Why Cleanse?

Written by Christopher Hastings, DC for the Brattleboro Reformer May 2 2014


A patient just left my office and wanted to know "why you do it?" The "it" she was referring to was my yearly cleanse. It's a good question to ask, and one I ask myself about ¾ of the way through--or at any point, really--when I'm uncomfortable. The cleanse I do involves some calorie reduction, and some fasting. It lasts for just under two weeks and it focuses on foods which have a very high nutrient value with relatively low caloric loads. There are many different types of cleanses/blood sugar diets etc. available through various sources. Good ones will concentrate on sound nutritional principles of balance and moderation.

I cleanse for a lot of reasons. There are some well documented health benefits of fasting and the physiological changes which can come about with a cleanse. Some of these I've discussed in past articles. The benefits of ketosis (burning fat as evidenced by ketone bodies found in your urine), regulating your blood sugar and insulin levels, and even fasting and calorie reduction have all been topics in this forum before. I have lead many cleanses in the past and have witnessed some truly remarkable health changes--everything from subjective issues of quality of sleep, to more objective findings of significant changes in lipid/cholesterol panels. All of these findings indicate to me the extent to which we literally eat our way to disease, and the benefits of changing our diets to lead healthier lives.

In the past I have discussed the importance of behavioral change for any real and lasting life change. I find cleansing to be a great avenue for instituting change. If you do a cleanse and then go back to old habits, old issues continue, but sometimes the drastic dietary change in a cleanse can lead to small maintainable changes moving forward. One of the things that always strikes me with calorie reduction is the difference between appetite (I want to eat) versus hunger (I need to eat). I also like the challenge and the discipline involved with truly treating my body with care and consciousness. No coffee, sugar, alcohol, or junk food for a period of time is a challenge and meeting the challenge has some rewards. The rewards are everything from hitting the reset button and coming back a little cleaner, to losing a few pounds of fat, to having my summer shorts fit again.

I am a collector. What I collect are habits and behaviors that I believe are good for my health. Some of these habits have to do with my environment in the home; I don't keep sweets, I shop using a grocery list I made 5 years ago, I prep vegetables one time per week. All of these behaviors create a better home environment and allow me to stay the course. I workout in short intervals with a fairly high intensity, I start my day with 16 oz. of water, I do a smoothie for my breakfast, I floss my teeth--more habits which I have collected over the years which are no problem for me to incorporate and which I believe improve my overall health. Cleansing one time a year is another example of a habit collected.

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