticides and fertilizers in our crops; food packaging that contains BPA; and that ever so controversial GMO’s.
Because of these daily exposures, this contributes to unhealthy accumulations of toxins in the body. As time goes on these toxins build up and the detox organs become congested and cannot adequately remove toxins from the body. This contributes to many ailments or symptoms that have unexplained origins such as migraines, acne, eczema and irritable bowel syndrome.
With that said, there is a need to enhance or help the detox organs do their job with a cleanse and this is where the “art part” comes in. Eating the “right foods” are key to promoting what we call Phase I and Phase II detoxification.
Here’s how it works: When your liver and all other detox organs are balanced the body does a wonderful job of detoxifying what you eat, breathe and absorb by transforming fat soluble toxins into a safe water soluble substance which is then eliminated via the detox organs through sweat, breath, the colon, etc. This is done through two phases and in its most simplistic form, Phase I and Phase II is like a two-step wash cycle. In Phase I (or the first part of the wash cycle) enzymes break down toxins into intermediate forms. You can think of these enzymes as the soap that removes the impurities from these toxic little molecules that water cannot remove. At this point, some toxins are ready to be eliminated from the body. But, there are other toxins that may need a second wash cycle and this is where Phase II comes in. Phase II is like spraying Shout on a pesky stain. You spray a little Shout on the stain with a second wash cycle and this then breaks down these molecules even further and then binds them to specific proteins in the body which then acts as “escorts” and guides them out of the body. Again providing the right nutrients or food is key in promoting Phase I and Phase II detox.
For example, red, yellow and green peppers increase the enzymes needed in Phase I detoxification. Legumes and seeds promote both Phase I and Phase II detoxification by providing the nutrients necessary for the creation of one of our master antioxidants called glutathione. The herb Milk Thistle helps detoxify the liver of alcohol and various other pollutants. Shiitake mushrooms support Phase I detox by elevating glutathione levels. Protein is really important for both phases. The liver relies on this macronutrient to provide energy in order to detox.
It’s also important to know what foods to avoid such as eggs, dairy, soy, wheat (gluten), processed sugar and corn.
As you can see, Phase I and Phase II requires “real foods” and protein. Detox teas, various juice fasts and other “detox” programs don’t support or promote Phase I and Phase II detox holistically. If you want to “do it right” embark on a program that supports these two phases of detox.
Enough with the mechanisms – let’s talk about what you can expect from a cleanse. I don’t want to sugar coat it – there are times when you will just feel like quitting. At first, you may feel tired, lethargic, get headaches, experience some IBS symptoms, get more acne than usual. This means that the detox is working! Toxins are circulating through your blood and leaving your body. It takes time. Don’t give up.
At the finish line you will experience many rewards: clear skin, more energy, weight loss, a clear mind, and a balanced body. It really is a sense of accomplishment.
I do two cleanses a year and several mini cleanses in between because it is a time that I nurture myself. I stay home, get a massage or facial, read, relax, do yoga, run, meditate and look forward to the time to really, really take care of myself.
I do a cleanse when I know I will have no distractions or travel. I also have to do it when I am ready. I get to a point where I just feel like my body needs a break from all the “stuff.” But I have to be “really into it” or I will fail or fall off the wagon. (We nutritionists have vices too ya know.)
Clearly, foods are our medicine and we can use foods to help us heal and balance our body as demonstrated with the internal processes of Phase I and Phase II. If you are ready to embark on a real cleanse, a certified nutritionist can help guide you through the process.
..and as I always say…
“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art…and a good detoxification program can make you a Picasso.”