For several years, I’ve used cleansing programs as a way of healing and detoxifying the body and for resetting or strengthening metabolism. My more recent interest in ayurveda and its emphasis on panchakarma (seasonal cleansing) has helped me to approach this on a more energetic level, meaning that your body may need different kinds of cleansing in different seasons, situations, and of course always in relation to your individual constitution.

I’ve now experimented with several types of cleansing programs. The main idea of any cleanse is to eliminate any foods that contribute to toxins in the body, so during any cleansing program, you will be removing these entirely from your diet: sugar, caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, animal products (meat, cheese, butter, dairy, etc.), gluten and wheat products, and simple starches. Instead, what you do consume (depending on the cleansing program you choose) should be “pure” whole foods.

So that’s the intake part. Then there’s the other part of cleansing: the elimination of toxins from your body. Sometimes this takes care of itself, and other times you may want to help things along. First, you must drink plenty of pure water. In addition, a laxative herbal tea such as senna might be a good idea before bedtime (one cup only—this is a strong laxative), or perhaps a diuretic tea of dandelion in the morning. Also, psyllium seed husks can be mixed with water and drunk before bed to help lend “bulk” to your stool. Another option is to use a warm water enema to flush residual gunk out—it sounds scary if you’ve never tried it, but once you get over the ick factor, it just isn’t that big a deal. And you can feel the difference—I usually feel sort of “high” afterward, kind of light and energetic.

The first cleanse I ever did was a raw food cleanse, which involves eating a completely raw and vegan diet, usually for one or two weeks. The high fiber in this diet definitely helps with cleansing, and you still get to have fun preparing and chewing your food. A balance of fresh and dehydrated fruits, vegetables, and nuts, provides you with ample nutrition to sustain you through the process. I find this is my favorite when I am dealing with heat issues in my body, as this program tends to be very cooling. Since I already run hot, as a pitta, this is great for me in spring or summer when the body can easily overheat.

This past spring I tried the master cleanse, and you can get the recipe and read about my experiences day-by-day over on my Purple House blog (read all four days for full response). Briefly, this is an entirely liquid cleanse, using a lemonade made of lemons, maple syrup and cayenne. 10 days are recommended generally, but three days is about right for me I think. This program is very warming, and I’ll probably only use it toward the end of the winter months when the body starts to get sluggish. I do not recommend this for anyone who does heavy manual labor—you will not have enough caloric energy during the cleanse. Better to schedule time off and take it easy.

The last program I’d like to share is the green smoothie cleanse, developed by nutritionist Meghan Telpner. I decided to try this out this summer and loved it. Meghan’s educational nutrition e-book on the cleansing program (as well as her other e-books) is very easy to read, creative and warm, and there is a wealth of rich information and fun recipes. Essentially, this is like the raw food cleanse, but on steroids. Or you know, the healthful, all-natural equivalent *grin*

My favorite personally is the raw food cleanse, just because I love preparing food and, well, chewing. But as I said above, it’s all about figuring out what’s right for you and in what season. And of course, I have to tell you to please always check with your doctor/nutritionist before embarking on a cleanse, be aware of what the detoxification symptoms are so you are prepared and know what’s normal and what isn’t, and as always, listen to your body. If you’re body says you’ve done enough, then listen.

What are your favorite cleansing practices? Any tips you’d like to share with the rest of us?