Ten Reasons, and Ways, to Rejuvenate Your Digestive System.

Cleansing and detoxification are somewhat faddish, but really quite helpful if you do them in a way that is truly appropriate for you.   There are many, what I consider, extreme forms of cleansing that are more akin to fasting, and can leave you struggling, drained, and darn right hungry.  While fasting may be appropriate for those on the spiritual path or with prior cleansing experience, it is really the far end of the spectrum, and not particularly effective if more superficial layers of congestion are not first addressed, or if illness or deficiency is present.

On the other end of the spectrum are cleanses that trick you into ‘being healthy’ with chocolate flavored meal replacements, which may do a fine job at cleansing the gut and other organs and reducing allergenic burdens,  but I suspect don’t do much in the way of helping shape food choices or changing habits long term. Still, this may be a good choice for someone wanting an easy approach who is not ready for deeper change.

So before I get to what I consider to be some ‘middle path’ ways to cleanse, here are my top ten reasons why you might consider doing a cleanse :

  1. If you have never done a cleanse, think about all the processed food you have eaten in your lifetime.  One processed food danger is the ‘trans fat’. Before the anti-zero trans fat movement, hydrogenated oils ran rampant [and still do] and pretty much hang out in our bodies because they are  so foreign, we don’t know how to process them. Other dangers found in processed foods include GMO’s, dyes, flavor enhancers like MSG, high fructose corn syrup, and many, many more…
  2. The root causes of digestive disorders don’t just go away with otc antacids. Chronic gas, bloating, indigestion, constipation, diahrrea and more serious conditions such as diverticulitis and colitis, are serious conditions that should not be accepted as ‘normal’.  If you experience these conditions, you probably lack energy, feel sluggish, foggy, irritable, or perhaps even have interrupted daily life activites.  And, in most cases, these conditions can be healed with dietary and lifestyle shifts.
  3. If you have a history of antibiotic use, your intestinal flora is probably quite depleted. A lack of ‘friendly bacteria’ in the gut is associated with yeast infection/candida, antibiotics, digestive disorders, acne, high cholesterol, peptic ulcer, colon cleansing [without probiotic supplementation], and immune dysfunction.
  4.  Many systems of healing consider the gut to be the root of our health. Nearly 70% of our immune cells live in the gut, so an assault or neglect of our digestive system contributes to  weakened immune function.
  5. Our environment is polluted, therefore we are polluted. Our digestive system, including the liver, need some help to effectively process, and repair the damage from,  the constant assault of toxins in our food supply, soil, air, and water. Over 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants have been detected in newborn babies.
  6. Cleansing can help you identify allergens, such as wheat and dairy, by eliminating them from the body and mindfully reintroducing them to monitor your response.
  7. Cleansing can act as a ‘reset’ button to return to, or upgrade to,  better eating habits, such as reducing or eliminating sugar, alcohol or caffeine. Often after the holidays people get cleanse crazed. However, cleansing is a not a substitute for an overall healthy lifestyle, or a way to ‘balance out’  or off set extreme binges of eating, drinking, or drugs.
  8. The digestive system is responsible for the assimilation of nutrients from our food, and elimination of waste. If this system is not functioning optimally, we become more prone to not only digestive disorders, but all kinds of dis-ease, either from malnutrition or the burden of accumulated waste and toxins.
  9. Americans are famous for being ‘super sized’. We simply eat too much. An abundance of cheap calories has created a culture of obesity. Portion control is something we must exercise personal responsibility over, because the manufacturers, marketers,  and restaurants will give us, or try to sell us,  too much 9 times out of ten.  If you have a history of eating beyond your limits [it is said that the ideal portion is to leave 20% of your stomach empty with each meal], cleansing gives your system a much needed break from being stuffed and overworked, and can help you recalibrate your food needs [and the hormones that signal satiety, and become damaged from the additives in processed foods].
  10. Cleansing can be a valuable means to achieve greater mental clarity, emotional balance, and spiritual connection, all of which are compromised when the internal terrain is out of balance.  Self awareness in these areas are critical on the path towards balance and wholeness.

10  sensible ways to rejuvenate your digestive system:

