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What you always wanted to know about cleansing but never asked

Posted in Health

Lemon Bowl
Meyer and regular lemons from my garden

It’s been a few months since my trusted juicer exploded and left a mess of pineapple mush dotting the kitchen walls. I bought it fifteen years ago, when juicing was far from fashionable, even in California, and a work colleague gave me a copy of a juicing book packed with hundreds of recipes.

I had come to realize that eating fruit on a daily basis was not going to happen but pressing a bunch of it (and sometimes veggies) into a juicer first thing in the morning was an easier proposition for my lifestyle. I loved the endless combinations the recipes offered and sometimes I would just create my own. Cleaning the filter of the juicer was another matter and, with all the pulp particles attached to said filter, a job better suited for Job. Eventually juicing became trendy and manufacturers were able to (sort of) solve the problem. So when the juicer literally exploded, after the requisite amount of cursing, I wasn’t so distraught. Time to update.

Since then, every time I have walked into a Williams-Sonoma store (which is more often than I am willing to admit), I have been debating whether to splurge on a Breville or buy an attachment for my mixer: strangely enough, I haven’t come to a definitive conclusion yet.
I am beginning to think it’s the cleansing business that is putting me off.

Many years ago my doctor suggested a cleanse, a three-day affair based on some nutritional broth. I sneered. Fast forward a couple of years and I was caught up in the trendiness of it all: it seemed like a brilliant idea all of a sudden and off I went, doing a cleanse every year, typically in the Spring. Juicing and smoothies with ingredients such as avocado and nut butters made an appearance in my kitchen, and I would proclaim to anyone that would listen how much better I would feel afterwards.

Beets from bettysorganics.com
Beets from bettysorganics.com

Now that the Thanksgiving table has been cleared and we are staring in the face of holiday parties, eggnog and Christmas meals, I thought a cleanse wouldn’t go amiss. Just a few days. Time to buy that new juicer.

But as much as it is true that, after a cleanse, I feel energized, my sinus passages are clearer and my stomach is flatter than flat, I never shared how bloody hard it is. And whoever tells you any different, they are lying.

I eat pretty healthy all year long. My indulgences tend to be chocolate based, with an occasional slip into too much dairy but I rarely drink alcohol, my meat intake is negligible and I am conscious of what I buy and how many vegetables I eat. I never undertake a cleanse to rid myself of junk food or too many pizzas, or to lose weight. For a period that goes from a week to three, I will eliminate coffee, sugar (other than naturally occurring sugar in fruit), wheat and gluten, meat, dairy and any refined products. I am left with fruit and vegetables, tea and juices, some fish, nuts and pulses, and creative grains like kamut and quinoa. And some fish, with olive oil, avocado and coconut for fats.

juice
Should you feel the urge of buying me a Christmas gift. Image courtesy of Williams-Sonoma

Before I get to the “feel good” part of the cleanse, here is what happens:

  1. Massive headache from caffeine abstention sets in at around 11 am on the first day. Green tea mitigates it a touch but, for someone who has been drinking coffee since the age of 8 (with a three year hiatus in my 30s) the addiction is strong. And I only drink one coffee a day. My head pounds and feels like it will split. Headache will abate after about six days.
  2. Mid-afternoon of day 3: I will kill for a wheat anything. I am tired of nuts and bananas and apples. I want a cookie, a cracker – I bargain with myself it will be organic and sweetened with Stevia or apple juice….needless to say, crankiness has set in.
  3. Before my stomach reverts to concave, it will veer to convex on day four. All the veggies, and the juices, even tamed by the brown rice and funny sounding grains, will make me feel bloated and farty. My social calendar is purged.
  4. On day 5, those tv ads for Domino pizza on tv are starting to look good. The only barrier standing between me and Domino (something I have actually never tasted) is one of my best assets: willpower.
  5. On day 6 I decide that dark chocolate can’t be so bad after all and I give in. It’s the only way I can survive this cleanse, looking forward to a smidge of dark chocolate after some grilled fish and asparagus that, don’t get me wrong, I like under normal circumstances but when they become your standard meal, they lose their appeal.
  6. On day 7 I feel extremely virtuous, slightly more energetic and I think I can do this. Juices are the one and only part I thoroughly enjoy, my sweet fix in a desert of nuts and beans.
  7. By day 8, I start the coffee countdown. Nothing beats a cup of coffee, and its smell, first thing in the morning and anyway, haven’t they proven the benefits of coffee? Why do I have to take it out? It’s diuretic, isn’t it?
  8. In the middle of the second week, all I can think about is food: what I am going to eat, how am I going to make it more enjoyable, at what time I can have my snack and the plate of pasta I will be making as soon as this is over.
  9. And once it’s over, I exit my cleansing shell and see people again – try and go out for lunch or dinner during a cleanse. Not feasible – I will tell everyone how wonderful I feel. It’s partly true.
  10. I do feel more energetic but, above all, I feel like I have given my dietary system a little rest. (Fasting for two or three days has the same effect but I only did that once and did not enjoy it one bit).

