Why, How and When to Cleanse

July 25, 2015

There are several reasons why cleansing the body of toxins is a good idea. However, the purpose of a cleanse is not to give up everything you love, nor is it to lose weight (though you will at first). Rather, it can be a life altering experience where you start making more conscious and healthy decisions as a result of having noticed the difference while on the cleanse.

Cleansing is a practice in mindfulness. For me it’s another type of meditation. As you slowly shift your diet to include more fibrous and “clean” foods and less fatty ones, you start noticing a difference in the way you look and feel. This is a result of gradually omitting foods your body is used to and introducing new ones in appropriate quantities. The body and mind are greatly affected by these changes. Eating less and real food in general also makes you light on your feet, giving you more energy, allowing you to think more clearly and be more focused. Basically, some foods weigh you down, while others lift your spirit. Cleansing is a great way to understand how food and mood are related.

Cleanses are all the fad, but they’re nothing new. Cleansing goes back thousands of years to ancient Greek and Roman times, the equivalent in Asia being herbal medicine and how meals are composed in general. It is a way of life. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food,” said the great Hippocrates. In these ancient cultures in general, meals were and are still created around this very principle. If you eat well, you will be well. That is not to say that you will never get sick, but that the chance for a long healthy happy life is greater.

The body is full of toxins. We breathe toxins, eat them, and subsequently ferment them, holding on to them within our intestinal walls in the form of plaque and mucous. The more you damage the body with poor eating habits, the more work ahead of you, if you want to shift gears. It is never too late to want to feel good.


The 1st step to cleansing is to consider the way you eat and how long you’ve been eating in the same way, and how often you get sick.

Our digestive track is important and needs to be as clean as possible to allow for effective elimination. The more toxins in the body, the thicker the plaque, the smaller the waste passage, the more we hold on to toxins, creating what is essentially a Petri dish for whatever is brewing next, be it a common cold or worse.

The reason you may want to cleanse is to simply flush. While that’s great, you may also want to hold on to the way you feel after a cleanse, and continue developing the healthier you immediately following the cleanse. Why go back to old habits, when you’ve had a head start?

The 2nd step is to take a few days or a week to work up to a cleanse. After all, cutting back on food, especially addictive ones, is tough. Food addictions (sugar, salt and fat derived) are as tough to break as any other type of addiction. Take a few days to gradually cut back on food, eating less at each meal. Perhaps starting 3 days (or more) prior to your cleanse. Don’t starve yourself.

The 3rd step is to be sensible. Research and figure out which foods are colon cleansing foods that are generally high in fiber and provide good fat. The ones I love are apples, papaya, peaches, pineapple, grapes, avocado, leafy greens, flaxseed oil, and ground flaxseed and chia seeds (whole flaxseed and chia go right through the digestive track without leaving much good, if any, behind)

The 4th step is to include fermented food (probiotic). Kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage), kombucha and water kefir (beverages) are some of my favorites.

The 5th step is to reduce (and for a short while eliminate) animal-based protein. It’s only for a short period of time to give your digestive track (not to mention all your organs) a much needed break.

The 6th step is to chew your food well, not so it becomes unpleasant but enough to break it down for proper digestion and allow the body to absorb the good nutrients. Chewing also promotes patience and savoring is essential to developing good eating habits.

The 7th step is to drink lots of water, 6 to 8 glasses a day is just fine. I find that refreshing cucumber juice is also fantastic as an alternative to water and most definitely promotes a healthy colon.

The 8th step is to be aware that you’ll experience mood swings, especially in the first few days as your body adjusts. Again patience and staying calm is essential to getting through any cleanse. Mood swings happen for a number of reasons. You may feel hungry in the beginning. This feeling will go away. If not grab an apple, it won’t be the end of the world. Apples are some of the most powerful colon cleansing fruit on the market and they’re filling.

The 9th step is to continue to exercise daily, though I recommend gentle exercise. Yoga is always great for that, noticing the way you breathe and figuring out ways to deepen your breath to allow for more flexibility. Walking is also wonderful as is taking a leisurely ride on your bicycle.

The 10th step is to embrace socializing as much as you did before the cleanse. Just because you’re on a cleanse doesn’t mean that you have to lock yourself up. Instead, schedule your cleanse around your social schedule, so that you have enough time on your own to reflect, without cutting yourself off completely. Friendly and positive support during a cleanse is essential. Going to a restaurant while on a cleanse is a great test and can still be fun. The menu has many options. Look for them. For instance, a delicious leafy green salad and water allow you to stay on your cleanse while socializing.

The 11th step is to keep a journal. I find that writing allows me to face my moods more directly and to reflect and review what has or hasn’t worked. In general, I focus on the positive.

The 12th step is to take in the experience fully and notice how different you feel as oppose to when you first started. Make an effort to embrace the change and move forward with the tools you’ve just acquired and continue on this path to a healthier you.


Spring cleaning is always great. In general the hotter it is, the less we tend to eat. It is just too hot, so late Spring or Summer is a great time to try your first cleanse of the year.

Fall review is a good habit. In general as soon as it gets colder we start eating more, not only that but we turn to rich and generally unhealthy foods. It’s also easier for us to eat more than we need. It’s a good idea to review what we’ve learned during our Spring cleanse and use these tools to get through Fall and Winter.

If you cleanse your colon twice a year, and keep up with healthy eating in between, you’ll notice daily how different and good (energized) you feel.

Can you eat French fries? Sure, just not during and not immediately before of after the cleanse. Give yourself a few weeks before indulging. I have French fries about twice a year and enjoy them thoroughly, the whole basketful, as long as they are made from real potatoes and cooked in clean oil. Know your source, and eat what you want, but do so mindfully.

Which cleanse? There are many but for me colon cleansing is essential to leading a healthy lifestyle. There are various ways of approaching this and it doesn’t have to be a drastic liquid fast right away, though giving your system a break is a good idea. Instead, work your way up slowly to a fast for maximum benefit, physically, mentally and emotionally.

You can choose to be vegetarian or vegan (vegetables and fruit, not carbs!), or go raw, or juice for a week or longer. You can choose to simply cut back on food. All of these options are easily attainable. Clean filtered water is a huge part of cleansing. It helps solids move along the digestive track and keeps you filling full, allowing you to cut back on solids rather easily. Sign up for my intro to detoxing weekend workshop in the beautiful Hudson River Valley to learn more.