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To Cleanse or Not To Cleanse? May 22, 2013

That is the question that I’ve been asking myself for weeks. I’m literally eating a piece of chocolate right now as I ponder this question.

It is my firm belief that a healthcare practitioner of any sort has to be a nutritionist in addition to any other type of medicine they practice. Our food is our medicine. If you are aware of the research acknowledging that a diet plentiful in whole foods and consisting of mostly plants has numerous health benefits, than you can easily see how a diet consisting mostly of processed meats, and packaged and refined foods that are high in sugar can be detrimental to your health in the long run.

There are some renegade doctors out there who are treating the most prevalent diseases in the US (heart disease, cancer, diabetes) and giving the finger to Big Pharma simply by prescribing diet changes. And we’re not talking about asking a patient to simply cut back on sugar or ditch the Doritos. These doctors are going grocery shopping with their patients, helping them look at and understand labels, and teaching them cooking skills. For these doctors, “healthcare” is a verb, not a noun. The result? These doctors are helping patients reverse these diseases through diet alone. REVERSE. And this is being done in spite of rhetoric suggesting that these conditions are irreversible and/or only able to be controlled by pharmaceuticals. If you want to see this in action, I recommend the documentary Forks over Knives. I also recommend reading The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell. This book details and discusses the most comprehensive nutritional study ever conducted. The conclusions that Campbell and his fellow researchers came to is that a whole foods, plant-based diet that is low in meat, added fat, and added sugar has huge implications in promoting long-term health.lemon

Before I derail myself completely and start making this into a research article, let’s get back to the point at hand. We here at Family Tree Acupuncture are embarking on a two week – 30 day cleanse (depending on how things go): June 10 –  June 24th (or July 10).

Oh yeah, and we want you to join us.

“What exactly is this cleanse?” you might be asking yourself. I think it’s best to start with what it is NOT. This cleanse is not a diet. Many diets are created and attempted with the goal of weight loss. While weight-loss can be a normal side effect of cleansing, it is not the goal. A cleanse is also not a fast. In fact, Chinese medicine warns against the dangers of fasting. When you avoid food for too long, your vital energy (or “qi) weakens and your body has to draw from deep nutrient reserves which can be damaging to your health.

The cleanse we are proposing is a “simple” spring/summer cleanse that helps to detoxify organs in the body (particularly the Liver & Heart), improve circulation of blood, lymph and body fluids, foster mental well being, and help bring the body back into a state of balance.

Wow, kind of sounds like the benefits of receiving acupuncture, right?

Cleansing can also be a useful tool for discovering food intolerance. Upon completing a cleanse, you can slowly introduce foods one at a time back into your diet and observe the effects that they have on your body. Ever wonder if your fatigue has to do with a wheat intolerance? A discord with dairy? Does your arthritis have something to do with your tumultuous relationship with sugar? It’s hard to suss these things out on a day-to-day basis while eating the standard American diet, where the cause of chronic symptoms can be hidden beneath layers of food combinations and interactions as well as elimination issues.

According to Nishanga Bliss, a licensed acupuncturist and author of Real Food All Year: Eating Seasonal Whole Foods for Optimal Health & All-Day Energy, a cleanse is a good idea if you have been regularly experiencing three or more of the following symptoms: allergies, skin rashes or breakouts; tight neck and shoulders; headaches; constipation, loose stools or both; difficulty falling or staying asleep, PMS, menstrual cramps, restlessness, irritability or anger; mood swings; frequent infections or colds; poor memory or mental fogginess.

Did I just describe your week? Your life?

Why have I chosen to do this cleanse? First of all, I can easily justify doing a cleanse based on the above list of symptoms. What is driving me more than my own fatigue and recent head cold, is the fact that I would not hesitate to ask my patients to do this for themselves if they came to me with these symptoms during this particular season. If I can’t do this myself, then how can I expect my patients to do it?

And so I am embarking on a “Practice What You Preach Cleanse.” I am doing this to improve my own health, and to support those patients who I’ve asked to make health changes in their own lives. It’s good to be reminded of how difficult it is to change habits in our lives, whether its eliminating dairy, incorporating flossing into your daily dental hygiene routine, exercising every week, making your bed every morning, or meditating.

Ok, so here are the details. In a future post, I will provide supporting information. For now, I just want to give you a snapshot of what you are getting yourself into:

The cleanse includes the following

  • Vegetables (all types in any quantity)
  • Leafy greans (all types in any quantity)
  • Fruit (fresh or frozen with an emphasis on seasonal)
  • Fats and oils (olive oil, coconut oil or flax oil)
  • Beans (any type, 1-3 servings/day, not from a can)
  • Grains (optional: 1-3 servings/day of brown or wild rice, or quinoa)
  • Meats (2-3 oz/day of organic chicken, beef, lamb or goat meat as well as wild-caught or low-mercury seafood. Eat 1-3 eggs daily)
  • Seasonings (wheat-free tamari, raw vinegars, fresh lemon juice, sea salt, fresh or dried herbs, raw honey or nutritional yeast)
  • Fermented foods (raw sauerkraut or pickles)

Beverages (half your bodyweight in ounces of water/day), herbal teas, kombucha, freshly pressed veggie juices or fresh pressed fruit juices diluted with water)

This cleanse excludes the following

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Grains (except brown/wild rice and quinoa)
  • Nuts and seeds (except flax meal)
  • Dairy
  • All packaged/refined foods
  • Refined sugar

The cleanse will last for 3-30 days depending on your preference. I’m aiming for 2 weeks and will go as long as 30 days if I’m moved to do so. Every couple of days, I will write a brief post detailing how things are going with the cleanse. These posts will be linked to the Family Tree Acupuncture page on Facebook. I would love for you share your own experiences with the cleanse on our Facebook page or in the comments section of this blog. It’s important that we communicate with one another for support, recipe exchanges and most importantly, so I can answer any questions you might have throughout the process. As with any change in diet, it is important to be in regular contact with your healthcare professional (me in this case), so that changes/symptoms can be monitored and health can be maintained.

Are you in? If so, email me at m@familytreeacupuncture.com. I will send you more details about the cleanse including things you can do this week to prepare your body and your kitchen.

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