Spring Cleaning- Digestion style

Lots of us have been busy cleaning house for spring.  Opening those windows, airing out the rugs, scrubbing walls and woodwork...  I've been doing a bit of that around here, too (though, admittedly, I don't much care for house cleaning).  Spring cleaning when you're a pet owner takes on a bit of a different form, however, since you're constantly contending with their shedding!  I've resigned myself to dust-bunnies for the next month. Don't judge.

Lately, I'd resigned myself to a dirty house, but also a "dirty" digestion system.  By and large, I try to eat well.  I don't eat fast food, am gluten-free and largely dairy-free, and try hard to sneak in extra veggies wherever I can.  (My recipe for sloppy joes may just contain more veg than meat!)  Inevitably, though, we all fall off the bandwagon sometimes.  Despite our best intentions.  I've been slacking on my fruit and veg intake, reaching for the bag of chips, and letting myself eat desserts and candy far too often lately.  Well, it's all finally caught up to me.  I feel like my digestive system is a "before" picture from a Roto-Rooter ad.  So, this week, I'm cleaning up my act.  Time for a little internal spring cleaning.

I sometimes hesitate to use the term "cleanse", because it so often conjures up images of strange tinctures, expensive supplements, and being chained to a bathroom for a week.  I've done cleanses like that.  They're hard.  They're hard to complete, as you're depriving yourself so fully of your normal routine and the food you love.  I also believe they're hard on the body.  Our little ol' liver can only process so many toxins in a day (especially when it's been chronically stressed by alcohol, coffee, sugar, and food additives), if your body is releasing (due to the cleansing) more toxins than the liver can process, they're simply re-absorbed into the body.  Seems pretty counter-productive to me. (especially while you're making yourself miserable by eating nothing but some weird "lemonade")
But I digress...  Everyone's body functions differently.  These highly-regemented cleanses may work really well for some folks.  Me, on the other hand, I'm a bit more delicate.  My body needs to be treated a bit more gently.

When I "cleanse", it's with real food.  The plan is basic:  if it's a vegetable, fruit, or gluten-free whole grain, I'll eat it.  If it's none of those things, it doesn't go in my mouth.  Sugars and fried foods are no-nos. I also cut out my morning cup of coffee to replace it with fresh lemon juice in hot water.  I find the taste refreshing, the warmth comforting, and the lemon juice first thing in the morning gives the liver a jump-start to tackle the barrage of toxins in a day.  In fact, I drink the lemon and water throughout the day.  I feel like it makes my insides smile.

For breakfast, I might make a hemp-protein smoothie with fresh carrot or green juice and fruit.  Or maybe I'll cube up some sweet-potatoes and have some hash and eggs (organic & cage-free, of course).  (See?  Cleansing can taste good!)

Lunch is often a green salad (spring greens and spinach pack a vitamin punch) loaded with veg of all sorts (whatever I'm in the mood for).  I also try to add some chickpeas or black beans and/or some nuts and seeds for a bit of protein, maybe some avocado for that delicious healthy fat.  If I'm not in the mood for salad, I might eat some leftover quinoa and sauteed veggies.


Dinner is fairly wide open.  Veggie stir-fry with brown rice?  Sure!  A quick curry?  Absolutely! (Turmeric, cinnamon, and coconut milk are all super-healthy detox ingredients)  Salad?  If you're in the mood.  Soup?  Hey, why not!  Brown rice risotto?  Sounds good to me! When I cook, I use olive and coconut oils.  I try to cook veggies only to the point of al dente, to retain their greatest nutrient power.  I try not to use nightshades in excess (that's tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant), as they can be difficult to digest.  As for meats, I go vegan for the first 2-3 days (which is not unusual for me, anyway).  After the first few days, I simply try to listen to my body.  Is it asking me for animal protein?  When I do eat meats, I try to choice natural/organic meats that led a happy life and don't contain hormones or antibiotics.  When cleansing, I also try to eat outside my norm when it comes to meats.  I might go for a buffalo burger patty instead of beef, or venison if I can get it.

As for snack time (because we all need snacks... especially when our bodies are working hard and we're eating vegan), I try to choose raw veggies, or a piece of fruit, or a handful of almonds (soaked overnight is best, as they're easier to digest).  I've also been totally addicted to these crunchy roasted chickpeas.

Most cleanses prescribe a fist-full of pills multiple times a day.  While I don't take anything too fancy, I do know my body, and I know that it sometimes needs a little extra help moving things along.  So while I'm cleansing I take psyllium husk fiber, and a gentle herbal laxative (I've had good luck with both marshmallow root and senna leaf containing formulas).  Again, if you're working so hard to eliminate toxins, it doesn't do much good if they sit around in your colon, only to be reabsorbed!

I'm now at the beginning of Day 3 of my cleanse.  And BOY, did I need it!  The sugar and salt cravings the last 2 days have been a bear!  I find that maintaining a positive intention and attitude helps.  Instead of concentrating on how much I want the thing I can't have, I try to think about how out-of-whack my body must have been and how much better I'll feel on the other side.

If you're looking for some reputable resources on real-food cleansing (and eating!), check out these folks:

The Food-Lover's Cleanse - a 2-week plan full of amazing foods that you will truly want to eat, and that your body will thank you for.  I use this plan heavily for inspiration.

http://www.joyoushealth.ca/blog/ - Joy is a certified holistic nutritionist, and has lots of great advice on eating to make your body joyful.  She's also got a great way of adding in the science that I love!

http://www.drweil.com/ - Dr. Andrew Weil has been a trusted voice in the holistic health community for years.  His site is a treasure trove.

www.cleanprogram.com - this site may be trying to sell you a program, but there's lots of great info in their "resources" section

www.101cookbooks.com - Heidi doesn't necessarily talk about cleansing, per se, but her site is full of gorgeous natural food recipes, and the photos to make you want to cook them!

*Disclaimer:  I'm not a healthcare professional.  I'm not an expert on any of this.  I'm simply trying to share what I've learned works for me.  If you need professional advice, go get it.  ....just not from me.