What Is Detoxing?
Regardless of how well we eat and how much we minimize our exposure to harmful toxins, our bodies can derive a whole lot of good from a detox or cleanse that is approached responsibly. Toxins can build up in our livers, kidneys, and digestive tracts, leading to a whole slew of uncomfortable phenomena: fatigue, constipation, skin breakouts, low libido, premature aging, and weight gain… not to mention far worse, long-term effects like lowered immunity, liver toxicity, and, yes, the big C.
The practice of detoxifying the body is an ancient one, from the ancient Greek and Roman concepts of “autointoxication,” to the ritual fasts that are a part of nearly every single documented religion (used for both spiritual and health benefits). Today, we know more about the effects of these practices, and have honed in on methods that are less extreme, but equally beneficial, and can fit into our busy, everyday lives. Cleanses can vary in intensity from juice fasts, to raw food diets, to taking special supplements to detoxify various organs. Here are the easiest and healthiest ways to detoxify and cleanse your system, from least to most intensive.
These are best if you have low blood sugar, an intense work schedule that doesn’t permit you to take some mellow days, or have any health issues that would be exacerbated by a cleanse. These cleanses are meant to be used no more than 4 times a year, and last about 10-14 days.
There are a lot of really good store-bought cleanses on the market that target your whole body. Typically, they involve a 3-step process: cleansing the liver and lymphatic system using herbs like milk thistle, dandelion root, burdock root turmeric; cleansing the digestive system with probiotics and fiber; and flushing the toxins out with a mild laxative.
Though these cleanses do not require severe dietary changes, it wouldn’t be a cleanse if you just went on eating all kinds of crappy food and drinking half a bottle of wine a night. The whole point of a cleanse is to give your organs a break and press the reset button, so to speak. In conjunction with the supplements, you should adhere to a healthy, whole foods diet of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and if necessary, some lean protein like antibiotic-free chicken or low-mercury fish (though it would be best to avoid all meat and fish during your cleanse if possible). Trying to eat as much organic food as possible will also limit the amount of toxins you are ingesting during your cleanse.
Avoid any processed foods, gluten, white flour, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, soy products, and dairy.
Make sure to drink a LOT of water (this assists in flushing the toxins out of your body), and do try to take some time every day to relax and unwind. Emotional stress can be just as taxing on the body as edible toxins.
Some store-bought cleanses that I like are Whole Body Cleanse, Garden of Life’s Perfect Cleanse, and Trader Joe’s Complete Body Cleanse.
If you have already done a store-bought cleanse and are ready to take it up a notch, or if your everyday diet is already really healthy but you want to just reset your system a little bit, you may be ready for a moderate-intensity cleanse. These cleanses can be done as often as you like!
Depending on what your typical diet is like, a moderate cleanse could be a little challenging, though ultimately SO worth it. If you drink coffee everyday, or eat sugary sweets and fattening foods regularly, these cleanses will definitely shock your system. But once you lose 5 pounds and feel like a whole new person, you may think twice about going back to your old ways.
If you have a generally unhealthy, meat and dairy-heavy diet, a vegan detox is a good place to start. Completely cutting out meat, fish, dairy, and eggs from your diet (as well as the requisite processed foods, gluten, white flour and rice, sugar, caffeine, soy, and alcohol) will do remarkable things for your body, even if you can only pull it off for one week. If you find that you have a sensitivity to any foods (wheat and corn are big ones), avoid those as well. Add a fiber supplement, drink detoxifying dandelion and burdock root teas, and lots of water. This detox will take a lot of strain off of your liver, kidneys, and gallbladder, and the elimination of toxins you have become dependant on will start to detoxify your organs. Eating lots of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains will clean things out of you that you didn’t even know were in there, and you will definitely feel like a different person after you’re done (or at the very least, a much lighter person!). Try this detox for at least a week, but the longer you can do it, the better!
If you’re already a vegetarian or a vegan, and already eat a diet made up of primarily whole foods, you could try a raw food cleanse, which entails eating only raw foods for all three meals (plus snacks), and can be done for a week or longer. There are lots of great raw food cookbooks out there to give you ideas about what to eat (see below), but the typical structure is a fresh pressed juice or raw smoothie for breakfast, a big salad for lunch, and a raw dinner not heated to more than 116 degrees.
Avoid any processed foods, gluten, white flour or rice, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, soy products, dairy, and eggs. Focus on organic raw fruits and vegetables, some nuts, and whole grains like quinoa and brown rice.
Some books I recommend are: The Kind Diet, The Raw Food Detox, Raw Food Cleanse, and Pure Food & Wine’s cookbook, Living Raw.
If you are already a vegetarian or vegan, are coming off of a long period of unhealthy eating, want to lose some weight quickly, jump start a diet, or are just ready for a more intense detoxification, you might be ready for an intense cleanse. Intense cleanses should be done no more than once every few months. Ideally, they should be done with the changing of the seasons.
Intense cleanses can be just that… intense. But they also do amazing things for your body. Because the intense cleanses are made up of mostly liquid foods, you will lose lots of water weight, totally clean out your intestines, and press the reset button on all of your organs. You will also experience more symptoms of detoxification than you would with the mild or moderate cleanses. For the first few days, you might get some headaches, breakouts, and generally feel a little weak. This is totally normal and expected, and is a sign that your body is releasing toxins. Typically, after a day or two, these symptoms subside.
I recommend one of two more intense cleanse options. The first, easier option, involves a raw (or lightly cooked) fruit and/or vegetable liquid (juice, smoothie, or blended soup) for breakfast and dinner, and a whole food meal for lunch (preferably raw, but a lightly cooked vegan meal is ok too). A good example of this cleanse is my 4 Day Post Holiday Detox
, which is a free, shorter version of my longer NU YOU Two Week Holistic Cleanse
The second, more challenging detox is a juice cleanse
, which involves consuming no cooked or whole foods at all, and only drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juices throughout the day. This is an excellent cleanse for all of your organs, and still allows you to take in all the necessary vitamins and nutrients that you wouldn’t be getting from a something like Master Cleanse. It is best to do a juice cleanse over the weekend, as you won’t have as much energy for strenuous activity.
Avoid any processed foods, animal protein, gluten, white flour or rice, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, soy products, dairy, and eggs. Focus on organic raw fruits and vegetables. At least 75% of your diet should be liquid.
Some books I recommend are: The Juice Fasting Bible, and The Blueprint Cleanse.
A Personalized Cleanse
If you feel overwhelmed by all these options, or feel like you would benefit from being guided through the process of a cleanse that is tailored to your specific health concerns, level of experience, and lifestyle, I can help! I create customized programs for my clients and guide them through the process of detoxing, making dietary changes, or reaching their specific health goals. My Holistic NU YOU Cleanse is two weeks long, and guarantees results of weight loss, increased energy, clarity, and vitality. I also offer a 6 month program for clients who want to reach longer term goals and make long-lasting changes to their diet, nutrition, and lifestyle.
See more info about my NU YOU Guided Cleanse.