Give your body a break and reset your dietary trajectory
It’s spring, a time of renewal and clearing spaces as we make way for new growth. I’m sure some of you are focused on cleaning and clearing your living and/or working spaces; Rob and I have been doing some of that too. The spring is also a great time to focus on cleaning and clearing our inner spaces.
As chiropractors, we’re typically focused on helping you get more clear in your nerve system so there is minimal interference to the natural, intelligent and automatic processes at work in your body. Another great way to work at clearing the body is through a dietary cleanse. We’re preparing to start our own cleanse in the next couple of days and thought we’d share some concepts, ideas and tips to pique your interest and maybe even get you moving on your own cleansing process.
Bio-Intelligence working for you
While the seasons are changing, our bodies are also going through a process of change. In certain climates, the body may reconfigure it’s respiratory lining, shedding the cells that have carried us through one season and installing new tissues for the next. This process can occur below awareness or may express as ‘cold’ symptoms as the old is cleared out to make way for the new. This is just one example of the incredible work our body is constantly doing to keep us healthy.
As chiropractors we understand the body is innately intelligent and I love to reflect on the majesty of what’s happening moment to moment inside the body. With respect to cleansing, we can look at the processes involved in the detoxification of our body. It’s happening all the time: our immune system is constantly breaking down viruses, bacteria and dead tissue; our liver and kidneys are processing the substances we ingest and those made by the body; and our lymphatic system and intestines are helping to move everything out. These are natural processes and when the body is functioning properly these systems are taking care of a good portion of the toxicity that we’re exposed to.
On a daily basis our bodies are exposed to high levels of toxins; from the food we eat, which has usually been treated with pesticides; to the air we breathe and the water we drink; to the clothing we wear; to our work and living spaces; and to the pharmaceuticals we might be ingesting. In North America we are exposed to some of the highest levels of dietary and environmental toxins and drugs. For this reason it is especially valuable to engage in practices that can facilitate the cleansing and clearing of these substances from our system.
In this modern world, our bodies are often in a chronic sympathetic nerve system activation mode and pattern (learn more about this in our Cellular Management 1 and Cellular Management 2 articles). In this state and/or when toxic loads are high, our detoxification systems may not be functioning as well as they could. Sustained toxicity and the chemistry of stress in the tissues of the body are linked to chronic pain and disease.
Right now a lot of people are looking at their diet as a way to help their body and their immune system stay healthy and strong. Cleansing is a great opportunity to up your dietary game and can launch you in a new direction with your nutrition.
The Cleansing Concept
The concept of cleansing starts with removing toxicity, unhealthy foods and foods that are more difficult to process from your diet for a period of time. This in itself may create an opportunity for the body to begin releasing more toxins. Without toxins being ingested, the organs of detoxification and channels of drainage have less of an incoming load to deal with and theoretically can get to work on the backlog of what has accumulated over time. Just to make a quick distinction here: with cleansing, the body is still getting adequate nutrition; fasting is refraining from eating for a period of time. During a cleanse we can support our cells with great nutrition to encourage their natural healthy function and further support the process of detoxification.
Tradition, Evidence & Common Sense
Did you know that many of our world’s cultures cleanse their bodies on a regular basis? Most religions have some kind of cleansing or fasting embedded into their spiritual practices: for example ‘Lent’ in Christianity and ‘Ramadan’ in Islam.
Many people believe that cleansing regularly (fall and spring at least) is vital to achieving optimal health and well-being. However, there has been limited research done on the health benefits of cleansing, and there is not much ‘evidence’ that shows the benefits of cleansing. There are however a multitude of testimonials and stories of how cleansing can be of benefit and impacts lives, our own included. As with so many natural approaches to health, there hasn’t been much research done on these subjects and hopefully there is more to come.
Cleansing is a health building strategy that Rob and I have used in various forms over the years. We find it can be a great way to clear our bodies and minds and we have noticed increased energy, better sleep, improved mental clarity, and less inflammation in our bodies. We also appreciate the contrast to our normal dietary choices and rhythms and the pattern interrupt that occurs. Finally, there is a consciousness associated with cleansing that brings awareness and renews our reverence for our body and the choices we make about what we put in our body.
