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(Day 1 of the cleanse chronicles can be found here.)

Okay, who decided coffee was off-limits while detoxing? Whoever it was should be smacked upside the head with a wet collard green. Or a bunch of beets.

Grrrrr!

Normally I have one cup of coffee each morning, no more — and 1/3rd of that is coconut milk. Even though I’m a nutritionist, I’m not part of the “coffee is evil” crowd. My coffee of choice is a nice mellow, organic breakfast blend. It’s light and bursting with aroma and high mountain zing. Aaahhh.

As much as I like my morning cup, I think it’s important to skip it right now. But I miss it and thoroughly enjoy having that warm, creamy drink each morning. I’ll do a whole post on coffee and why I don’t think it’s a bad thing if you keep it to one cup a day. And I don’t mean those Starbucks mega-grande-ginormous versions.

More on that later. For now I’ll share with you some of my basic principles of detoxing. I like my spring cleanse to be pleasant, and for the most part it is. Nothing extreme, nothing weird, no reason to take time out from life to camp out on the bathroom floor and be totally miserable. I don’t want to weaken myself — I want to lose a couple of winter pounds, look and feel better, strengthen my immune system, boost my energy levels, lighten my toxic load, sleep better, and recommit myself to choosing clean, nourishing foods.

Again, make sure you consult your health care provider before starting any detox program. I do this quite often, so other than some minor things, it’s not terribly unpleasant for me. But depending on your current lifestyle and over-all health, even what might be considered a mild cleanse can be unsafe if not monitored carefully.

Vibrant health maintenance doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. Avoid things that cause harm and give your body what it needs to thrive. Let it do the complicated stuff, all you have to do is safely and effectively support the process. Here are a few of my tips (a loose guideline) on how to safely cleanse, lessen your toxic burden and regain strength and vitality.

1. Organic (check here for a prior post I did on organic food)
Organic food is free of chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics and is generally easier for the body to break down, absorb and assimilate. Some studies show organic foods to be higher in nutritional value, but what they lack is almost more important to me, especially while cleansing. The point in detoxing is to get rid of the nasty stuff from your system, not add to it. We’re living in a different world than our ancestors did and are exposed to 40,000 – 50,000 chemicals that didn’t exist decades ago. The average American (eating the Standard American Diet, also known as the SAD diet) ingests in one way or another, around 120 pounds of additives per year. So, choose organic foods whenever possible.

2. Avoid
Eliminate all gluten grains (whether you need to in normal life or not), dairy (with a few exceptions), most soy foods, sugar (with a couple of exceptions), caffeine, soda, alcohol, meat, all processed and packaged foods, fast food, and some vegetables. I’m cutting way back, or eliminating, starches (most grains, potatoes, yams, peas and beans) and most nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant). I do have a few minor exceptions to these rules, but for the most part, I avoid everything on this list. Don’t panic, there are lots of wonderful foods on the “choose” list.

3. Choose
Eat any combination of fresh organic vegetables, a good portion of them raw. Goitrogen foods (cruciferous vegetables) should be lightly cooked. I’ll do a separate post on cruciferous vegetables and thyroid function later. Use olive oil for salad dressings, coconut oil for cooking and ghee for other uses (if you like ghee, which is clarified butter). Unfiltered raw honey, raw agave (use sparingly), or stevia can be used for occasional sweetening, but go easy on it. Pastured organic eggs are fine in moderation.

4. Rough it up
Eat lots of whole, high-fiber foods. Fiber in the form of raw veggies and fruit is instrumental in helping to move toxins out of the body. For a detailed post I did on the benefits of fiber, check here. Fiber is high on my list of important substances, with all kinds of valuable health benefits, but add it slowly or you’ll explode (and it won’t be pretty). At the least, you’ll be feeling icky until you get used to the sweeping effects on your digestive system.

5. Flush it out
I’m in the process of creating a separate post on water, so I’ll keep this brief (famous last words). Drink lots of water while cleansing, especially since you’ll be increasing your fiber intake. Water, water, water! Divide your weight in half — that is the amount of water in ounces you should drink daily. If you weigh 150 pounds, that’s 75 ounces of water per day, which is about nine or ten 8-ounce glasses.

6. Turn up the heat
Not in your house, but in your body. Exercise daily and sweat it out. I love yoga for detoxing as it’s bendy and twisty and stimulates fluid movement in the body and helps wring things out. This deserves a separate post as well — yoga for detox and digestion.

7. Eat less
According to my Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition book, if you live for 65 years or longer, you will have consumed more than 70,000 meals and disposed of 50 tons of food. FIFTY TONS OF FOOD?! Oh my gosh, that’s almost creepy. Actually, it is creepy. Okay, I will admit to eating more calories than I need a good part of the time, but spending a little less time at the trough makes us realize that we’ll not only survive, but we’ll be much healthier if we don’t super-size everything.

8. Just say no to stress
Now? While the economy sinks to new depths? Yeah, right. Well, at least do the best you can as stress can undermine all your good intentions.

These are my basic cleansing guidelines. Tomorrow I’ll start posting detox recipes, and good ones, at that. Remember, I said I wasn’t into starving myself or feeling totally deprived. Except for the coffee thing. Grrrr!

Go forth and get rid of icky things.
Melissa
P.S. Darn it, I “talked” too much again. I need a word-count cut-off program.

11 Responses to “the cleanse chronicles (day 4)”

  1. Megan says:

    I have to say, I have never heard the term “nightshade”. How are they defined and why are they part of a detox?
    Hey, do you like the 8-18″ we woke up to this morning…NOT.

