What is a Cleanse? This is the time of year many people think of as an opportunity to start anew. A cleanse or detox can mean many things and can be strong or gentle in its action and can involve dietary changes or not. Primarily, a cleanse involves targeting the primary elimination organs or channels through which our body gets rid of excess nutrients, toxins, or other waste products. It can involve removing solid foods from the diet, or eating only unprocessed, easy to digest foods for a period of time, and usually involves supplementing fiber to help “sweep” the intestines, some liver and kidney stimulating herbs, and possibly plant-based laxatives. Most people hear the word “cleanse,” and think “run to the bathroom,” but that does not have to be the case and, in fact, I prefer not to have a cleanse involve intense laxatives or overly strong diuretics, so you can actually function in your day to day life. This is also easier on your body!
Why Cleanse? Often, people experience increased energy, better digestion, and perhaps better sleep and mental clarity after doing a cleanse for a week to a month. So, if you’re feeling sluggish, tired, have slow digestion, etc., or even if you just feel like you have over-indulged lately and would like to start fresh, a cleanse can be a great way to begin a new routine.
Where’s My Liver? Most people have at least a vague idea that they have a liver, kidneys, and a colon; some know where they are and what they do. When we get to talking about things like the “lymphatics” and the gallbladder and spleen, few people know their function or location. So, just in case you really wanted to know, your liver is located just over and to the right of your midline, tucked partially under your right rib cage. It is involved in too many processes to mention here, but is the primary filter in the body, so that means it packages, metabolizes, and neutralizes many things we intake and produce. It helps filter the blood, removing bacteria and old red blood cells from the blood as it passes through the liver, it metabolizes many hormones including insulin, it detoxifies harmful chemicals, alcohol, and pharmaceutical or other drugs, and much more.
How Can I Support My Liver? Stress, inflammation, and exposure to chemicals and taking many recreational or pharmaceutical medicines all take their toll on the liver. Sometimes avoiding all of the above can be hard to do, so in lieu of that, many medicinal herbs are excellent for the liver. Eating bitter salad greens (such as dandelion leaves and arugula), taking herbs in capsule, tea, or liquid extract form such as burdock root, artichoke leaf, milk thistle seed, and dandelion root, are great ways to stimulate the liver to release toxins and many also act as gentle diuretics by stimulating the kidneys, while promoting the flow of digestive juices. Also, eating a diet high in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant foods and herbs, as well as avoiding processed food, excess alcohol, and food additives, pesticides, etc. can help make the liver’s daily job a little easier.
Herban Wellness Cleanse Kit: I have formulated and a packaged a gentle cleanse kit that is designed to last 5-7 days, and will work best when combined with dietary changes. Below is a copy of the information I include in my “Cleanse Guide”
The main organs you want to target during a cleanse are the liver, kidneys, colon, skin, lungs, and lymphatic system. Herbs and foods can do that, including fiber blends, liver & kidney herbs such as dandelion root and artichoke leaf, spleen and lymph tonics such as red root and calendula, and fresh lemon juice for the liver. Drinking lots of water/fluids is essential.
Our Cleanse Kit at Herban Wellness contains:
Our Fiber Blend for moving “debris” through the intestines, along with the liver protective and detoxifying effects of powders of milk thistle, burdock root, and beet root.
Our Rebalancing Cleanse Support Tea for encouraging movement and gentle detoxification of the liver, kidneys, skin, and lungs, while aiding in healthy circulation.
Our Detox Drops tincture blend is for more targeted detoxification of the liver, kidneys, skin, spleen, & lymphatics.
Modifying your diet in a variety of ways depending on your desired results or the intensity you’re after gives your body more of a chance to repair and restore. Use with the herbal support for optimal results. Follow for 1-2 weeks.
Options for dietary cleansing:
- Eliminate processed & packaged foods from your diet, along with fried foods, processed sugar, alcohol, all meat except cold-water fish, dairy, soy, and eggs – all of which are more difficult to digest and are some of the most common sources of allergens.
- Eat only whole grains, some nuts & seeds, vegetables, and some fruit. For example, eat only cooked brown rice, quinoa, or oats, freshly steamed vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, zucchini, etc., along with optional fresh veggies or fruit juices and fruit smoothies and some low-sugar fruits such as grapefruit, lemons, and pears.
- Eat only raw or lightly cooked fruits and vegetables, including fresh juices, smoothies, salads, lightly sautéed veggies, etc. for several days to a week or two.
- Do a liquid diet, where you only consume fresh vegetable and fruit juices, herbal teas, vegetable broths (preferably home-made), and fresh lemon or lime juice in water, etc. for two or more days.
Other beneficial cleanse practices:
- Steam saunas and/or hot baths to aid in detoxification through the skin. Essential oils can be inhaled or bathed in to enhance detoxification, including juniper berry, rosemary, grapefruit, and eucalyptus.
- Dry skin brushing, using a natural-bristle brush for exfoliating the skin, increasing circulation and lymphatic movement.
- Mild to moderate exercise that includes deep breathing to aid in healthy elimination through the lungs, including yoga or running/walking briskly outside in clean air.
- Herbal teas, tinctures, or capsules for a laxative effect if you want more movement through the colon
Please read about my own Short 5-day Cleanse in another blog article that gives a complete menu and routine for a 5-day cleanse, which you could easily modify and add to for a longer cleanse.
What do I Eat?
Some menu ideas for a clean diet during a 1-2 week cleanse
- Smoothie with almond/rice milk, flaxseed oil, ground flax seeds, fresh/frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries, black berries), green powder (chlorella, spirulina, etc.)
- Sprouted-grain, wheat-free toast or rice cake with raw almond butter
- Hot cereal (multi-grain, steel-cut oats, quinoa, or amaranth) cooked in almond/rice milk with sunflower, sesame, or flax seeds sprinkled on top. Use a small amount of honey, stevia, or fruit to sweeten
- Granola (low sugar) soaked in almond/rice milk for a few minutes to make it more digestible
Lunch & Dinner:
- Salad with spinach/lettuce topped with bell peppers, cucumber, avocado, beets, walnuts, carrots (whatever vegetables you desire), optional grilled salmon/chicken, etc. and drizzled with flax seed oil & fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
- Soup with carrots, mushrooms, potatoes, sweet potato, onions, garlic, barley, lentils… etc. in a vegetable soup base
- Lightly stir-fried vegetables (broccoli, peas, bell peppers, onions, etc.) and tempeh/fish/chicken in olive oil & a little soy sauce (wheat free) served over quinoa or brown rice
- Coconut milk curry (unsweetened) with vegetables and brown rice/quinoa
- Corn tortillas (lightly heated, organic) served with black beans, fresh salsa, lettuce, avocado
- Nori rolls with brown rice, cucumber, carrot, avocado, bell peppers, etc., served with ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce (wheat free) & miso soup
- Salad/fresh rolls with rice paper wraps, lettuce, carrots, beets, etc.
- Cucumber, tomato, onion salad tossed with flax oil, lemon juice, and kalamata olives
- Home-made nut burger/nut loaf grilled and served with a slice or tomato and avocado on top