Put a Spring in your Step with a 5-Day Foods-Based Spring Cleanse

By Helen Papaconstantinos BA, CNP, RNCP

As spring comes to a close and we move closer to the warmer summer weather, it is appropriate to re-think our health following yet another harsh winter. Spring and summer are the ideal time to let in light and let go of old diet and self-defeating habits!

Instead of a crazy fast or expensive ‘packaged’ cleanse, why not try detoxifying with real, living, nutrient dense foods? A real food cleanse can last anywhere from three to twenty-one days and uses juices, smoothies and pureed vegetable soups. All of these foods are easy on the digestive system and nourish the body with antioxidants and phytonutrients (nutrients from colourful plant-based sources). Even if you do not wish to puree your food, going on a clean diet has many benefits. Fresh plants are rooted in nature, literally, and they have natural energy which is passed on to you.

By making the switch from eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) to eating high fibre and nutrient-dense foods, you will give your body the opportunity to ‘Rest and Digest’. This sounds like a modest goal but it really is the key to good health. It is also the very basis of holistic nutrition which places strong emphasis on digestive health.

For your cleanse, try a five-day period from Monday to Friday. Weekends are not always conducive to undertaking dietary changes. If following the recommendations properly, you should not feel hungry or deprived while ‘eating clean’, especially if you are choosing low glycemic-load and high-fibre foods, which fill you up and keep your blood sugars stable. But first…

What is Detoxification?

Detoxification is about ‘opening all the doors’ of elimination.  All of the channels of elimination (kidneys, skin, intestines, blood, lymph, and perspiration) must be opened before you start detoxifying the liver. Otherwise, your liver will feel overburdened and you will start to experience headaches and malaise (signs of a healing crisis). Your skin is your largest detoxification organ, thus remember to rub your skin with a dry brush or a stiff towel before getting in the shower to stimulate your circulation and help you to detox further.

Detoxification does not mean fasting. Most people do not have the proper blood sugar control to fast and end up feeling dizzy, hungry and may even find it difficult to participate in everyday activities.

Five Day Real Food Cleanse

Undertaking a real food cleanse carries less chance of triggering a ‘healing crisis’.  This basically means that your body has reached its ability to safely detoxify toxins. When that happens, the body tries to ‘help’ detoxification along by bringing on diarrhea, headaches, and inflammation. As your body let’s go of toxic waste, and your cells become cleaner, it becomes easier to recognize a hidden reaction to gluten, dairy, soy or any of the other common food allergies. When you are feeling sick and tired all the time, it is harder to ‘listen’ to what your body is trying to telling you.

People who consume large amounts of caffeine, alcohol, and sugar, (or who have multiple food allergies), may experience some malaise when they first make the switch from a Standard American Diet (SAD) to a whole-foods cleanse. Symptoms of withdrawal (headaches, cravings, fatigue) usually disappear after three to four days. It is best to slowly reduce your intake of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, white flour, and over-the-counter medications (as directed by your physician) a week or two before you start your program.

How to prepare for a Cleanse?

When embarking on any new path, it’s always good to have a plan. Your first step is to put in place optimal conditions for detoxification. Therefore, find a time when your stress-load is not as high, and make sure that you have stocked the refrigerator and pantry with fresh, alkaline-forming foods. Of course, get rid of any prepared and processed foods in the house before you attempt a cleanse. There is no sense in having a protein bar (yes, that constitutes a prepared food!) in your pantry as you attempt a cleanse.

These ideas are adapted from Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, from an article, “Detox made safe and Simple:[1]

1. Do a Kitchen Detox!  Toss out any junk or prepared foods, draft weekly menus, and make shopping lists for healthy foods you will be eating. This will ensure your success.

**A 3-day shopping list for a whole-foods Cleanse can be found here: http://s.doctoroz.com/sites/default/files/dm_uploads/4_055_3DayDetox.pdfTo go on a 5-day Cleanse you will need to double the amount of items purchased. **

2. Take your measurements and weigh yourself before you begin. If weight loss is your goal, measure your waist, hips, and record your weight so that you can track progress as you complete the whole-foods cleanse.

3. Using a 5-day Diet and Mood Diary will keep you aware of what you are putting in your mouth and how you feel afterwards. If you are prone to mood changes or migraines, make a note of what you are feeling and track duration, intensity and frequency. Later you can make note of any improvement when do your next 5-day cleanse.

4. Journaling is a great way to ‘cleanse’ your soul and relieve yourself of mental and emotional stress.

5. Have ready any supplements you need to take that have been advised for you by your certified nutritional practitioner.

6. Exercise, but ‘easy does it’. Aim for yoga, stretching, or 20 minute walks in fresh air.

7. Be prepared – have ready snacks in your fridge and book bag. Since life is ever changing, make sure that you keep healthy foods and snacks prepared ahead of time so that you can be ready for any changes in your schedule. Keep a wrapped organic apple, a small container of soaked almonds or cut-up vegetables in your book bag for those times. Healthy dips such as zucchini hummus, salsa or mashed avocado with cilantro, lemon juice and olive oil can also be kept in the fridge.

