I’ve had quite a few questions from people who are wanting to embark on a cleanse as a New Years Resolution. And my first question is always “What sort of cleanse?” A cleanse or a detox means different things to different people.
A cleanse at this time of year is often embarked upon in reaction to the excesses of the Christmas season :) And often what people mean by “cleanse” is a doing a fast, or only drinking vegetable or fruit juices, or only eating raw food. These regimes are often accompanied by herbs that are “cleansing” herbs.
So I thought I’d write a quick post explaining why this might need a bit more thought.
It absolutely is a great time of year to cut back on sugar and alcohol and processed food - after the massive eating festival we’ve just enjoyed :) And it is a great time of year to decide to get some daily exercise. So why might it not be the best time to fast, or just drink juices, or only eat raw food?
It is all about timing, and working with the rhythm of our bodies and with the season. The time to do a fast, a juice fast or a raw food fast or a “detox”, is perhaps when the weather is warmer. When the weather is warmer we feel warm, our circulation is flowing well and our energy is starting to move and open up again like the buds on the trees. But right now, here in Canada, at this time of year the wisdom of our bodies and the focus of our metabolism is to stay warm and to conserve energy during the long cold winter months. And we don’t achieve this by fasting or eating cold foods. And if your aim is to lose weight - well, fasting in winter is the worst time to do it, our bodies are at their slowest rhythm at this time of year and fasting will often reduce our metabolism further, making weight loss that much harder.
Since time immemorial traditional healing wisdom has shown us that our digestive system likes to be warm, and most healing traditions exhort people not to eat cold foods, particularly in winter - be it juices, smoothies, or anything else that comes out of your fridge. All the healing traditions focus on the importance of a healthy digestion as the cornerstone of health. So the last thing you want to do is to hamper or stress your digestion at this time of year if you want to stay healthy, or regain health.
A simple (but perhaps not easy:)) way to cleanse at this time of year is simply to avoid sugar and alcohol and processed food. Christmas is often a time when it is so easy to binge on sugar leaving us with cravings and mood swings, weight gain, bloating, digestive upset and depression. So coming out of the Christmas season and into winter we need to take care of ourselves and nourish and nurture ourselves.
When you are thinking of herbs to aid your cleanse remember that we are all different - some of us have a fast digestion, some slow, some have a hot digestion with lots of heartburn, some cold and sluggish. It is wise to remember this when you are choosing herbs that are formulated in a “one size fits all” formula. What helps one persons digestion, might not be well suited to another persons digestion and constitution. Select your herbs with care so that they suit your constitutional balance.
If it is healing and nurturing that you are resolving to give yourself, think of warm nourishing soups, slow baked root vegetables, simple easy to digest foods that are warm and nutrient dense, and grains like oats and buckwheat that are protein rich, warming and nourishing. Think of the dark red of roasted beets and the sunshine orange of squash and yams. If you eat meat find yourself some meat from kindly raised animals who have eaten good food. This food will nourish you deeply, giving you the energy you need for your body and brain, your heart and soul, to carry you contented and strong through the deep dark days of winter.
Nourish and nurture ourselves and our families - the ultimate New Years Resolution.