Now you know. Cleanse at the risk of becoming unpleasant to yourself and others for the duration.
But if you do, here is my favourite juice. And if you don’t cleanse, add a dash of vodka, and you are good to go. Cayenne pepper has cleansing properties anyway.

Campari shandy
An actual Campari drink

A “pretend” Campari and orange (cleansing) juice

Ingredients:

1 red beet, scrubbed clean
3 or 4 leaves of Swiss Chard, washed
2 oranges, preferably blood oranges
1/2 Meyer lemon

dash of cayenne pepper

2 T Agave syrup (or Stevia)

Place all the ingredients in the juicer (minus the sweetener) and juice away.
Add the agave syrup or stevia and cayenne pepper, stir and drink.

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10 Comments

  1. I did a 10-day fast, drinking only clear broth after day 5. It was hard the first couple of days and then I entered “zen” mode. Never thought of coffee as being that addictive- partly psychological?

    December 9, 2014
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Alas, the research shows that caffeine is indeed mildly addictive – not as strong as an addition as alcohol, and not physically damaging, but a bit of an addiction nonetheless.
      I have heard about that “zone” that you enter after a few days of just broth but I have never encountered it. But the only time I did fast my gastrointestinal tract felt wonderful! Thanks for commenting – love your moniker!

      December 10, 2014
      |Reply
  2. Sounds painful. I don’t think at this point in my life I want to give up coffee…not even for a morning. Maybe one day…or not. Happy holidays!

    December 9, 2014
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Don’t worry, I would never suggest you give up your cherished morning ritual for any reason!

      December 10, 2014
      |Reply
  3. I think the pretend Campari drink recipe is the way for me to go (ah, hell who am I kidding, I could easily go for the real deal). The ‘cleanse’ process no doubt would otherwise get me arrested and I’m probably just barely tolerable without it as it is. 😉 Happy weekend.

    December 5, 2014
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      As we get closer to the holidays a daily dose of Campari might be the only way to survive…

      December 8, 2014
      |Reply
  4. I only bought a blender when I cleansed for the first time a few months ago. Now I might have to get a juicer!! Your “’pretend’ Campari and orange (cleansing) juice” looks so yummy!

    December 5, 2014
    |Reply
    • WordPress.com Support
      WordPress.com Support

      For a while, I loved juicing more than blending. They taste so much better than any juice you can buy and retain all the nutrients. But nice juicers don’t come cheap!

      December 5, 2014
      |Reply
  5. For medical reasons I did a cleanse of sorts this past summer. Basically I gave up sugar for 6 weeks. No processed sugar, no wheat, no dairy, no alcohol, no fruit, no rice, beans or potatoe. So far I have stayed with it only adding in berries, honey and wine. I will occasionally have brown rice. I just turned fifty and haven’t felt this good (consistently) for years. I am not, however, militant. If I’m out for dinner and want dessert I will have it. I believe that an occasional fast rids your body of the cravings for the bad food.

    December 4, 2014
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      You are absolutely right. As strong willed as I can be, I can certainly abuse sugar, and eliminating it from my diet for a few weeks now and then helps me keep my cravings in check. The first time I eliminated sugar/dairy/coffee and wheat was for medical reasons and had to do it for three months. It relieved a debilitating allergy no doctor had been able to cure – turns out my body was just on overload. By keeping my diet balanced, it never returned – and it’s been 20 years.

      December 5, 2014
      |Reply

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