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Spring Cleansing Basics

Everyone in Ojai seems to be interested in cleansing and detox. It is great to live in such a health-oriented community! I see lots of really healthy habits, and a few that concern me. What follows are guidelines for what I see as healthy cleansing. Check out the "Do's and Don'ts" after the break!

What does it mean to cleanse?
Cleansing helps your body clear out accumulated waste and potentially toxic material. Removing some of this "toxic load" can help boost your immune system, decrease allergic reactions, clear up your mental and emotional processes and much more. Fasting gives your body (specifically the digestive system) a rest. Some people fast during a cleanse, but you can also cleanse while eating a simple, nutritious diet.

What are these toxins everyone is talking about?
There are several types of toxins: Your own body, each cell and each tissue, produces waste products that must be eliminated from your system. There are chemical toxins in the water we shower in (chlorine, flouride, MTBE and so on), the air we breathe (think pesticides from the orange trees in the Ojai valley, car exhaust, fumes in the workplace), and the food we eat, just to name a few sources. There are also bacteria and other microbes living inside each of us busily producing waste products. If we have an excess of any of these "wee beasties" we also carry an excess of their waste products.

What should I do to cleanse?
I have used both a liquid fast and a simple food cleanse. During both of these cleanses, I take certain products and I receive colonics. While I cannot tell you what is best for you, I can make suggestions to help you through whatever protocol you choose.

I suggest colon therapy every day or at least every other day while fasting and every second or third day when following a cleansing diet. It will help your body remove all the waste and keep detox symptoms, including headaches and nausea, at a minimum. Magnesium citrate can keep the bowels soft and help move them as well. I am adamantly opposed to taking any kind of laxative, including herbal laxatives and “digestive stimulants,” containing senna or cascara sagrada. These products work by irritating the delicate tissue lining the digestive system and can cause weakening of your normal bowel function. I cannot see how they can be healing or healthy for the body.

Cleansing Do’s and Don’t’s

Do not:
• Take any products containing senna or cascara sagrada for more than a few days at a time or a few days a month. These products are laxatives and can cause dependency.
• Take any product containing bentonite clay or charcoal if you are eating "normal" foods. These products can absorb nutrients and can bind up your digestive system.
• Cleanse your liver unless you are having very regular bowel movements. Toxins leaving the liver must go somewhere - if not out with the fecal matter they will settle in other tissue.
• Fast on just fruit juices. That quantity of sugar is damaging to the pancreas.
• Fast on just water unless you have lots of experience fasting. It can be very dangerous.
• Push yourself to do more than your body and mind feel able to do. Do not fast longer than you feel able to, even if your friend or spouse did. Your body is unique and that is just fine.

• Include lots of high-vitamin, high-mineral juices or foods.
• Drink lots of water.
• Set reasonable goals and be willing to change them if it is appropriate.
• Lighten your schedule for the time you are cleansing.
• Allow time for rest and reflection.
• Let the people you will be with during your cleanse know what you are doing.
• Ensure that you are having regular bowel movements. I strongly recommend colon therapy during and at the end of any cleanse - intestinal, liver or overall.
• Expect that you may experience a wide range of emotions during and just after the cleanse, including irritability, anger, sadness, elation and contentment.
• Transition back to eating slowly and gently.
• Seek professional advice on your first cleanse or if you have any questions at all.