Once or twice a year I like to hit the 'reset' button for my body by doing a cleanse.   

Spring is the perfect time to cleanse your body.  The weather is warming, which makes the body feel like moving more, letting go of some of it's fat stores and eating a lighter, fresher diet.  Furthermore, if you are like me, you will have been indulging in a few red wines and more 'comforting' type foods over winter, so it is time to detox and change habits.

Doing a cleanse regularly helps me keeps my periods regular & less painful and prevents return of acne & clogged pores.

Doing a cleanse regularly helps me keeps my periods regular & less painful and prevents return of acne & clogged pores.  It ensures that my gut functions properly so that I can get the most out of the nutrient-rich food that I eat and don't suffer any discomfort.  It improves my mood and energy levels.  It ensures that I maintain a healthy weight.  It helps me reign in any eating habits that have got out of control and ensure I don't become addicted to sugar again.  You see, we can't be 100% perfect all the time.  That would cause so much stress!  I like to follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time eat only foods that I know are right for me, 20% of the time 'live a little' and go with the flow.  If I combine this with a cleanse every six months (by this time it has usually become a little more like the 70/30 rule!), it really works for me.  Here is what I do...

Throw all the garbage out

I begin by winding down my caffeine consumption, eating (or throwing out!) any foods in my pantry that won't be in my diet during the cleanse.  The less temptation around, the better.  Cleanse your surroundings while your at it by having a full day or two of de-cluttering your home and doing a Spring clean! It's amazing how inner reflects outer and vice-versa.  When I do this I always feel ready to clean and de-clutter my body and mind.   This is also a good time to consider your relationships and how you may detox them also (this may involve changing the way you interact, or perhaps letting go).

Fill the pantry with whole foods

Next I do a big shop of yummy, fresh, whole foods so that I'm surrounded with the right sort of temptations.  I find it really helpful when my partner gets on board and follows the same diet as me but if he doesn't, I don't let it distract me from my commitment to my health (and happiness!).  I focus on the foods that I can eat by planning recipes that I love.  If you have children you may be surprised that on this cleanse they can eat mostly what you do.  Just don't restrict their carbohydrate intake (let them eat fruit, sweet potato, potato, rice, pumpkin & buckwheat bread freely).  

Prepare your meals

I make sure I have plenty to eat by having a cooking day every Sunday where I prepare a lot of the meals/snacks that I will need for the week.  Freezing some portions helps.  I get my recipe inspiration from wonderful recipe-creators such as Nutrilious, The First Mess, Yotam OttolenghiTeresa Cutter & Lola Berry (choose or modify recipes so that you are sticking to the guidelines below).

Eat yourself clean!

I spend 2-weeks strictly avoiding all alcohol, sugar in all forms (including maple, honey, agave, coconut sugar, rice syrup, yacon syrup, dates etc.), caffeine, gluten, grains, most legumes, dairy (grass fed butter or ghee is ok), most packaged foods and refined vegetable oil (quality olive oil and coconut oil are ok).  I lead a busy lifestyle, so I need to keep my energy levels up.  There is no fasting in my cleanse.  If you want to fast, you really need some quiet time to stay home and rest.  I eat plenty of food, snacking between meals so that I keep my blood sugar stable and don't want to reach for the wrong foods.  This means I eat every 2-3hrs!  

What to include

  • Protein.  Protein is important for healing & tissue growth (muscles!), forming enzymes for detoxification and metabolism, hormones production, immune system function & as a fuel for energy.  I include small amounts of lean protein with every meal and snack.  Choose from fish, organic chicken, tofu & tempeh, eggs, lean cuts of beef or lamb (up to 3x palm-sized serves weekly), brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds & chia seeds.  What if I don't eat meat?!  Simply include all legumes, quinoa, buckwheat, millet & brown basmati rice to add to your protein sources.  Your diet won't be quite as low carb but you will be meeting your protein requirements.
  • Veggies.  I include at least 2 cups of leafy green veggies per day & 5 x half cups of colourful veggies per day.  If you are aiming for weight loss, avoid pumpkin, potato & sweet potato.
  • Fruit.  I limit fruit to 2 serves per day and stick mainly to berries, citrus, kiwi and apples.  AVOID grapes, mangoes, watermelon, banana, dates and dried fruit due to their high sugar content.
  • Roasted rice. Yes I know I said no grains!  The only grain I eat is up to one serving of roasted brown basmati rice per day.  Roasting rice lowers its glycemic index (so that sugar is released very slowly into your blood stream).

