LakesRegionTent_woman-thinkingWith the spotlight on learning and maintaining healthy eating habits, there has been a surge in products and programs for Cleansing.

Cleansing is not a new concept or idea. It is a custom or habit that was established centuries ago, and was practiced in most cultures. Often based on religious practices, spiritual fasting or sometimes on the practical fact that there just wasn’t enough food available at the end of a long winter.

The Varied World of Cleansing

Cleansing today has taken on many forms, from very restricted to very specialized, each offering varying benefits and cautions to consider. There are juice fast Cleanses that require drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juices for most or all of your sustenance. There are vegetarian Cleanses that promote eating only vegetarian foods, and mixed Cleanses that include a variety of foods, with a focus on organic, whole and sustainable nutrients.

If you are new to Cleansing, the first thing to ask yourself is what you are hoping to achieve. If you are eager for weight loss, but your intention is to do a Cleanse for a specified period of time and then return to your previous eating habits, that constitutes a diet.

However, if your intention is to jumpstart your path to healthier eating for life, reduce toxins and the symptoms they produce then you are truly ready for Cleansing.

The Benefits of Cleansing

The real concept of a Cleanse is to give your body an opportunity to focus less on digestion and more on detoxification and repair. By eating nourishing, lighter, whole foods—without chemicals and preservatives—the body has an easier job with digestion and can put more effort into healing and rejuvenation. Participates can experience a range of benefits from weight loss to improved digestion, to skin vibrancy, increased energy, and improved mood.

Additionally, many Cleansing programs omit foods that are common allergens, such as dairy, peanuts and gluten. Oftentimes, people have low level sensitivities to these foods, which manifest as a variety of symptoms. Because the reaction is not immediate, as found with allergies, a person often doesn’t make the connection to food as the source of their pain or discomfort. A Cleanse can help shed light on food sensitivities.

So how does someone choose a Cleanse?

  1. Know your body. If you have blood sugar issues or lots of sugar cravings, doing a Cleanse that doesn’t include adequate protein will be a challenge for you, and may be more detrimental than beneficial. If you are an athlete or fitness instructor you may need a Cleanse that allows for more carbs, and that won’t leave you feeling light headed or lethargic.
  2. Choose a Cleanse administered by an experienced professional. This way you get feedback on whether the Cleanse will actually work for your specific body. Some Cleanse protocols offer no variation. Cleanses that can be customized are usually the ones where you will receive guidance and supervision as you go.
  3. Be realistic. For your first Cleanse, it is often wise to follow a less restrictive Cleanse program. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1) detoxing too quickly can be damaging to the body and really awful to experience, and 2) going for the gusto may mean that you find it impossible to sustain your Cleanse and “failure” can lead to self sabotage behavior that lasts for months.

Is a Cleanse right for you?

Those who tend to benefit most from a Cleanse are people who are already eating somewhat healthy (by general standards) but still have some nagging health issues. These health issues can be the outward sign of toxins that need to be expelled or they can be a signal of hidden food sensitivities.

People with very poor eating habits may find it especially challenging to deal with the withdrawal and detox symptoms from caffeine, sugar and processed foods. These symptoms can be significant in some, and should be considered before embarking on a Cleanse.

So before you embark on any Cleanse, be it at the start of the New Year or anytime thereafter, allow yourself the time to think it through, choose carefully, and be gentle with yourself about your expectations.