Coming Clean: A Conscious Guide to Food Cleanses
This article is excerpted from Coming Clean: A Conscious Guide to Food Cleanses, recently released by Evolver Health e-books, a new series of novella-length digital titles.
The Oxford dictionary definition of “cleanse” is “to make something thoroughly clean or to rid (a person, place or thing) of something seen as unpleasant, unwanted or defiling.” You can think of it as a clean-up, a tune-up or even a clearing out. A cleanse is simply meant to free your body of the unwanted accumulation of food, toxins, etc. It’s an opportunity to do right by your body, especially if you don’t treat it well on a daily basis.
A cleanse can bring attention to areas of your life that you’ve been neglecting. When you lighten up on food and beverages, you ease the digestive process, allowing for more time to rest and reset. With this extra time and freedom, the body can work on a deeper level to cleanse, heal and give you more energy. It’s a way to help your body run better and feel cleaner. For many detox enthusiasts, cleansing is considered routine maintenance. We put all kinds of crazy foods, drinks and chemical into our bodies knowingly or unknowingly and more or less hope for the best. The body may not react initially but with time it speaks out through an array of health problems ranging from weight gain to exhaustion to disease. And even for those on a healthier kick with food, you may still be struggling with caffeine, alcohol, sugar or other drug-like substances in your diet. How’s it going with sleep and stress levels? Is your water from a fresh spring or from a plastic bottle with a picture of a fresh spring? Even before the world was so toxic, fasting and cleansing were part of the human experience. In Siddhartha, Herman Hesse wrote, “When a person has nothing to eat, fasting is the smartest thing he could do.”
Hunter-gatherers fasted between feasts. Jesus, Gandhi, Plato and Socrates all fasted for greater peace and awareness. Ancient cultures around the world, especially in India and China, have used detoxing to rest and relieve the body from illness for centuries. Most spiritual traditions have fasting rituals, especially during high holy days or at certain times of the year like Lent, Ramadan and Yom Kippur. Mormons fast on the first Sunday of each month to feel closer to god or to ask for help on a specific issue. Hindus typically fast on the New Moon and during festivals like Shivaratri and Durga Puja.
Before we had modern medical techniques, we had to rely on the body’s natural healing system. Detoxing is one way to enhance the system. Our bodies are already designed to detoxify every day. Our colon, liver, kidneys, lymph glands and even skin work hard to keep everything moving through. But an overload of foods, chemicals or some combination can clog the natural process. So while it might look more extravagant these days with expensive juice programs or ads for fancy supplements, we have a long history of helping the body detoxify.
But the need for cleansing has never been greater. We live in an increasingly toxic world with more chemicals in our food and environment and more distraction and technology on our minds. Our world is not set up for you to be healthy. Toxins are all around us in the form of chemicals, synthetics, pollutants, heavy metals and more.
Only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use today have been tested for safety, with many going completely unregulated. Each year, about 2,000 new chemicals are introduced for use in everyday items, including foods, personal care products, prescription drugs, household cleaners and others, according to the National Toxicology Program, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services. You can thank the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 for that. This regulation says that the Environmental Protection agency can only require safety testing after a substance poses a health risk.
Recent studies show that children are born pre-polluted, according to a 2010 report by the President’s Cancer Panel, an advisory group that works with cancer researchers and informs the president’s policies on cancer prevention. About 300 contaminants were detected in the umbilical cord blood of newborns. Rising rates of children and young people developing cancer is just another sign of our toxic times and the need to help our bodies release this load.
It’s hard to escape the toxic matrix. Let’s look at some of the ways you are exposed to toxins and other unwanted substances on a regular basis.
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A cleanse is a clean-up, a tune-up, and a much-needed clearing-out. Or as Suzanne Boothby writes in Coming Clean, “We put all kinds of crazy foods, drinks and chemical into our bodies knowingly or unknowingly and more or less hope for the best. The body may not react initially but with time it speaks out through an array of health problems ranging from weight gain to exhaustion to disease.” Coming Clean gives you everything you need to know before embarking on your next cleanse – from juicing to Ayurveda, heavy metals to master cleansing.