Five-day food cleanse

Rejuvenate and renew

Put a spring in your step. Try a 5-day food-based cleanse

by Helen Papaconstantinos


flying carrots
photo © Foodmaniac

• Spring and summer are ideal times to let in light and let go of our old diet and self-defeating habits.

Why not try detoxifying with real, living, nutrient dense foods? A real food cleanse can last anywhere from three to 21 days and uses juices, smoothies and pureed vegetable soups. All of these foods are easy on the digestive system and nourish the body with antioxidants and phytonutrients (nutrients from colourful plant-based sources). Even if you do not wish to puree your food, going on a clean diet has many benefits. Fresh plants are rooted in nature, literally, and they have natural energy, which is passed on to you.

By making the switch from eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) to eating high-fibre and nutrient-dense foods, you will give your body the opportunity to “Rest and Digest.” This sounds like a modest goal, but it really is the key to good health. It is also the very basis of holistic nutrition, which places strong emphasis on digestive health.

For your cleanse, try a five-day period from Monday to Friday. Weekends are not always conducive to undertaking dietary changes. If following the recommendations properly, you should not feel hungry or deprived while “eating clean,” especially if you are choosing low glycemic-load and high-fibre foods, which fill you up and keep your blood sugars stable. But first…

What is detoxification?

Detoxification is about “opening all the doors” of elimination. All of the channels of elimination (kidneys, skin, intestines, blood, lymph and perspiration) must be opened before you start detoxifying the liver. Otherwise, your liver will feel overburdened and you will start to experience headaches and malaise (signs of a healing crisis). Your skin is your largest detoxification organ, thus remember to rub your skin with a dry brush or a stiff towel before getting in the shower to stimulate your circulation and help you to detox further. Detoxification does not mean fasting. Most people do not have the proper blood sugar control to fast and end up feeling dizzy, hungry and may even find it difficult to participate in everyday activities.

Undertaking a real food cleanse carries less chance of triggering a healing crisis. This basically means your body is able to safely detoxify toxins. When that happens, the body tries to help detoxification along by bringing on diarrhea, headaches and inflammation. As your body lets go of toxic waste, and your cells become cleaner, it becomes easier to recognize a hidden reaction to gluten, dairy, soy or any of the other common food allergies. When you are feeling sick and tired all the time, it is harder to listen to what your body is trying to tell you.

People who consume large amounts of caffeine, alcohol and sugar (or who have multiple food allergies) may experience some malaise when they first make the switch from a Standard American Diet (SAD) to a whole-foods cleanse. Symptoms of withdrawal (headaches, cravings, fatigue) usually disappear after three to four days. It is best to slowly reduce your intake of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, white flour and over-the-counter medications (as directed by your physician) a week or two before you start your program.

How to prepare for a cleanse

Your first step is to put in place optimal conditions for detoxification. Therefore, find a time when your stress-load is not as high and make sure that you have stocked the refrigerator and pantry with fresh, alkaline-forming foods. Of course, get rid of any prepared and processed foods in the house before you attempt a cleanse. There is no sense in having a protein bar (yes, that constitutes a prepared food!) in your pantry as you attempt a cleanse.

What should I eat?

Eat a whole-foods diet. Digestion takes work and slows down other functions in the body, such as detoxification. As digestion work eases, there is a point at which the body receives a signal to enter intense detox mode and releases trapped toxins and mucus. Avoid anything out of a package, box or tin or which contains chemicals.

Eat whole vegetables, leafy greens. Avoid dairy – no dairy for 5 days. If you can, cut it out entirely. Almond, hemp or coconut milk can be substituted.

Naturally detoxifying vegetables – cauliflower, broccoli and leafy greens – help eliminate toxins and normalize hormones. Do not eat frozen, canned or dehydrated vegetables and fruits. Aim for fresh and living produce of every colour. Avoid any foods your system might be sensitive to or which cause stiff joints. Some people are sensitive to nightshades such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, potatoes, yams and sweet potatoes.

Eat low glycemic grasses, grains and seeds, brown basmati rice, black or mahogany rice and/or quinoa (a seed which cooks like a grain). Some gluten free grains are fine, but be mindful that grains raise insulin levels as they have a high glycemic index. Instead of wheat, try almond or coconut flour. Do not eat gluten grains and wheat.

Stevia as a sweetener (or do without – fresh, natural food is sweet enough). Sugar – even natural sugars should be removed from the diet as they also spike insulin and blood sugar; levels get converted in the liver into glucagon and triglycerides, which can make you fat and create inflammation in the body.

Bean/legumes and lentils (avoid soy beans) provide fibre to help regulate blood sugar, as well as help move toxins out. If you have sensitivities to legumes, avoid. Soy, even non-GMO, tends to be contaminated. If eating soy, make sure it is fermented soy (i.e., Tempeh, miso).

Green and white tea (unroasted green tea) with lemon slices can help bridge you over the hump of coffee withdrawal headaches. They will also help to detoxify you. Otherwise, herbal teas without caffeine, such as dandelion root tea or AlkaTea, which contains 49 alkalinizing wild-crafted herbs, are great choices. Avoid coffee, soda and alcohol. Coffee is acidic, a diuretic and can make you feel less calm during a cleanse. Soda contains carbon dioxide as well as ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, which creates enormous stress on your liver and body tissues.

Eat wild fish, organic chicken and turkey. Avoid corn (corn is a processed grain made from maize and usually this is genetically modified).

Eat good saturated fats – avocado and coconut and their oils and butters. Avoid commercially raised red meat and farmed fish for 5 days. During a cleanse, the goal is to put less stress on your liver and kidneys. If eating protein, make sure it is grass-fed, hormone-free lean protein such as egg whites, chicken, turkey or sustainably caught cold-water fish. Proteins secrete the hormone glucagon, which helps in fat loss.

Eat nut and seed butters, extra-virgin olive oil. Avoid peanuts. They are a legume, grown under-ground and can harbour mold. They are also acidic.

Eat whole fruits and berries. Avoid fruits that are highly sprayed with pesticides or prematurely ripened – eat organic. Otherwise, take caution around strawberries, oranges, grapes and bananas.

Supplement your diet with a high quality multi-vitamin, fish oil supplement and a wide-spectrum probiotic. Acidophilus is friendly bacteria that helps to maintain a healthy digestive micro-flora, but it is only one of the many beneficial strains available to you. Each probiotic bacteria has a specific job. Some turn on minerals such as zinc, some activate vitamin D, others turn on serotonin receptors or protect you from pathogenic bacteria. Others work with fatty acids in your intestines. Make sure you don’t limit yourself to one strain.

Source: Excerpted from the original article. Helen Papaconstantinos is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and a First Class Honours graduate of the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. She is currently completing additional training as a Certified Cancer Coach.

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