    Megan

  2. Melissa says:

    Megan,

    The most common nightshades are tomatoes, white potatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, and eggplant. Tobacco is also a nightshade, as are several weeds, shrubs and even some poisonous plants like belladonna and jimsonweed. There are some dark tales about poisoning by nightshades. Macbeth (who was actually a real person, a Scottish king) supposedly poisoned a whole army of Danish invaders using alcohol laced with a deadly form of nightshade plants (perhaps berries of belladonna).

    Farm and ranch animals can sometimes get sick (even die) from eating these plants.

    Nightshades are plants that have substances called alkaloids that can impact digestion and joint, nerve and muscle function. Alkaloids are actually part of the plant’s defense system, protecting them from insects. I did a food allergy test years ago and had a “high” reaction to eggplant, potatoes, and peppers. Potatoes and hot peppers don’t bother me at all, but I can’t deal with eggplant or raw bell peppers. Some alternative health-care practitioners believe that people with arthritis should totally avoid nightshades because of the alkaloid content.

    You know when a potato turns green after being exposed to light too long? Those are alkaloids at work (solanine in this case). It’s the plant’s natural protection if it’s been exposed. Don’t eat the green part in potatoes as it is “toxic.”

    Anyway, I’m avoiding things that may cause irritation during my cleanse, so I’ve eliminated nightshades as well.

    :-)

  3. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    Most interesting post and I look forward to the next installment. My body could do with a cleanse. I’d miss dairy though especially semi skimmed milk. Presumably you follow the routine for a week or so?

    Cid

  4. Melissa says:

    Cid,

    HOW are you? I hope things are a bit less stressful lately. You know, these cleanses get easier every time, but I have had a few cranky moments. And day 2 I had a mild headache. As for the dairy, the only thing I’m eating is naturally cultured goat milk kefir and it’s divine! Seriously, it is SO good, I could drink a whole carton. I use the traditional plain version for making smoothies and once a day for a treat, I have a small glass of a blueberry pomegranate flavor. There’s no sugar, colorings, preservatives or anything other than whole goat milk and live cultures. The flavored one has some fruit juice concentrates in it, so I’m going easy on that one.

    I must admit though, I’d love to have a few of your macaroons right now (like maybe a dozen)!

    :-)

  5. This sounds like a really great and balanced cleanse (it actually sounds like my life) and I usually find that with these kinds of cleanses, people feel so much better (once the coffee withdrawal wears off) that they stick with it and make it their lifestyle. If you are interested in taking it a little further, I will be coaching a three day green smoothie cleanse beginning April 19th. Details will follow this week.

  6. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    I’m interested in how people deal with stress and what brings it on in the first place. For me it’s been a combination of things which all happened at once…. bit like the circus plate on a stick twirler, only mine were falling off! I’ve had a change of job and upheaval in the house… the latter being usual with my old pile of bricks. Add to it life’s other little challenges and there you have it. Nevertheless I know it’s important not to lose sight of the important things in life which is easier said than done. My friends and relatives all face similar challenges and the time and effort it takes to deal with them means there’s less time to get together and celebrate the good stuff.

    Mind you this morning I was out in the garden surrounded by flowering cherry trees and new life. I trimmed the contorted hazel and have used the twigs for an Easter tree and very pretty it looks. There’s a pink humming bird that sits on top… not exactly traditional but he blends in nicely :)

    Cid

  7. Melissa says:

    Cid,

    I love the way you express yourself! I’ve never thought of the stick twirler analogy, but that’s a good one. I may even use it (steal it)! It’s a great way to describe how things start adding up until they spin out of control.

    And yes, there are lots of challenges right now as it is, so when more things come your way it can feel overwhelming. You’ve got such a good sense of humor, keep it up! Laughter is good medicine!

  8. Interesting on the benefits of yoga for detoxing. Although it definitely makes sense, I had always heard that aerobics were the best for detoxing because of the heat and sweat. Movement is good no matter what, but I sure prefer the yoga moves to aerobics when I am feeling a bit “puny” from detoxing. I never detox well myself, so I am glad I always do it under my doctor’s guidance.

    Shirley

  9. No Coffee!!??!! OMG you are a better woman than I! I need to do a big time cleanse when I get back from Asia. I will check back when I am ready for some good advice.

  10. Melissa says:

    Shirley,

    I could write a whole book on the benefits of yoga. Well, not me, but someone could. Actually, there have been lots of books written on the benefit of yoga and I’m planning a post on that one of these days. I’m not even sure where to start though, the benefits are so many. I always sweat when I do yoga, sometimes I’m drenched after class. You can generate a lot of heat doing asana practice. This is one of my mainstays of health and will be for the rest of my life. I practice several times a week and have for many years. I can’t even begin to tell you what a committed yoga practice has done for my life and my health.

    People don’t “detox well” for a variety of reasons, all the more reason to start gently and work your way into it with help.

    Good comment, Shirley.

  11. Melissa says:

    Carol,

    I know, I know. That is the hardest part for me. I don’t drink much normally anyway so it’s really not hard physically to detox from it, but emotionally, it is my comfort drink in the early morning. It’s my time to sit quietly with my dog curled up at my feet, read something and enjoy my morning cup of coffee and creamy coconut milk. It’s more about that than anything else. It’s my macaroni and cheese.

    :-)

    Safe travels and I’ll “talk” with you when you return.

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