Digestive Cleanse

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Cleanses of all kinds exist in the far reaches of alternative nutrition, made well-known to the public by people like the Braggs and Kevin Trudeau. Some of the first nutritional experiments I ever tried could be defined as cleanses, and I can’t argue to the apparent health boost that I received from them.

The subject of cleansing is a tough one. It’s something that I go back and forth on for sure as evidenced in this previous edition. Although many people take cleansing to extremes, and there are gentler, more logical approaches to improving your diet and lifestyle, a routine of brief digestive cleanses is probably a great habit to get into. However, the mentality of “the more the better” can be really detrimental when it comes to cleansing and/or fasting. Even so, I still don’t want to negate the miraculous benefits that many have experienced from cleansing.

Most cleansing is done to target a specific organ or set of organs. For example, people may drink apple juice for a week, then drink a solution of Epsom salt to flush out kidney stones (this is just one generalized example of one type of cleanse). There are also a number of fasting/cleansing retreats popping up, where people go for a week or two to juice-fast and receive spa treatments and colonic irrigation. The works!

One thing for sure is that cleansing leaves you feeling pretty amazing. Your skin, eyes, hair, fingernails, etc. develop an amazing glow. You look and feel younger than you have in years. Breath and body odors are diminished. Aches, pain, and inflammation magically disappear. Many report total recovery from all kinds of disorders and illnesses that they have perhaps battled for years. There is nothing quite like it. Virtually everyone should consider attempting a brief cleanse to see how they respond. They work by increasing blood alkalinity, boosting potassium levels, and by relieving the body of its digestive burden, freeing up enzymes for repair work.

The only danger with cleansing is overdoing it. For example, the most popular cleanse on earth is perhaps the Master Cleanse – also called the Lemonade Diet, developed by Stanley Burroughs. This cleanse is surprisingly easy because it is liquid-only, which triggers the disappearance of hunger for the most part. The protocol is to drink only lemonade (fresh organic lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper) for a minimum of 10 days and a maximum of 40 days. It feels great the first time for those who have eaten a traditional American diet for many years, but often Master Cleanse followers get bummed out when they return to solid food, thinking that they are somehow polluting themselves. A common desire is to spend the most time cleansing that they can possibly endure, the more the better, the longer the better. This of course, is ludicrous.

The high of running on adrenaline feels amazing. When solid food comes back into the picture, the body shuts down adrenaline in an attempt to rebuild, and makes you feel tired, sluggish, irritable, and depressed – much the same as how anorexics feel when they eat normal amounts of food. These are all symptoms of adrenaline withdrawals, as your adrenals power down for rest and replenishment. It’s a dangerous cycle to enter into, and for that reason I don’t recommend doing a long, liquid-only cleanse (10+days) more than once every several years.

What I suggest instead is to simply eat raw fruits and vegetables, if your digestive system can handle doing that, for 2-3 days every now and then. Freshly-juiced fruits and vegetables can also be part of the program if you like. The following is the formula that I follow:

On day 1 of the cleanse, eat breakfast and lunch as normal. After lunch the cleanse begins. About 4 hours after lunch, when you normally start to feel a little hungry, begin grazing. The only foods allowable are raw fruits and vegetables. Attempting to sit down and eat a substantial meal is futile. Satiation cannot be achieved during a cleanse. To keep from feeling too uncontrollably hungry, you must keep an adequate supply of sugar running through your system. This keeps your body from breaking down its tissues as quickly, a very important factor in healthful cleansing. Starchy foods like fresh raw corn, carrots, and bananas are the most satisfying, but eat plenty of other items as well.

Raw vegetables for cleansing:

Fresh corn from the cob
Carrots
Sugar snap peas
Cucumbers
Tomatoes
Celery
Cabbage
Romaine lettuce and other salad greens
Zucchini and squash
Fennel

Any raw fruit is acceptable, but stress fruits that are not as sweet such as sour apples, berries, and citrus fruits. You need a supply of sugar to constantly be provided, but you don’t want to spike blood sugar too high.

