Headachy, with very low energy levels, bloated, and irritable. That’s how I felt when I did my first detox. It doesn’t sound like fun, I know, but I did it for a great cause: my health.
I didn’t want to lose weight or follow the common fad of a quick cure-it-all tea. I did it because I knew my body needed a break and because I wanted to be able to tell my clients what it felt like to go on a cleanse. Yes, I don’t want to be one of those nutritionists who preaches but doesn’t practice.
The most strict portion of my detox only lasted a week and it consisted on a specific diet and a series of supplements (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, herbs). I did prepare for this cleanse for about two months in advance. But don’t get scared or discouraged – I’m a nutritionist, so I did go the long way, but not everybody needs to.
It is very important to know that we all react differently to a cleanse (since we’re all biochemically unique).
Although a full-cleanse is not an easy thing to do, and you should physically and mentally prepare for it, I have to say that it’s not as hard as it seems. During the week of my cleanse, I slept much better, I didn’t experience any allergy symptoms (I tend to suffer from nasal congestion in the spring), and it was a great feeling knowing that I was doing something good for my health.
It’s not a secret that we’re all constantly exposed to all kinds of toxins from the environment – the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. Add our unhealthy habits (junk food, smoking, alcohol, recreational drugs, lack of exercise) and lastly, the toxins our own bodies produce in the processes of digestion and elimination, fighting disease and infection, and dealing with stress. In fact, our major detoxifying organs and systems (liver, kidneys, lungs, colon, skin, blood, lymph) are overwhelmed most of the time.
The good news is that our bodies have a natural ability to eliminate toxins, and that’s what the term “detoxification” refers to. Detoxification is a natural process in the body and how well your body does it largely determines your health status. That’s why the main health benefit of a cleanse is that you are helping your body to perform one of its major tasks and consequently are contributing to your own well being as well as preventing disease.
There are certain precautions though. If you are pregnant, breast feeding, recovering from a recent surgical procedure or suffer from diabetes, you should not follow a detox program. Also, if you suffer from any other medical condition, you need to consult with your doctor before starting a detox.
Keep in mind…
Choose a time that is convenient and realistic for you. Don’t pick a week where you have major events planned (i.e. weddings, parties) or are going to be extremely busy at work.
Clean your pantry and get rid of any temptations (i.e. chocolate, cookies, pastries, white bread, and similar) and eat every two to two and half hours to balance blood sugar and energy levels.
Choose organic foods. Limiting your exposure to toxins is a big part of cleansing your body; finish meals and snacks by 9 p.m. and try not to overeat.
Do only light exercise (e.g. walking, hatha yoga), which will stimulate the lymphatic system and therefore support detoxification.
Rest, rest, rest! Remember, you’re giving your body a break so slow down your routine this week and don’t feel guilty if you take a couple of naps.
Start your one-week detox
How to do a gentle one-week detox based only on diet is rather simple. Follow these recommendations.
♦Organic vegetables: 5 servings or more daily.
Choose dark green leafy vegetables, asparagus, spinach, squash, beets, tomatoes, carrots and at least 2 or more servings daily of cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale or Brussels sprouts. Avoid: Corn and potatoes.
♦Grains: 3-5 servings daily
Choose brown rice, and other products made from rice (such as rice pasta, crackers, cereal), millet, quinoa, amaranth, or sweet potatoes. Avoid: Refined carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, sugars) as well as corn and gluten-containing grains: wheat, oats, barley, rye, spelt, kamut.
♦Proteins:2-3 servings daily
Choose cold water wild-harvested fish (salmon, sardines or halibut); organic, free-range (pesticide-free, hormone-free) poultry. Avoid: Eggs, shellfish and red meat (beef, lamb and pork).
♦Milk and dairy: 0-2 servings daily
Whenever possible, choose rice milk or nut milk products instead. Avoid: Dairy products (cow’s milk, cheese and yogurt).
♦Beverages: 8 glasses or more daily
Choose purified water or non-caffeinated tea. Avoid: Alcohol and caffeine (including caffeinated coffee, tea and soft drinks).
♦Fruits: 5 servings or more daily.
Choose potassium-rich fruits like figs, apricots and bananas. Apples, pears and peaches are okay too. Avoid: Allergenic or acid promoting fruits, including citrus fruits, strawberries, pineapple, cranberries, blueberries and plums.
♦Fats: 2-3 servings daily
Choose unrefined extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil or sesame oil. Avoid: Partially hydrogenated oils (margarine, shortening), and refined vegetable oils (corn, safflower, sunflower, canola, light olive oil).
♦Nuts, seeds and legumes: 1-2 servings daily
Choose nuts (including almonds, cashews or pecans), seeds (including sunflower or pumpkin seeds) or legumes (including lentils, chickpeas or kidney beans). Avoid: Peanuts, walnuts, soybeans and soybean products.
One day menu sample:
♦Before breakfast: 1 cup of warm water with squeezed fresh lemon juice
♦Breakfast: Hummus with veggies and some fruit
♦Snack: Fruits and veggies
♦Lunch: Mixed bean soup, brown rice, salad
♦Snack: Fruits and veggies
♦Dinner: Baked fish, steamed vegetables
♦Late night snack: Fruits and veggies
This cleansing program is easy to follow and very flexible. If you don’t feel ready to do it all at once, you could simply start by incorporating some of the recommendations into your daily routine until you feel that you’re able to follow the whole program for a week. Remember, even the smallest changes can make a big difference!