Although the holiday season is a time for celebration, overeating and excessive drinking can often leave us feeling unwell. If the holidays have passed and what’s left is digestive upset, allergies, skin irritations, headaches or sluggishness, it’s an indication that you may benefit from a gentle cleansing or detoxification program. Your body may be signally that it needs a break from foods that add to the toxic load like sugar, alcohol, additives or any reactive food causing an immune system response.
Cleansing is the practice of reducing toxic exposure while supporting the body’s natural detoxification pathways via the liver, lungs, skin, kidneys and colon. It can vary in intensity from a gentle elimination diet to a full-fasting juice cleanse, but of course depend on the individual’s needs and ideally should change based on the season. For this reason, if you are new to cleansing, I recommend working with an experienced practitioner who can safely guide you through the process.
Toxins enter our bodies from the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink. Other sources include prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, household cleaners, plastic containers and personal care products. Toxins are also created internally, as every biochemical process results in a by-product that must be eliminated or neutralised to maintain good health. Our bodies are designed to handle a certain amount of toxins, but problems arise, and often illness occurs when our main organs of detoxification become overburdened and are unable to perform their jobs efficiently. A cleanse is a great way to allow the body time to heal and to catch up on its detoxifying duties.
A raw food cleanse or juice fast are not ideal during the colder months as the body is working harder to maintain warmth. Too many cold foods and beverages can create an imbalance by further cooling the body. Not surprisingly then, a winter cleanse should focus on building and warming the body, and ideally include whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and millet, fresh steamed vegetables (especially cruciferous veggies which support liver function), high quality oils such flax, hemp and olive oil and miso soup and sea vegetables. Additionally, it is best to avoid all sugar, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and processed foods.
Follow this light warming diet for 3-5 days and then slowly add in high quality protein sources such as wild-caught salmon or cod, free-range chicken and beans and lentils. During this period, also eliminate common allergens like soy, dairy, wheat, corn, peanuts and eggs. Be sure to drink plenty of water and herbal tea and include one fresh vegetable juice per day.
If you’ve reading this article and thinking, “Forget it, I cannot live without my morning coffee or mid-day sugary snack,” then a break from these items may be just what you need. Allowing time away from the foods we feel we cannot live without is a wonderful opportunity to assess our relationship to those items, and cleansing can provide an opportunity to break free from our food addictions while creating greater awareness about what and how we eat.
Jessica William's, co-founder of BodyAwakeningCo.
Jessica has a Masters of Science Degree in Holistic Nutrition. She has over a decade of experience working within the nutrition and health industry, has managed one of the world’s leading detox and cleansing retreat centers and has taken hundreds (if not thousands) of people through cleansing and detox programs.