A lady once told me, “I don’t need to cleanse because I already poop three times a day.” Really? Is that all people think cleansing is? It only encompasses how many times a person manages to drop a deuce in a day?
This is what we get when people rush out to buy cheaply formulated “cleanse” products which only serve to purge the intestines. What the heck happened to common sense? Good cleanses do not merely move the bowels – and they most certainly do not move them in such a way that would cause irritation and swelling. While finding a cleanse which works for your individual body type and make up may take some time, do not blindly take cleanses which do nothing past turning you into a “salad shooter.”
There are different types of “cleanses” which range from something as simple as laying of the refined foods for a time and allowing your body to recoup from the burden of excess simple sugars, etc, all the way to target cleanses designed to get the bile moving to “flush” the liver. So let’s start with some common sense:
Any time you fill your body with fresh, whole foods and leave out overly processed foods, you may have a “cleansing response”
What does this mean? Well, if you eat peanut butter and high fructose corn syrup laden grape jelly on white bread washed down with a red cream soda every single day and then suddenly switch to all fresh veggies, you may experience some diarrhea, cramping, etc. This does not mean the veggies gave you diarrhea. They could have but only because your body is not used to them. Any time you upgrade the quality of your nutrition, you run the risk of the body throwing off excessive amounts of toxins. I have people tell me all the time, “I can’t eat vegetables. They give me diarrhea,” only to find out they only eat them once or twice a year! No WONDER they are giving diarrhea! The body doesn’t even know what the heck they are!
It all evens out
Unless the person has some odd-ball condition like some diverticulitis type of things (it does happen…and is not limited to diverticulitis), slowly progressing into a more whole diet will become easier for the body to tolerate. The explosive results should not stay. As I said, this is barring some condition like a food intolerance or diverticulitis, or some other dys-functional state of the body. Even then, cooking the veggies, or just a light steaming, can make them more tolerable.
Now, there are juice cleanses, colon cleanses, liver cleanses, kidney cleanses…really the list just keeps going on. The main type of cleanse I’d like to address is the kind which flush the liver. The liver is the main toxic waste sorting center of the body. Not all chemicals, but a lot of them, which circulate in the body go to the liver to be processed for disposal. It’s just like your garbage going into a chute in an apartment building. You toss it in the chute. It goes to the basement, maybe, where it is then moved to the holding area. There, it might be compacted or re-bagged, or tagged, or something to reprocess it for the purpose of getting it out of the building. That’s what the liver does. It processes these chemicals to get them out of your body. Usually this is done through a whole string of chemical reactions including methylation, and more. It can get extremely technical, but the end point being the liver turns these chemicals into substances which can be eliminated out of the body either through sweat, feces, urine, and even the vapors of the breath.
What I refer to as “good” cleanses contain some key components:
A liver flusher
Any herb which increases the flow of bile could fall in to this category. I like to use bitter greens like yellow dock or burdock paired with berberine containing herbs like Oregon grape root, etc. The increase in bile is thought to stimulate the process of ridding the body of toxins.
A fiber blend
This should be a blend of soluble and insoluble fibers. It should be gentle enough to not add to the irritation which may be occurring in the intestinal tract already. Also, it should not taste like a cardboard box just took residence in your mouth. I like to suggest a fiber blend containing things like psyllium (if tolerated. Some people have allergies to this one and do better on something else), marshmallow root, slippery elm, and more. This fiber blend can act as a sponge to oak up the bile. Then, it becomes a ball of goo which should work its way through.
A bowel mover
Too much fiber without locomotion makes a brick wall in your bowels. A bowel mover can be either a laxative like senna or an herb like Cascara Sagrada which acts by stimulating the parastalsis movements of the intestinal walls. I consider Senna to be equivalent to a jack hammer. Some people need this type of action. Others do not. However, be aware of the difference.
The bile which is thrown off can be extremely irritating to the bowel. There is no need to intentionally increase pain! That’s just crazy. That’s why I have suggested to some clients to add soothing, cooling herbs like some forms of aloe, yucca, or cat’s claw to their cleanses to reduce the potential for angry intestinal reactions.
A mood booster
Science has shown us that the gut has an enormous amount of nerve activity going on. It is now thought to function as a “second brain” and has more neurotransmitter receptors for compounds like serotonin, etc than any other part of the body INCLUDING THE BRAIN! Long used terms such as “a gut feeling” now take on new meaning since science is supporting the emotional link to gut health. Since the gut includes the intestinal system (it does not stop at the stomach), it only stands to reason that emotional support may be needed to help a cleanse go well. I like to use flower essences for this. Individual remedies may work, but I find the blends to do a much better job, overall.
Keeping the fluids flowing through the urinary system is a must! Dandelion, uva ursi, and other diuretic herbs may aid in keeping all the waters flowing in the proper direction.
Vitamin and Mineral support
Dandelion is such a wonderful herb. It is full of minerals necessary to keep the body balanced. Multi mineral and multi vitamin products may help as well. The trick is finding which one(s) work the best for you, individually.
These are just some places to start. Seeing a natural health consultant or herbalist who can help you narrow down your choices may be beneficial for you.