3 Tips from an Acupuncturist for a Perfect Fall Cleanse
I am often asked by my acupuncture patients how I feel about cleanses.
While my responses have changed somewhat over the years, one thing has always remained stable: there is no single, cookie cutter cleanse that is right for everyone. If you’re thinking of doing a cleanse soon, you will want to consider the three things listed below before deciding on the cleanse that’s right for you.
As many have probably noticed, cleanses are very popular these days. It’s common for people to do a cleanse at the major changes of seasons, so with the weather turning cooler, people are starting to think about this again.
One of the reasons cleanses are so popular is because, well, let’s face it, our modern diet is pretty filled with a lot of crappy, clogging foods. After people eat bad enough for long enough, they start feeling awful enough that they are drawn towards a fresh, clean start.
While cleanses can help clear some of this heaviness out of our system and give us that feeling of a fresh start, from an acupuncture perspective, they can be wrought with problems as well.
Acupuncturists always consider whether any cleanse will balance a person
Everything in Chinese medicine is about balance. I always tell people that “we can’t achieve balance through imbalanced means”. So when people set out and do an extreme cleanse, such as eating only raw foods for a handful of weeks, or taking an herbal “cleanse” that they got in a kit at the health food store, they can often end up worse than they were before starting it.
Anything that swings the pendulum too far over to the other direction, is likely to just swing it right back to where you were before.
So with these things in mind, I give the three tips below.
1. Apply the “Principle of Temperatures” when thinking of the foods or herbs you will be taking.
All foods and herbs have inherent “temperatures” in Chinese medical philosophy. These temperatures function to balance the body, and both help with, and create, their medicinal effects.
But foods and herbs will only be medicinal if they cause the effects that your body needs. The vast majority of herbs and foods that “cleanse” are COLD in nature. This helps clear out the “heat stagnation” that often accumulates when we build up toxins or lots of clogging in our body, but this also creates problems, because the other end of the stick is that these foods are inherently depleting if done in excess of what an individual needs.
Cold things in general are Qi depleting. While this is fine in the short term for someone who is an “excess” type, with a robust, warm constitution; it can be disastrous for already depleted people.
Most of the people I treat do not fall into the robust category, but are more depleted. So a cleanse that is more gentle and balanced in temperature would be appropriate for them.
Sticking with cooked foods in place of raw is a better idea. Avoiding cleanse “kits” which are always comprised of cold herbs, will prevent someone from ending up more imbalanced and maybe even sick, at the end of their cleanse.
If you are hot all the time and have excess, restless, and boundless energy, then you may be among the few to whom a raw food cleanse would be of benefit.
2. Consider your current lifestyle and try to design a cleanse that will integrate the most smoothly into your post cleanse lifestyle.
We’ve all done it, right? We get motivated, we create schedules and lists and commit to eat healthier.
We do it for a set period of time, but because we haven’t reorganized the rest of our lives and priorities enough to maintain the new foundation that will allow for our new healthier habits, soon enough we’re right back to where we were before.
I think the operative words here are “priorities” and “reorganization”. Because maintaining your new eating habits will, if you’re like most people, require a re-aligning of your lifestyle. And that means a changing of priorities.
You simply won’t be able to rely on the convenience of processed and take-out foods if you are going to make the results of your cleanse last far beyond the few short days that you are doing it.
So when thinking about the type of cleanse that you’re ready for, consider what your lifestyle will allow for, and start off slowly by only doing a “cleanse” that you believe you can sustain after it’s done, to some degree. Then, once you get those new habits down, you can move onto more extreme changes later.
Example of an integrative cleanse:
If you are simply just too busy right now to allow for daily home-made foods, rather than doing (what for you would be) an extreme cleanse that will require all home-made foods and have an end-date, after which you will just resume your current habits, why not instead do something more like deciding to fill 2/3 of your plate at every meal with veggies, ongoingly.
That is reasonable enough to do when eating out by just adding on a side salad, or a veggie side, or veggie soup. This also requires leaving other foods out, to keep the proportions of non-veggie to veggie at 1:3. You will fill up on veggies and crowd out the other foods which tend to be the ones that are clogging and toxic.
This will allow for a gradual, sustained, gentle cleansing of your body, all while establishing new eating habits that will far outlive the time span of a typical cleanse.
I’m assuming that the goal of your cleanse is to be living your life in the future with a cleaner body than you have now, and while this type of “cleanse” may not have the glamour of a short-term extreme cleanse, you might find that months into it you’re much closer to that goal of a cleaner body.
3. Consider testing to find out if there are specific foods that you individually are allergic or sensitive to, and focus on getting those out first.
More and more, patients are choosing testing to find out if there are specific foods which they are not tolerating and which are causing imbalances in their body due to their inability to digest them. Often, people are shocked by the seemingly benign foods that show up on their tests, but once they start eliminating them they notice a change in how they feel.
Because some cleanses are very extreme, they can be quite challenging to get through. Perhaps it would be easier for you, rather than trying to eliminate the many types of foods which are usually restricted in a cleanse, to find out if there are specific foods that you need to eliminate, and just focus on getting those foods out first.
That will likely have a much more dramatic and beneficial effect than a short term cleanse with an end date…especially if you tend to be they type that goes right back to how you were eating before.
Designing a Cleanse Just for You
If you have been a patient with me for some time and we’ve done some nutritional counseling, hopefully by now you know enough about the concept of “eating for balance” to design a cleanse for yourself and get close enough to one that would be good for you.
But if you are still confused about what the right type of cleanse would be for you, and would like a specific plan designed just for your individual condition, current patients can always make a nutritional consultation appointment and I can assess your current patterns of imbalance and come up with a 2 week cleanse that will both detoxify your body while also maintaining your Qi. (New Patients would just need to schedule a new patient appointment first so we have enough time to do a thorough diagnosis first)
If appropriate, your cleanse can incorporate herbs that will help clear out accumulations and clogging, or help maintain balance by nourishing and strengthening your body to offset the potentially depleting affects of the increase in cleansing foods.
Cleansing is Good!…if it’s done right.
To repeat, the biggest problem with cleanses is that they are often very depleting and leave a person deficient at the end, setting people up for more problems.
But cleanses can be very beneficial. By making sure that the cleanse you’ll be doing this fall is one that takes all of this into consideration–along with your individual constitution and current state of health–you will avoid this problem and reap only the benefits.