I recently read a book called Clean, written by a cardiologist and functional medicine doctor, Alejandro Junger. The book is designed to help you detox and cleanse your body of the toxins we are exposed to in our food and our environment in a carefully crafted 21-day program. The book also incorporates emotional cleansing from our hectic 21st century lifestyle by way of meditation.
The program is based on a few basic principles:
- Avoid the most common food triggers: wheat, eggs, dairy, peanuts, soy
- Increase consumption of alkalizing, enzyme-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and superfoods like spirulina, coconut, and flaxseed
- Trade two daily meals for protein shakes and dietary supplements from The Clean Program (at a hefty price).
In case it hasn’t become apparent by now, I am not an extremist. If I can, I will avoid using the word exclude. That said, Clean brought up many great ideas. One which I found especially interesting was the attention paid to revitalizing our digestive system. Our gastrointestinal tract (GI) is comprised of a group of amazing organs. It not only helps us extract macronutrients from food to use as energy and absorb necessary micronutrients to help the body work efficiently, but it also serves as a physical and immunological barrier to microorganisms, foreign material, and potential antigens consumed in food.
Our digestive system starts with our mouth, which breaks down carbohydrates by mixing with saliva. When the food reaches the stomach, protein is broken down into smaller fragments (peptides) as well as some fat digestion. The small intestine is where most of our food is absorbed with the help of the pancreas and liver. The small intestine is made up of 7 meters, but has a surface area of approximately 200-300m2- about the size of a tennis court! The large intestine, about 1.5 meters long, is where most of our fluid and electrolytes are absorbed, but it’s also where our healthy bacteria resides and where elimination of undigested food occurs.
It takes about 6-8 hours for food to travel through the stomach and small intestine, and then it spends several more hours in the colon. According to the Mayo Clinic, the amount of time it takes for a healthy adult to completely move a meal out of their system (as stool or urine) is between 24 and 72 hours, longer if the meal was composed of high fat and less if it was mostly refined carbohydrates.
Many people in the clinical world believe there is no need to cleanse because our digestive system already does a fine job on its own. And to a certain extent, they’re right. If our liver or kidneys weren’t functioning we’d die from the buildup of ammonia, lactic acid, carbon dioxide, lead poisoning, and so on.
THAT SAID… our diets, our surroundings, and our stress levels have changed A LOT in the last 100 years. Most people today eat out of plastic containers rather than the earth. People may live longer, but they’re also sicker. And most complain of fatigue, bloating and constipation as if this were the “new normal”. Let me tell you, it is not!
Cleansing provides our bodies the opportunity to reduce the workload of digestion, rebuild our inner environment (help with cravings, food sensitivities, acidity of the body), and enhance elimination.
So, if you ask me, I think we could all benefit from a little cleansing!
I’ve written down my goals for next week. What are yours?
- Avoid additional sugars and refined grains.
- Follow the 12-hour rule. Do not eat or drink (except water) for 12 hours: from 8pm to 8am, giving my GI a prolonged break.
- Drink a shake a day- either for breakfast or dinner. See below for my own special recipe.
- Drink more water, especially on workdays.
- Limit alcohol beverages. Goal= 3/ week.
Winter Smoothie Recipe. Blend until desired consistency.
- 2 oz of plain low-fat yogurt (4 TBS)
- 1 cup of frozen fruit (half mango, half raspberries)
- 1 TBS hemp
- 1 TBS flaxmeal
- 1 tsp chia seeds
- 1 cup liquid (half water, half unsweetened almond milk)