Cleansing vs Healthy Eating
It’s important to mention that cleansing is not a substitute for healthy eating. It is of far greater benefit to eat well all the time than it is to eat poorly and cleanse a couple of times a year. For Rob and I, our ‘cleansing’ diets aren’t usually too much of a deviation from the norm. We’ll often simply cut out the small amounts of caffeine, sugar and alcohol we consume, eat 100% organic (our baseline is ~70% organic), do some extra things to support detoxification in our bodies, and that’s a cleanse for us. For others, cleansing diets may be a significant deviation from their normal eating patterns, especially if their regular foods are in themselves stressful for their body to process.
For people who find they don’t have a great diet normally, cleansing can be a great strategy to kickstart a healthier trend of eating. Also, people will often use a cleanse when they feel they have deviated from their regular healthy eating habits, to course correct and address their future health. Committing to a super clean and healthy diet for a shorter period of time can be easier than thinking about making a long term change, but often after you eat how you have over the cleansing period, you realize how easily you can integrate many of those strategies into your regular dietary practices.
Planning a cleanse
Cleansing and detoxing are very popular strategies for health and weight loss nowadays and there are thousands of products and methods that people can follow. It’s important to run your cleansing strategies by your health practitioners and get support from a professional as there can be some dangers associated with certain cleansing strategies (learn more ). This is especially true if you take a medication (or multiple medications), particularly in regard to the use of herbal or other nutritional supplements that may interact with pharmaceutical products. This is why I like to recommend that people start cleansing by consuming healthier whole foods while still getting adequate protein, calories and nutrients to support the process in the body.
Reduction/Elimination of Toxins and Pro-Inflammatory Foods
Cleansing is a process and no matter how far you plan to go, it’s always a good strategy to start with removing as many unhealthy and toxic substances from your diet/lifestyle as possible. Not only will this help your body become aware of and accustomed to what’s happening, but it will also help to smooth out the ride for you, particularly if there is a lot of contrast between your regular diet and one without any sugar, caffeine or alcohol. Here is a list of things to reduce and/or eliminate as you begin cleansing your body:
- Processed and refined foods
- Sugar – it’s good to limit even natural sugars, eating low sugar fruits like apples and stone fruits are great options
- Over the counter medications
If you were to focus only on the strategies of reducing and/or eliminating items from this list, it could be an excellent cleanse for your system.
Whole Food Cleansing Guide
If you want to take your cleanse to the next level we like the dietary guide that is part of the Wild Rose Detox plan. Visit this link for a comprehensive list of foods to eat and foods to avoid while cleansing . We have used the Wild Rose Detox ourselves in the past and found the dietary guidelines for this cleanse to be very good. We are not recommending you use the herbal supplements that are part of this detox, not because they aren’t any good, but because you should consult with a health practitioner if you wish to have extra support for detoxification.
Create a plan to stick to a whole food cleanse diet for a period of time that works for you, we find 2 to 3 weeks is a nice amount of time to see some powerful impact.
Symptoms and Processes
Something to be aware of when doing a cleanse is that you may have different types of symptoms come up that could be from the release of toxins from your tissues as they move out of your body. Common symptoms include:
- muscle aches
- mucus or other discharge
- a coated, pasty tongue
- flu-like symptoms
- difficulty sleeping
If you find yourself in this state, do your best to keep going, drink lots of water and get through it! Be sure to celebrate because your body is likely doing some great work to clear things out. Some of these symptoms could be related to withdrawal from substances like caffeine or nicotine, so you may wish to consume a small amount to ease your process. It’s up to you how much or little change you make to your diet and consumption. Any upgrades you can implement are worthwhile and will benefit you, whether you can perceive and feel it or not.
