A mid-winter cleanse includes lots of warm, savoury foods and flavourful spices, tangy ferments and relishes, hearty meat stews and other energy-generating nourishment to carry you through the cold season feeling cozy and satisfied.
Because of the cold temperatures, a cleanse is preferable to a fast at this time of the year. We will look briefly at the difference between cleansing and fasting, and make sure we understand the purpose of a cleanse and what results we can expect.
The Purpose & Benefits of Cleansing
What is the purpose of a cleanse?
The purpose of a cleanse is to give the body a ‘break’ from irritating substances long enough to allow a healing process to occur, which naturally induces the release of toxins (a colloquialism for unhealthy substances that accumulate in the body). During this process, inflammation is reduced, tissues are rebuilt, and the optimal functioning of the cells and organs of the body is restored. The focus of repair in a cleanse almost always includes the digestive system.
Repairing my digestive system?
Healing the digestive system means lessening inflammation, which allows granulated tissue to form over cracks, holes and fissures in the lining of the intestinal walls, much like a scab forms over a wound on your hand. Underneath the scabs, the tissue is regenerated and replaced until the lining is whole once again. Compare this process to an injury on your skin, from the initial bleeding and swelling, to the formation of a natural scab band-aid, to the repair process occurring unseen underneath – and when the scab falls away and the tissue is whole again, perhaps with a little temporary or permanent scar tissue. This process happens exactly the same in your intestines.
What causes this damage in the intestines?
The short answer is: Inflammation. Inflammation occurs because of a number of reasons, most of which have to do with irritating substances that cause an immune reaction, and others that create the right environment for damage to occur. Inflammatory substances include immune-triggering particles of food, undigested proteins being the primary culprit. Foods you are sensitive or allergic to can also trigger your immune system. When you trigger the immune system you get inflammation. On our skin, this looks like itching, burning, redness, swelling, heat and pain; there may also be hives or eruptions. This irritation also occurs in our digestive system when we consume an inflammatory substance.
Improperly digested food is a major culprit in digestive inflammation
Sometimes when our digestion is poor, we are unable to break food down properly, and some of these large, undigested particles are the culprits in intestinal immune reactions. Cleansing resets our digestive systems, providing the enzymes and acids needed to metabolize inflammatory food particles into useable nutrition.
I will talk more about what happens when we have an inflamed, porous digestive system (aka “leaky gut syndrome”) in another blog about food, absorption and the immune response.
A cleanse is a digestive reset that heals the digestive system, at the same time encouraging the removal of toxins from the tissues, lessening inflammation. The major benefit of cleansing is that a healthy digestive system allows you to use all the nutrition from your food for building up your strength.
So, what are my options for cleansing?
If this is not your first cleanse, and you have less than 5 days, you can try a warm liquids fast.
Fasting is going without solid food for more than 1 day. I recommend fasting for less than 4 days unless supervised. In mid-winter, fasting should be less than 3 days in duration, with many warm beverages (hot water, tea, broth or warmed juice) to provide warming energy and easily assimilated nourishment to the body. Because the process of digestion creates a lot of the internal heat we use for warmth, going without digestion for a few days in the winter can be a very chilly experience! Be sure to drink as many hot beverages as you like to stay warm.
The lemonade cleanse falls into the fasting category. Be sure to drink your lemonade warm if you are going to do this fast in winter, and keep the duration under 3 days.
All fasts require a 2-3 day period during which you slowly reacclimatize your body to solid foods, starting with lightly cooked vegetables and adding heavy food such as dairy and meat later.
For beginners and experienced cleansers who want the very best cleanse, the fresh food cleanse is an ideal diet with perfect nourishment for the body. It is a better winter option than fasting, with a longer duration, somewhere between 10-30 days.
The Fresh Food Cleanse consists of drinking water, juice or broth and consuming a variety of lightly cooked fresh vegetables, whole grains and protein for meals. This cleanse has the advantage of allowing the cleanser to feel full and satisfied, while providing alkalizing nourishment to the body. A daily piece of domestic fruit is allowed, healthy uncooked oils are encouraged, and limited quantities of nuts and legumes are allowed. This type of cleanse can be continued indefinitely – indeed, it is the optimal way for a human being to eat!
The fresh food cleanse can be customized to your dietary preferences – Gluten containing grains can be avoided if desired, and animal products are optional for vegans.
A paleo diet is similar to the fresh food cleanse, except foods that have entered the human diet in the last 10000 years are eliminated – grains and legumes, potatoes. You may wish to try the paleo diet if you find that grains and starchy legumes do not agree with you.
To learn about the foods that are eaten/avoided on a Fresh Food Cleanse, read this blog about the Candida diet (it’s the same diet, without the candida supplements).
I will be doing a 30 day fresh food cleanse and including the Kodiak Biorenewal kit supplements, to help me heal and cleanse at the fastest rate, for the first 14 days.