  1. Eliminate as much toxicity [including stress] from your diet and environment as possible. Look at your food sources, personal care products, household cleaning  products, and lifestyle and aim to eliminate negative foods [or non- foods] and products.
  2. Replace inferior foods. For example, transitioning from white, refined rice [which is basically nutrition-less sugar] to whole grain brown rice, upgrading to unrefined monounsaturated oils from rancid oils, and choosing organic produce and grains over the  pesticide sprayed variety. There are, of course, lots of little ways to upgrade without getting too orthorexic about it!
  3. Supplement deficiency. While an optimal diet and lifestyle is the goal, high or chronic stress and environmental toxicity can thwart even the finest food choices.  Supplementation is a good choice for those who want to prevent disease in the modern world, as well as those recovery from illness or trauma, or a weakened condition.
  4. Reduce excess.  Ironically ‘supplements’ can help reduce excess in the person with a robust constitution, as is possible with therapeutic doses of vitamin C. However, the idea here is to come to balance via whole foods and foods/herbs as medicine, and rely less on ‘nutritionism’ via pills.  When we reduce toxicity and burdensome foods, we naturally need less bolstering as our way of eating becomes ‘streamlined’.  {Numbers 1-4 are taken from Paul Pitchford’s ‘dietary priorities’ from Healing With Whole Foods}
  5. Chew thoroughly. When we eat mindfully, we are more likely to enjoy our food, taste it fully, practice gratitude, and eat more slowly. We put less strain on the digestive system to break down the food, so it can access the nutrition more easily. There is a greater chance of eating less when we chew more.
  6. Practice simple food combining. Poor food combining results in digestive fermentation [gas], contaminated blood, and can lead to degenerative conditions. Each type of food requires its own unique enzyme to be digested to ensure full assimilation. For example, citrus and melon fruits digest rapidly, and should not be eaten with other foods.
  7. Eat alkalizing foodsMany people have acidic conditions in the body [a la the Standard American Diet, aka SAD] which deplete electrolyte minerals, alter our PH, and weaken cellular function.  Raw foods are important for both maintaining proper PH, and because they provide their own enzymes because they are alive, they take stress off of the digestive system.
  8. Practice an elimination diet. The body is totally forgiving. If you give up one or two of your ‘vices’, for example dairy, wheat, caffeine, or sugar, your body will naturally begin a gentle cleansing process. You can eliminate suspected or known allergens for 7 days.  You will likely experience some cleansing reactions, such as fatigue or headaches, but those usually pass within a few days, leaving you more clear an energized than you’ve felt in a long time. Then reintroduce, one by one, beginning on day 8, and notice how each food makes you feel.
  9. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. This is one of the most practical, effective ways of eating I have experienced. While some things are restricted from the diet, there are still many wonderful foods available that help keep inflammation at bay. This is great if you are have an injury,chronic pain, or an inflammatory condition such as arthritis or acne.  It requires some discipline, but not difficult for most people ready to seriously take charge of their health.  I recommend The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book, available via my bookstore.
  10. Do a cleanse! I recommend short, seasonal cleanses for  7 days, or more in depth cleanse in the spring-time.  Cleansing requires commitment, but a program such as Arise and Shine [available in 7, 14, and 28 day kits], which is whole/raw foods based, provides herbal supplementation to both move out toxins and replenish your system as you go [including a great probiotic].  This is the real deal, not a fad or superficial cleanse that requires no dietary changes. This cleanse will change your relationship to food, your body, and your health, in a positive way!

My little story : The first time I did a cleanse I was actively trying to clear up my acne, my shitty attitude, and clean up my lifestyle, which included a lot of partying.  I had been on Acutane on and off for years, which was less effective with each course. I also was prone to tonsilitis and strep infections, and was on up to five courses of antibiotics/year.  I was quite young, but had been interested in health and nutrition for many years already [including many years of being vegetarian and still eating highly processed foods]. This was during the cusp of the raw foods revolution in the mid/late 90’s, and I had friends distributing Arise and Shine. Under their guidance, I ‘pre-cleansed’ for 2 months on raw and whole foods, preparing my system for the cleansing experience by becoming more alkaline.  By the time I entered week one of the 28 day cleanse I had already eliminated caffeine and processed foods and was feeling great, so the cleanse felt really accessible to me.  I followed all four phases {gentle, mild, power, and master} successfully completing the 28 days [complete with the release of ‘mucoid plaque’ from years of  toxic residues]. Afterwards,  I noticed I no longer craved sugar or other stimulants, because I already felt energized and clear.  I realized then that this cleanse, although it is intense, was what I needed to balance out the years leading up to it. I have since completed two more 28 day cleanses.  I am now able to make more balanced choices everyday,  so I cleanse more gently and less often, but regularly nonetheless.

There are lots of slants presented here, from PH balancing to whole foods, to anti-inflammatory diets and cleansing, all providing value if you know how to integrate them into your life.  No one way is superior, it really depends on your needs and how much you are willing and able to take on at a time to achieve a desired result.

Digestive support with yoga : seated twist + supported bound angle pose

Digestive Aid Tea

2 Cups water

1 ts coriander seeds

1 ts cumin seeds

1 ts fennel seeds

Bring water to a boil. Put all seeds into a blender, add hot water. Blend and strain. A great digestive aid after any meal. Particularly good at reducing heat {Pitta} conditions such as diarrhea, heartburn and indigestion. Also helps relieve gas and cramps, abdominal pain, and urinary difficulties.

{ From The Ayurvedic Cookbook, A. Morningstar}

Ready to improve your digestion? Get support and guidance with holistic health coaching, available @ 90 minute consultations, one and three month programs.

About Jamie Smith
doTERRA Wellness Advocate + OR LMT #16341+ CHHC

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