Why Go on a Cleanse?
“Food is information” – JJ Virgin, celebrity nutritionist, author, and one tough mama
Now that we have discussed the common link between inflammation, Leaky Gut Syndrome, and a Hyperactive Immune System, let’s take a closer look at what you can actually do to feel better. It might seem overwhelming and downright impossible to see the light at the end of the disease tunnel, but there is actually a lot you can do to help yourself. Which brings me to the topic of today’s article…Dr. Kushnir’s special Tibetan Cleanse. I know you are very excited to learn about this elimination diet (ha!), but before I go into the gory details, let’s take a step back and discuss WHY you would want to go on a cleanse in the first place.
The thing is, when it comes to a chronic condition that requires digging deep to address the root cause, it will take some work. Okay, it might take a lot of work, depending on your specific situation, but it doesn’t mean that it has to be extremely difficult (seriously, I promise). As an NC, I can see that the folks who have a positive mindset for making changes and decide to commit to feel better make the most progress. Everyone arrives at the decision to make changes at their own time, and for some, gradual changes work better than something drastic. Other people are ready to go all in because that is their personality and/or because they are simply sick of being sick. With that being said, some people will experience the most impact when they fully jump into some major diet and lifestyle changes. This brings me to the words you might fear the most…ELIMINATION DIET. Before you start chanting “Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, BEETLEJUICE,” work with me for a little bit. I promise that reading this article is not meant to make you change your diet. In fact, if you choose to continue eating chocolate croissants for breakfast with a soy milk latte (with extra whipped cream), I will not do anything to stop you. I am not the food police, and I am not here to tell you what to eat. My role is to provide information on health & wellness, and what you choose to do with it is your personal choice. Hooray for individualism and liberalism and whatever else I learned in my International & Areas Studies classes (sorry, Professor K, you are still amazing).
Anyway, one of the most effective courses of action you can take to feel better is to eliminate common inflammatory foods: gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, eggs, peanuts, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and trans fats. This can be a good place to start if you are eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) and are used to eating these foods regularly. These are the notorious foods that are known to increase inflammation, contribute to leaky gut, and cause a hyperactive immune system. If you want to improve you skin, have more energy, quality sleep, and better digestion, eliminating these foods can provide some immediate relief.
If you are wondering what you WOULD eat (and I know you are), think foods that are colorful, tasty, and healing: hearty soups and stews, bone broth, healthy fats like grass-fed butter and avocado, grass-fed meats, beautiful vegetables, antioxidant-rich fruits like blueberries, herbs & spices, turmeric lattes, and perhaps an occasional grain-free chocolate swirl from Mission Heirloom (I am an ardent fan) as a treat.
To conduct an elimination diet, you would remove the foods for at 2-4 weeks and track your symptoms with a handy dandy food journal, where you note exactly what you ate, when and where you ate it, the setting and amount of time of your meal (5 minutes gobbling your food in the car while stuck in traffic and yelling at other drivers, or 30 minutes at the dinner table with your bestie), and any symptoms you experienced after your meal. You would also track your energy and mood, digestion, hydration throughout the day, and the quality of your sleep. This will be your scientific data for determining if the elimination diet is helping. Once you complete the elimination phase, you may test each food one at a time, introducing a new food in a normal quantity over three to four days. You would continue to monitor your symptoms and note any changes in skin quality, digestion, energy, mood, and. If you experience a reaction, it is usually very obvious that this particular food was a culprit of our suffering (yes, I have casually inserted myself here because I like to suffer with you) and might need to come out of your menu. After you stopped that food, wait to test a new food until your symptoms have cleared. Sounds pretty doable, and it requires only your patience, persistence, and maybe asking Beetlejuice for help one in a while.
Now, for some folks, simply eliminating one or two foods will work wonders – their rashes will disappear, their digestion will improve, and they will no longer experience migraines and anxiety. For others, a simple elimination diet might provide some relief, but will not clear all the problems. If this is the case, it doesn’t mean that you should rush back for that chocolate croissant and soy milk latte. The symptoms you are experiencing could require more customized dietary adjustments. Sometimes, removing the common food allergens is just not enough because there is a lot of inflammation and complex symptoms. Which brings me to the Tibetan Cleanse that Dr. Kushnir developed to help patients who require a bit more intensive care.
Dr. Kushnir’s 28 day Tibetan Cleanse not only eliminates common food allergens but also a lot of other suspect foods that can trigger an immune response. It returns us to the simplicity of life. Although it is not a strictly Paleo diet, the idea is similar: in the recent past, people ate very simple, repetitive diets every day without jumping between Chinese-Cambodian-Indian-Italian cuisines like most of us are now accustomed (and privileged) to here in the U.S. The cleanse allows your body to heal, recover, and return to homeostasis. I will be honest here – it is a hardcore, strict cleanse, which is very different from the way most people normally eat, but think about it – it is just for 28 days, and it is designed to be simple enough so that even someone who doesn’t know how to cook can successfully follow the guidelines. Also, while the cleanse contains only a few ingredients, it is also balanced – it addresses all of your body’s needs and in no way calls for starvation, which is typically what the words “diet” and “cleanse” are associated with.