8. Move those bowels! If you experience constipation, consider taking 300 milligrams of magnesium citrate a couple of hours before bed. First thing in the morning, have a cup of warm water with lemon juice.

9. Salts key component and magnesium supports hundreds of enzymes in the body. You could try soaking in a warm Epsom salt bath the night before (2 cups of Epsom salt dissolved in the water with a few drops of lavender oil). An even better solution, (although a more expensive option) would be to soak in pH 8 ‘Alka Bath’ crystals, which draw acidity and toxins from the body. The product is available through Dr. P Jentschura alkaline living products.What Should I Eat?
EAT A whole-foods diet.Digestion takes work and slows down other functions in the body, such as detoxification. As digestion work eases, there is a point at which the body receives a signal to enter intense detox mode and releases trapped toxins and mucus. DON’T EAT Anything out of a package, box or tin or which contains chemicals.
Whole vegetables, leafy greens Dairy – no dairy for 5 days.  If you can, cut it out entirely. Almond, hemp or coconut milk can be substituted.
Naturally detoxifying vegetables – cauliflower, broccoli and leafy greens, these help eliminate toxins and normalize hormones. Frozen, canned or dehydrated vegetables and fruits. Aim for fresh and ‘living’ produce of every colour.Avoid any foods which your system might be sensitive to, or cause stiff joints. Some people are sensitive to ‘night-shades’ such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, potatoes, yams and sweet potatoes.
Low glycemic grasses, grains and seeds, brown basmati rice, black or mahogany rice, and/or quinoa (a seed which cooks like a grain). Some gluten free grains are fine but be mindful that grains raise insulin levels as they have a high glycemic index.Instead of wheat, try almond or coconut flour Gluten grains and wheat.
Stevia as a sweetener (or do without – fresh, natural food is sweet enough) Sugar – even ‘natural sugars’ should be removed from the diet as they also spike insulin and blood sugar levels get converted in the liver into glucagon and triglycerides, that can make you fat and create inflammation in the body.
Bean/legumes, and lentils (avoid soy beans) provide fibre to help regulate blood sugar, as well as help move toxins out. If you have sensitivities to legumes, avoid. Soy (even non-GMO tends to be contaminated). If eating soy, make sure that it is fermented soy (i.e., Tempeh, miso)
Green and white tea (unroasted green tea), with lemon slices can help bridge you over the hump of coffee withdrawal headaches. They will also help to detoxify you. Otherwise, herbal teas without caffeine, such as dandelion root tea, or ‘AlkaTea’ which contains 49 alkalinizing wild-crafted herbs, are great choices. Coffee, soda and alcohol.  Coffee is acidic, a diuretic and can make you feel less calm during a cleanse. Soda contains carbon dioxide as well as ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, which creates enormous stress on your liver and body tissues.
Wild fish, organic chicken and turkey Corn (corn is a processed grain made from maize and usually this is genetically modified).
Good saturated fats – avocado and coconut, their oils and butters. Avoid commercially raised red meat and farmed fish for 5 days. During a cleanse the goal is to put less stress on your liver and kidneys. If eating protein, make sure that it is grass-fed, hormone-free lean protein such as egg whites, chicken, turkey, or sustainably caught cold-water fish. Proteins secrete the hormone glucagon which helps in fat loss.
Nut and seed butters, extra-virgin olive oil Avoid peanuts. They are a legume, grown under-ground and can harbour mold. They are also acidic.
Whole fruits and berries Fruits that are highly sprayed with pesticides or prematurely ripened – eat organic. Otherwise, take caution around strawberries, oranges, grapes and bananas.

To watch a video of Dr. Oz on a 3-day liquid, vegan version of this cleanse, (and also get recipes), see this link: http://drhyman.com/blog/2012/11/14/dr-ozs-detox-cleanse-with-dr-oz-and-dr-mark-hyman-2/

As you embark on your whole-foods cleanse, keep in mind:

1)  Try not to cheat as you eliminate all refined sugars, flours, caffeine, alcohol, dairy, gluten, or addictive substances. By allowing certain triggers to stay in your diet, the body stays on the vicious cycle of cravings and addictive behavior. Reset your biology to eliminate all triggers. After a few days without sugar or refined flours, you will not miss them.

2) Eat in Season – Visit the farmer’s market, learn what is in season, and eat whole foods when they’re fresh and abundant.

3) Drink lots of water. Drink at least six to eight glasses of filtered water daily. Stay away from plastic bottles. Add a squeezed wedge of lemon – it is great for cleansing, as lemon is nature’s magic cleaner. In the spring, the ice melts and the rivers run strong. Imitate spring in your body with fresh water flowing through it constantly. Be careful not to over-hydrate or you will wash out your body’s natural minerals. Urine should be the colour of pale straw and slightly acidic. If it is very light, you are probably drinking too much water or herbal tea.

