The main motivation for me in writing this post is to help you protect your health by helping you pick the right time to cleanse. I witness many people turning to various fasts and cleanses in early January. The goal is to lose weight and counteract holiday overindulgences. The idea of cleaning out your system from all the excess sugar, alcohol, baked goods, and meats, sounds like a great plan, however, Chinese medicine would caution against a full blown fast, juice fast, or cleanse during the winter months.
Winter is the season to build up your core energy. We do this by eating nutrient dense foods, sleeping a little bit extra, allowing time to slow down, and allowing time for reflexion. If you’d like to learn more, please check out my winter posts from previous years: Winter: The Season of the Kidneys
The goal of a fast or cleanse is usually to help your body process any excess toxins (both from food we’ve eaten, and from environmental factors) and eliminate them from the system. It can reboot your digestion, make you feel better in general, decrease pain, help you sleep better, et cetera. Sounds great, right? A properly employed fast or cleanse can be fantastic for your health, but it can also undermine your health when done too frequently, at the wrong time of year, or without proper guidance.
The proper time to do an official cleanse is during the seasons of spring and early autumn. Many people call eating well a ‘cleanse,’ and eating well can be done any time of year. I’ll dive into this topic shortly. Official cleanses employ taking supplements, tinctures, and/or eating large quantities of certain vegetables to help your liver process extra toxins. These official cleanses are the ones best done in spring (the season of the liver in Chinese medicine), and in early autumn when we naturally transition from the lighter meals of summer into eating heavier winter foods.
Spring is the number one best time to start any type of cleanse or fast. The energy is with your liver, you’ve built yourself up over the winter, fresh greens are sprouting and growing, the daylight hours are longer than the night, our energy is naturally a little more exuberant, and the weather is a more supportive of the effort it takes our body to do a cleanse or fast. A big thing to realize about cleansing is that it takes effort from your body to do it, and it take a lot of effort for your body to do a fast. This extra workload undermines the natural tendency for our bodies to try to strengthen and build up its foundation in the winter. Hence, cleanses or fasts are contraindicated and heavily discouraged in the winter due to the effort they require from our bodies.
Some individuals are also too weak to do a proper cleanse or fast. This is why it is important to seek guidance as to whether or not a cleanse or fast is right for you.Fasts and cleanses are best done with guidance from a health care provider, such as an acupuncturist, naturopath, or a certified health coach or certified nutritionist. You may need to spend time focusing on strengthening your body before doing a cleanse/fast, otherwise you risk further depleting your body. A healthcare provider will be able to direct you towards knowing whether or not your body is ready or strong enough to cleanse.
Now eating well is different in my opinion, than a cleanse. You can eliminate sugar, alcohol, wheat, corn, and/or maybe dairy for two to three weeks in January to help yourself counteract the overindulgences of the Thanksgiving/December/New Year’s celebrations. Cleaning up your diet in January by reducing the above foods and increasing vegetable consumption can be a fantastic way to reboot after the holidays without taxing your system. Increasing your vegetable consumption will also provide dense nutrition to your body and help strengthen your overall constitution. Eating dense nutrition from whole foods in the winter without dieting falls perfectly in line with the season of hibernation, building, strengthening, and preparing a healthy foundation for the coming year.
Here’s to a your best self in 2016!