You are probably wondering what the cleanse consists of. Well, dear friends, let’s jump into it. The cleanse contains enough proteins, carbs, healthy fats, minerals and vitamins. However, the cleanse contains only one source of protein, usually chicken, or traditionally prepared beans & legumes for vegetarians and vegans. No grains, other than white Thai or Basmati rice directly from their native countries. No nuts but some healthy seeds may be allowed, depending on the patient’s circumstances (buckwheat or millet may be okay). Only a few greens, such as lettuces, cucumbers, and broccoli. The food needs to be cooked well,and even better, boiled into soups and shakes. I told you it was hardcore. However, it works miracles because it allows your body to calm down and have a much-needed break from any constant food switches. In essence, the cleanse reboots the gut and purges out toxins. The beauty is that Dr. Kushnir’s cleanse focuses on addressing our unholy trio: inflammation, leaky gut, and a hyperactive immune system.
Here is what an example of a cleanse menu might look like:
- 1/2 cup of rice, cooked with grass-fed ghee (such as this), sea salt, and dill
- 1/2 avocado, sprinkled with turmeric (make sure all your spices are fresh & gluten-free)
- 3 oz. pastured chicken breast with lemon juice & fresh herbs
- 1 cup herbal tea
- Hearty salad with chicken meatballs, avocado, lettuces, cucumbers, and green apple slices, seasoned with extra virgin olive oil & lemon juice
- 1 cup herbal tea
- 1 cup bone broth
- 1 chicken drumstick
- Broccoli and rice as a side dish
- 1 tbsp. sauerkraut
- 1 cup herbal tea
- Sliced cucumbers with chicken liver pâté & herbs
- 1/2 avocado with Basmati rice flatbread
As you can see, it’s not that bad. Really. This is NOT a “starvation” diet (though many patients do lose weight while on the cleanse). You are eating balanced meals that might not be that exciting but are nurturing and healing for your body. When you start to feel better, the meals won’t seem that boring. They will actually taste pretty darn good. Plus, anyone can do anything for 28 days. Once patients are in a committed & positive mindset, they are ready for the program.
Some benefits that patients experience from the cleanse:
- Improvement of skin problems, including rashes, eczema, and acne
- Improved digestion (gas & bloating, constipation, diarrhea, GERD)
- More energy and mental clarity, better mood
- Better sleep
- Hormonal balance
- Lower blood pressure
- Stabilization of blood sugar levels
- Weight loss
After the 28 days, patients can carefully add back nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods and understand exactly what works for their bodies. Patients can see which foods work specifically for them, since some people might not tolerate nightshades, beans & legumes, and nuts & seeds. Others might not do well with starchy vegetables. Here, other factors come into play, such as the level of inflammation the patient is experiencing and the state of their gut health. For example, someone with an autoimmune disease will be advised to follow a modified Paleo diet (known as the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, or AIP) that still includes a lot of variety but eliminates potential triggers. An athlete will need to have a specialized plan to make sure that she or he is getting enough (and the right kind of) nutrients before and after workouts. A stressed out college student who works 2 jobs will need another plan that is easy to maintain and will promote energy and superb cognitive functioning. A busy executive might do well on Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof® Diet, which is all about using healthy fats & foods lowest in toxins for optimal performance in life. With that being said, the cleanse is a place to start, a template that we customize for you, depending on your health challenges and goals.
What I would like you to think about is that going on a cleanse is a personal decision that you make for your health. Only YOU have the power to decide if you are ready to commit to a program. Letting go of old habits is not easy, and food plays a huge role in our lives. It is connected to our cultures, histories, communities, relationships, and emotions. Eliminating a food you love and enjoyed for years can be a big deal. I get it. Then again, if you are very attached to a specific food (like that chocolate croissant), ask yourself why that is. What does the croissant mean to you? Really think about it. I am not trying to get all New Agey on you but to get you to see that sometimes a food makes us feel a certain way for a specific reason. Sure, there is the taste, but what else?
Remember JJ Virgin’s wise words – “Food is information.” You can choose to eat foods that are delicious and will make you feel and look great. In the end, WHY you decide to go on a cleanse or a special diet is an entirely personal reason, and every person will have a different answer. What matters is that it is an act of love and self-care, which is something that every human being deserves <3
I am Nutrition Consultant who educates about the benefits of nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods for overall health and wellbeing. The above information is meant for educational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with your physician before trying any regimen or supplement protocol.