4) Eat every 3 or 4 hours – Don’t wait until you are starving to eat! Balance your blood sugar by eating protein-based meals and snacks every three to four hours. Excellent sources of protein are baked or broiled fish, lean poultry or black beans.

5) Supplement your diet with a high quality multi-vitamin, fish oil supplement and a wide-spectrum probiotic. Acidophilus is ‘friendly’ bacteria that helps to maintain a healthy digestive micro-flora, but it is only one of the many beneficial strains available to you. Each probiotic bacteria has a specific job. Some turn on minerals such as zinc, some activate vitamin D, others turn on serotonin receptors, or protect you from pathogenic bacteria.  Others work with fatty acids in your intestines. Make sure you don’t limit yourself to one strain.

To help you prevent detoxification headaches, ensure that your bowels and body tissues are clean.  For your tissues, supplement with 500 grams vitamin C with bioflavonoids with breakfast and dinner.  If needed, take 300 milligrams magnesium citrate a couple of hours before bed to aid with elimination in the morning.

6) Add essential fats and oils – EFAs such as fish oil, borage oil, and flaxseed oil, are wonderful for putting out the fire of any inflammation that may be in your body. ‘Essential’ meaning that you need them – your body cannot manufacture them on your own. You must include these oils (or their food equivalents) in your diet. If not, you absolutely must supplement them.

7)  Detox digitally – turn off your cell phone, television, computer, and stop tweeting! Turn off your ‘technology”  for a day. Spend the day writing a handwritten letter to a friend, reading a book, cooking a meal from scratch or reconnecting with nature.

8) Get moving – Increasing body temperature and blood flow with exercise and stretching aids the body’s ability to cleanse. Start each day by touching your toes in the shower for 10 seconds and end the day by touching your toes in bed for 10 seconds. Practicing this simple movement twice a day. Not only will this improve your flexibility but will also bring heat to the digestive tract, which naturally assists the body in the disposing of toxins. If you cannot touch your toes at first, do not worry. If you try for 10 seconds every morning and night, you will be able to do it in no time. As always, do not forget to breathe!

To boost your energy, exercise for 30 minutes a day. Walking outside in fresh air is best. Roll up those sleeves and let the sun hit you with some vitamin D!

9) Take an infrared sauna… or a lavender-scented bath – heat is a great resource while cleansing as it helps draw out toxins from within. If you don’t have access to a sauna, try a Epsom salts bath for 20 minutes a few times per week.

10) Chill-out – activating your ‘Rest and Digest’ parasympathetic nervous system helps restore your energy, stops production of the stress hormone cortisol, and helps your body to heal and replenish itself.  Meditation, deep breathing, or any calming activity is good.  Fatigue is normal during a cleanse so allow more time for rest.

 12) Get deep sleep – nature has its own cycles and rhythms. Going to sleep at sundown and waking up at sunrise is one sure way to sync with nature. Eight hours of sleep is ideal.

13) Do all those nice things that you like to do – make sure you fit time for deep relaxation into your schedule and plan things that make you happy, whether that means reading a good book undisturbed, or visiting friends who put the wind back in your sails.

14) Don’t smoke (or spend time around smokers, gasoline or exhaust fumes) – that would defeat the purpose of any health initiative. It goes without saying that you should not be taking any recreational drugs or alcohol during a cleanse.

In closing, a 5-day whole-foods cleanse is safe and allows the body to heal itself naturally.  You will start to make it up the stairs with less creaking of the knees, your skin will glow with vitality and you will feel more energetic. In making these changes, always work with a Certified Nutritional Practitioner to help determine what cleanse (and length of cleanse) will work best for you.

After completing your 5-day whole-foods cleanse, and following the advice listed above, you will be amazed at the amount of mucus that leaves your body.  Mucus is the body’s way of defending itself from the irritation caused by toxin accumulation. Keep a journal and track your symptoms. You should feel more energetic in three to seven days after eating a clean whole-foods diet. If you do not feel well at this point, please exercise caution and check in with your doctor.


[1] Hyman, M. MD, Detox made safe and simple, http://drhyman.com/blog/2012/11/15/detox-made-safe-and-simple/ ,November 12, 2012. For further information see:http://store.ultrasimplediet.com/

Additional References:

Lipski, E, Ph.D., CCN, Digestive Wellness. 3rd Edition, McGraw-Hill, 2005.

MindBodyGreen, Q&A with Dr Alejandro Junger, MD, Cardiologist http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-239/Q-A-with-Dr-Alejandro-Junger-On-The-Clean-Program-21-Day-Detox-Cleanse-and-More.html

YouTube, How to Detox Your Diet with Dr. Alejandro Junger, Martha Stewart, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RuSdq6rJw4