    1.  Heat a heavy based frying pan and place dry rice into pan with no water or oil

    2.  Stir until rice begins to smell nutty and become slightly golden – if it is brown it is overcooked

    3.  Now cook the rice in water using your usual method

  • Buckwheat bread.  Buckwheat is actually a seed, not a grain, and contains no wheat.  If I am really busy, having a bread option helps me get through the 2 weeks successfully.  I have up to 2 slices of toasted 100% buckwheat bread per day.  You can buy it or make your own.

  • Fluids.  Adequate fluid is crucial for cleansing.  It helps your body eliminate toxins through urine, sweat, lymph and bowel motions.  I start my day with a glass of warm water with the juice of ¼ of a lemon.  I drink 1.5-2L of plain water plus additional electrolyte drinks such as coconut water, home made veggie or bone broths and/or miso soup.  I also drink some cleansing, detoxing and relaxing herbal teas such as fennel, chamomile, coriander, dandelion root or leaf, hibiscus, roobois, ginger and green tea.  A roasted dandelion and chicory root brew, such as Bonvit Dandelion Blend, makes a great replacement for coffee that will greatly benefit your digestion.

What does this look like?

A typical day might look something like this:

Breakfast: sauteed kale & broccolini with poached eggs and half an avo OR poached eggs on buckwheat toast with avo, tomato & spinach OR muesli (either home made mix of nuts & seeds or a low-carb/paleo store bought blend) with almond milk or Bonsoy & blueberries.

Snack: carrot & celery sticks with ABC butter OR slice homemade veggie frittata OR mandarin with handful raw mixed nuts

Lunch: chicken breast or salmon steak with big colourful mixed salad OR left-over beef/tempeh & veg stir-fry with roasted rice, drizzled with tahini OR chicken & vegetable soup from the freezer

Snack: chia, coconut milk, cacao pudding with berries OR boiled egg with sliced veggie sticks (carrot, radish, red capsicum, celery, green beans & snow peas are all delightful to snack on) OR piece of fruit and nuts

Dinner: Home made thai green curry with heaps of veg, chicken/tofu & roasted rice OR zucchini spagetti with meatballs & basil pesto and rocket side salad OR chicken & vegetable soup from the freezer

Supper: warm cacao & Bonsoy drink with ground flaxseed stirred in OR chia coconut milk cacao pudding OR herbal tea and 3 prunes

Move your body

5-6 times weekly, for 30-60 minutes, I engage in light-moderate exercise such as walking, jogging, dancing, yoga, pilates, swimming or cycling.  3 of these times, I up the tempo to ensure a good sweat, have a sauna or attend a hot yoga class.  

Light some candles

I don't know where I'd be without tea-light candles.  I dot them all around my home in coloured glass jars & under oil burners and light them at night to calm my mind, body & soul.  Rest, relaxation & adequate sleep is just as important as exercise for cleansing.  The body needs time to devote energy to detoxification, digestion & healing.  It can only do this when our nervous system is calm.  Use a quiet, dimly lit environment to wind down at night, drink relaxing herbal teas, try some meditation or further your current meditation practices.  The Smiling Mind app is a great meditation tool.

Tips for success

  • Choose to do your cleanse at a time where you have little social events/obligations and where you will have time to do your meal preparation.  It's no fun being on a restricted diet at a wedding, on holiday or during exam time!
  • Eat every 2-3hrs
  • Focus on foods that you love and are allowable
  • Get inspired with whole food recipes!
  • Add plenty of herbs & spices to cooking for flavour and antioxidants
  • Use zucchini or carrot strips as a pasta replacement.  All you need is a julienne peeler.

Hurrah! I made it!

When you make it to the end of the 2-weeks don't go crazy by eating everything you have been restricting in one day!  You will feel horrible.  Instead, gently re-introduce one type of food at a time.  Start with legumes, then unrefined grains, one type of food at a time.  Then re-introduce quality dairy (goat's cheese, sheep's milk yoghurt & Jersey cow milk) & wheat (organic spelt or sourdough is best), one at a time, observing your body.  If any digestive discomfort or other symptoms occur, note them down in your diary and continue to avoid that food.  For sugar & alcohol follow the 80/20 rule and stick to whole food desserts and baking.  

Going further

If you still don't feel great or have experienced a reaction to any foods when you re-introduced them, you may need to see your Naturopath for further guidance.  This is where a personalised gut healing program can really improve your health.  Your Naturopath can also help with herbs and nutrients that help your body to detoxify on a deeper level, curb sugar cravings, balance hormones, tailor a weight loss program & support you to keep on track. If you are in my area, I'd love to help you!

All the best on your health journey,