Smoothies are also acceptable, but do not use any fats or proteins in the smoothie. The following recipe or something close to it can be used repeatedly throughout the 2-3 day cleanse:

1 banana
1 cup berries
Fresh squeezed juice of 2 oranges

After your first afternoon and evening of cleansing, continue the cleanse for the entire second day, from the time you wake up until you go to sleep. On the third day you can either continue the cleanse all day or break the cleanse with a dinner of steamed white rice with butter or avocado and lots of steamed non-starchy vegetables.

The morning of the 4th day is the best time to break the cleanse. It is very important to regain control of you blood sugar on this day. Breakfast is the time to set the tone by eating a balanced meal with a few ounces of easily digestible protein like fresh cheese, fish, or eggs, a portion of starch, and some added fat. Do not eat any fruit or other simple sugar on the day that you break the cleanse, or the erratic blood sugar levels experienced on the cleanse will continue to dominate your physiology. Ideally, post-cleanse you will roll right into a blood-sugar stabilizing diet that contains absolutely no simple sugar, and continue it as long as possible.

If you are doing the cleanse specifically for constipation, it’s best to continue for some time after the cleanse on a very low-protein diet. A simple diet of WHITE basmati rice with added butter, coconut oil, and/or avocado and steamed veggies is best, and you can continue on that fare for several weeks if the reintroduction of whole grains, starchy vegetables, meat, and fish causes problems. Reintroduce those foods slowly, starting with eggs and fish and working your way back to a stabilizing, balanced diet.

I know it’s ironic for someone who doesn’t recommend eating simple sugars to endorse eating unlimited amounts of fruit for a few days, but the rules change for some reason on a cleanse. If fruit is bothersome to you as part of a mixed diet it may not be on a cleanse. When it’s over though, get control of your blood sugar immediately – going from mostly eating fruit to eating no fruit at all, choosing only Stability Foods.

Do this cleanse as often as once a month, or as little as once a year. If you are already a vegetarian, vegan, or especially a raw food vegan and having health problems, cleansing of any kind is probably not the answer.

5 Comments

  1. Matt, why white rice for a cleanse considering it is a refined carbohydrate?

    Reply
  2. White rice is extremely easy to digest. Although it is a refined carbohydrate, it is the most slowly absorbed of all refined carbohydrates. It doesn’t cause much of a metabolic distrubance over a short period of time, and it certainly won’t cause malnutrtion over a period of a few weeks.

    Essentially, rice with the fiber removed is a digestive rest. Grain fiber can be quite a workout. It’s not for forever, it’s just a temporary strategy for overcoming impaired digestion.

    Monastyrsky, Liz Lipski, and several others specializing in digestive healing all recommend white rice during the “rehabilitation” phase.

    Reply
  3. Hi Matt,
    I am a little confused by your recommendation to eat whole fruits and vegetables during a cleanse. As you say above, a cleanse works by “relieving the body of its digestive burden, freeing up enzymes for repair work.” This being the case, it seems as though eating whole fruits and vegetables, many of which take quite a lot of work to digest, would interfere with the cleansing process. Individuals with impaired digestion might especially have difficulty digesting these things. Would it not be more effective to stick to things that use minimal energy to digest and assimilate, such as fresh juices and perhaps blended salads?

    Also, I was wondering about your opinion on doing some light exercise during a cleanse. On the one hand, it seems like it might be conducive to the mobilization and excretion of toxins by stimulating blood and lymph circulation. On the other hand, maybe it’s best to relax and conserve as much energy as possible? Also, maybe protein intake during a cleanse is not adequate to rebuild any tissue that is broken down as a result of exercise? What are your thoughts on this?

    Reply
  4. A fresh juice fast is great as well if you cannot digest whole fruits and vegetables. The digestive burden that is removed during the cleanse is the burden of having to digest fats, proteins, and cooked foods. The fibrous matter of raw fruits and vegetables can be helpful in moving the bowels, but if you can’t handle it, then you can’t handle it. For me and everyone else I know who has tried this there have been no digestive problems — throw some psyllium in there and that’s another story!

    As for the exercise, I think it to be very hard on the body during a cleanse. It creates an even bigger need for the body to slow down its metabolism while amping up its adrenaline secretion. A little walking and strething is great but no intense cardiovascular work.

    Reply
  5. Lemon oil may be used in aromatherapy. Researchers at The Ohio State University found that lemon oil aroma does not influence the human immune system, but may enhance mood.

    Reply

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