Getting regular movement while cleansing (and always!) is especially important. Your body will be in a process of cleaning and clearing and the body’s lymphatic system is highly involved in that process. It helps to rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The lymphatic system runs alongside the blood vessels carrying the lymph back to the bloodstream where the unwanted materials can then be filtered and cleared out. Unlike the blood, which is moved by the action of the heart, the lymphatic system doesn’t have it’s own pump and relies on the movement generated by muscle contractions to pump and circulate the lymph throughout the body. Towards this end, light aerobic exercise is beneficial in helping to get things moving and flowing on the inside. Consider some gentle movement like walking or yoga each day. You can also get the lymph moving with self massage or skin brushing which could also help your skin to excrete toxins more easily.
You may wish to use some natural approaches to support your organs of detoxification during your cleansing process. Disciplines such and homeopathy, acupuncture, herbal medicine or naturopathy are all great options. Be sure to consult with qualified health practitioners to assist you in what would be the best approach for your body.
Embracing Cleansing on all Levels
“Cleansing” doesn’t need to be merely a dietary shift, but can involve all areas of your life. Embrace the momentum of renewal with practices that refresh your body, your mind, your relationships and your environment. Keep in mind that anything you can do to give your body more peace (less stress), will also facilitate the natural processes of detoxification. Here are some more strategies you could use to further ‘Cleanse’:
- Drink lots of water (6 to 10 glasses a day)
- Spend time alone and in silence with yourself
- Take time to walk outdoors, close to nature if possible
- Take a break, or cut back, from watching screens (computer, television or phone)
- Find ways to express yourself creatively, whether through writing, dancing, singing, or making visual art and crafts
- Elevate your body temperature with a hot bath, or sauna, and get your body sweating, to help your skin excrete toxins
- Journal, to cleanse thoughts or emotions that are ready to let go
- Clean your home/workspace
- Sleep earlier, and longer
- Take your time
- If we could see you in the office, I would recommend additional chiropractic care, to facilitate the natural processes of detoxification that happens when your body has less tension and more ease
- In lieu of, or in addition to, seeing your body care provider, try our Spinal Connection 1 and Spinal Connection 2 meditations to support your body in relaxing and releasing tension
Our cleansing plan
This time around, Dr. Rob and I are choosing to do a ‘Keto Cleanse’. We’ve never tried a strictly ketogenic diet ourselves and are curious to see how it feels in our bodies. I am generally a fan of creating wholesome and manageable dietary strategies for daily living. I believe in creating balance and getting enjoyment from preparing and eating food. Also we normally eat a lot of vegetarian food which isn’t compatible with a Keto diet. So we don’t necessarily expect this Keto diet to be a long term lifestyle change for us. There is no doubt that we will learn something from the experience as we give our bodies an opportunity to function with a different type of metabolism for a while. Again, we mostly want to discover the impact this style of eating has on our body. Maybe it will turn into a more frequent strategy which is how people will often use Keto, for shorter periods of time at higher frequencies. I will share more about Keto and how it went in Cleansing your way to Exceptional Health – Part 2.
Another strategy that we will re-introduce, that we have previously enjoyed but for some reason gotten away from, is adding lemon water to our dietary regimen each morning. There are some great benefits to drinking lemon water , like antioxidant benefits, preventing kidney stones, aiding in digestion, and stabilizing the appetite.
We also plan to wrap up our cleanse with a couple of days of Keto liquid diet, moving more towards the concept of fasting. The idea with consuming only liquid is to give our digestive system a break from processing solid foods which theoretically gives the body a chance to clear out any stagnant materials in the bowel and also to further support the process of detoxification.
In conclusion, cleansing is one approach that can help us take our diet and our future health to the next level. It is a process that can help us become more aware of our dietary options, the impact our regular food choices have on how we feel in our body and how much energy is available to us. Start simply by giving your body a break from the usual work it has to do processing your regular diet. Experience what it feels like to eat in a different way and learn by contrast about the effects of your typical food choices. If you’re already making consistently good dietary choices, consider taking things to the next level with some form of fasting or by engaging a deeper cleansing process supported with exercise and nutritional supplementation specific to your individual profile. Wherever you find yourself on the path in life, cleansing can offer a way to support the intelligence of your body in helping you heal and increase your future health.
Stay tuned for more…
Cleansing your way to exceptional health – Part 2
The second article will include more about our own process as we share the details and results of our experience doing two weeks of a Keto diet.