‘Cleanses’ don’t have to be as scary as they sound

Sarah Waldman finds smoothies are a great way to get through a cleanse. — Photo courtesy of twobluelemons

Cleanse [klenz] cleansed, cleans·ing. verb (used with object) 1. to make clean. 2. to remove by or as if by cleaning: to cleanse sin from the soul.
verb (used without object)
3. (noun) the practice of ridding the body of toxins, a process often involving wacky juice diets and unfortunate side effects.

For Christmas last year, I got a juicer. I was so excited about it that I decided, on a whim, to live off only things that I could produce from that machine for three days. This “cleanse” was hatched in a frenzy of “New Year, New Me” thinking, and I was so misguided that I actually thought I was going easy on myself by making it only three days. Day one ended with me vomiting at the side of North Road. That is how I learned that you can’t subsist on nothing more than cucumber-apple-tomato juice with no other preparations. What about the coffee withdrawals? Or the fact that after the holidays my body was use to getting by on significantly more calories than the couple of hundred calories I was getting from three juices a day.

Despite that first vain attempt, I have come to learn that a well-executed cleanse can have healthful benefits. At its best, a cleanse can leave you feeling lighter and give you that elusive “glow” that is otherwise reserved for yogis and green-juice enthusiasts. On an internal level, cleansing can give your organs a break just long enough to reset and then work more effectively. At its very worst, cleansing is a hunger-filled, headache-ridden, bad-mood nightmare.

Unless you are pregnant or breastfeeding there is likely a cleanse suitable for you. Of course, you should always consult a health professional first. No one likes to be hungry, but we all have different tolerances for an empty stomach. If you turn into a maniac five minutes past your normal breakfast, lunch, or dinner time, fasting is probably not a great idea. If you’ve never done one, a restrictive juice cleanse is probably not the best fit for you either.

Extreme cleanses, like the Master Cleanse, where you consume nothing but lemon water spiked with maple syrup and cayenne pepper for 10 days, beg the question: is that good for anyone?

So, the first order of business when choosing a cleanse that will work for you is to decide on exactly what it is you want to get out of it. Cleansing is not a good way to lose weight longterm. But it can be a beneficial start to a lasting weight loss and wellness regimen. Do you want to give your liver a break from all that sugar and alcohol you indulged in over the summer? Does your body need to recharge? Do you need to get back into a healthy eating/living routine? Do you suspect food allergies but wonder what you are sensitive to?

By ridding your body of heavy, hard-to-digest foods and harmful toxins, you’ll discover what your body does and doesn’t like, what works for you and what doesn’t.

Even if you choose a three- or five- or even one-day cleanse, it is absolutely imperative to prepare your body beforehand. If you have a cup (or three) of coffee every morning, start weaning yourself a week in advance. Try drinking half-caffeinated coffee and lightly caffeinated teas until you can get through your day with only decaf and no-caffeine teas. If you typically unwind with a glass of wine at night, start cutting that out in the days before you start your cleanse; that goes for sugar, dairy, and wheat as well.

Embarking on a cleanse under the supervision of a professional is a good way to secure better results and to ensure safety as well as support throughout. There is a ton of great and not-so-great information out there about cleansing and there are several knowledgeable, professional folks here on Martha’s Vineyard eager to help you be the best you. For better or worse, here is an honest look at some popular dietary cleanses as well as a few people who can help you along the way.

Laura Denman is a registered dietician with a master’s degree in nutrition, as well as a graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She is the owner of Abundant Life Nutrition, a personalized health coaching business based on the Vineyard. Ms. Denman takes a holistic approach to wellness. “It’s not all about the food,” as she likes to say. Are you not exercising because you aren’t sleeping enough? Do you overeat because you are stressed about your job? Or relationship? These are the questions Ms. Denman encourages you to answer for yourself while working with her. When she thinks a cleanse will be beneficial for a client, Ms. Denman uses the Standard Process Purification Program. The Standard Process website is clear when defining their Purification Program: “It is not a diet. It is a program that helps you live a healthier life by purifying, nourishing, and maintaining a healthy body and weight.”

The body is designed to rid itself of everyday toxins naturally, but it can be overburdened. The Standard Process Purification Program is a 21-day system designed to let the liver recharge while you eat an unlimited amount of a organic vegetables, including radishes, Swiss chard, and artichokes, certain fruits, lentils, and brown or wild rice. On the 11th day, protein such as deep-sea fish (salmon, cod, etc.) and lean meats are reintroduced to the diet. Throughout the cleanse clients take whole food supplements from Standard Process. Ms. Denman does this purification program herself at least once a year, making her a great support person. She’s available via email and text to her clients throughout the cleanse.

“It’s just a great way of eating,” Ms. Denman says. And a great break for the liver. “The liver does so many jobs and is responsible for filtering so much, it gets congested. This program lets it recharge and then work more effectively.” The Standard Process System can only be prescribed by a wellness professional, but you can read more about it at standardprocess.com. Also, be sure to visit Ms. Denman’s site at abundantlifenutrition.com.

Sarah Waldman is also a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She has designed a very gentle cleanse that works around eliminating trigger foods over the course of 21 days. Ms. Waldman’s cleanse is flexible in that you start anytime you want, though she suggests giving yourself a few days to get organized, plan meals, and do a big grocery shop. In the course of 21 days you will systematically remove caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, sugar, animal protein, dairy, eggs, and cooked food. The last three days of the cleanse is a raw food diet. Ms. Waldman checks in with her cleansing clients throughout their program, sending along nutritional information and recipes. Check out Sarah’s healthy food blog at twobluelemons.com.

Dr. Roni DeLuz is the author of The New York Times bestselling books “1 Pound a Day” and “21 Pounds in 21 Days,” which describe the Martha’s Vineyard Detox Diet. Dr. DeLuz maintains that the detox diet is not a starvation diet and that you will enjoy fresh vegetables, shakes, soups, and herbal teas. The Detox Diet is designed to allow your body to receive maximum nutrition in small doses. It stabilizes glucose levels to keep you energized and can facilitate a 21-pound weight loss in just 21 days.

In addition to the 21-day cleanse, Dr. Roni also offers weekend and week-long programs. Check out the website at mvdietdetox.com for more information.

Fall is associated with fresh starts and new beginnings, so it’s an ideal time to cleanse before the holidays tempt us. Happy cleansing.

Sarah Waldman’s favorite cleansing smoothies

The Rainforest

1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup mango chunks (fresh or frozen)
1 banana
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (like, squeezed from oranges)
1 cup baby spinach leaves

The Dino

1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 banana
1 cup kale leaves
2 tablespoons almond butter

Simply blend until smooth.