Cleansing, or detoxifying, is a big topic in the world of health. Programs range from purely nutritional and basic, to complex; requiring a large amount of supplements to properly follow the protocol. Some argue that our bodies were designed to detoxify, while proponents claim that our systems can’t possibly handle the huge amount of toxins in our environment and our food.
I’ve participated in some intense cleansing programs. There were challenging aspects to them, and required dedication and focus. In general, I’ve found that it’s difficult to participate in deep cleansing while also being actively engaged in my life. I prefer daily practices that support my bodies’ natural ability to detoxify. Dry brushing, meditation, and sweating, whether through exercise, sauna, or hot baths, are all part of my daily routine. In recent years, I’ve also started paying much closer attention to supporting my digestion.
Healthy digestion is at the heart of any detoxifying program, so it makes sense to have it at the heart of an ongoing practice to limit the accumulation of toxins in the body. When digestion is running optimally, we are able to get the full benefit of the nutrients in our food, as well as properly excrete toxins through our waste. There are many cookbooks out there that focus on creating delicious recipes with whole foods. That practice of eating mostly whole foods can make a profound difference in how we support our bodies ability to detox. For the last few years, I’ve been really into my green smoothies in the morning. I find it’s an easy way to get in a ton of nutrients first thing. However, my acupuncturist suggested doing warm breakfast instead, so I’ve been experimenting with quinoa porridge. I found morning porridge inspiration in Nadia Damaso’s beautiful book Eat Better, Not Less. One of my new favorites is “Cinnamon Millet Porridge with Fresh Figs, Cranberries and Roasted Nuts.”
Ayurveda is an intricate and ancient system that incorporates many different types of cleansing. The Simple, Healing Cleanse by Kimberly Larson offers an in depth look at the major types of cleansing protocols put forth by the wisdom of Ayurveda. One of the recipes, which caught my eye because it includes watermelon radishes, (which i’ve become a bit obsessed with after finding them at my favorite farmer’s market), is “Spring Secrets Vegetable Chili”. It has a beautiful variety of veggies, yet is warming for those not-quite-warm spring days. I have a pot of it simmering on the stove right now; it will be ready in time for lunch.
Megan Gilmore, author of Everyday Detox, writes that the art of food combining is essential for keeping digestion at its best. Simply put, food combining means choosing one of the following categories as a base for each meal: fresh fruit, starch, animal protein, or nuts, dried fruit, and seeds. You can then add lots of raw or cooked non-starchy vegetables at the same meal. She suggests waiting three to four hours to eat something from another category. The basic idea here, she explains, is that starch inhibits the activity of hydrochloric acid, which is required to digest protein. When digestion gets slowed down, unhealthy bacteria multiply, and we end up bloated, gassy, and craving all kinds of unhealthy foods that will feed those bacteria. While it may take some adjusting, it’s worth experimenting with this idea. Gilmore includes many recipes in her book, amongst them "Cauliflower Fried Rice" which uses cauliflower in place of rice—a fun thing to try if you haven’t already.
Our bodies are filled with the innate wisdom that it has evolved with over many years. Whether the goal is detoxification, or limiting inflammation, we would all do well to follow the simple advice of Michael Pollan, “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.”