Photo courtesy of theblondevegan.com
It seems that all anyone is talking about these days are cleanses and detoxes. There are juice cleanses, seven-day detox diets, “The Master Cleanse” (as made famous by Beyonce), colon cleanses, and every possible variation therein. The main reasons for undergoing such enterprises are to become healthy, prevent disease, attain a youthful glow, and the big one – to lose weight.
Recently, I read that most “cleanses” are ineffective in creating lasting change because most are relatively short (a few days or a week), and therefore not long enough to repair years of damage done by bad food and environmental toxins. Further, during this period, the body goes into starvation mode and is significantly calorie-deprived so any weight loss attained is usually temporary. All the weight (and more) comes back once you go back to your old eating habits.
Then I came across a book called “Clean Gut” by Alejandro Junger in the discount aisle at Shoppers Drug Mart. A New York Times Best Seller and endorsed by celebrities like Gwenyth Paltrow, I was a little skeptical at first, thinking this was simply another quick fix fad that would be too difficult to maintain without the pressures of the red carpet or the resources to pay for pricey pre-made cleansing juices from trendy organic juice bars.
But I needed a quick and easy read for the cottage that weekend so I decided to buy the book. Surprisingly, it was pretty compelling and once I did a little additional research on the subject, I found that most of what Dr. Junger said was true. His main premise is that by focusing on the health of our gut, we can eliminate disease at its root. Through years of damage eating refined junk, fast foods, sugar, gluten and other foods we are sensitive towards, as well as exposure to environmental toxins, our guts have taken a serious beating that evolution never prepared us for. Not only this, but the immune system can cause system-wide and constant inflammation in its attempt to protect the gut, which often does more harm than good to our organs. Finally, the unhealthy and unnatural diets we are accustomed to, plus our excessive use of antibiotics over the years has destroyed our beneficial gut flora (the billions of bacteria in our intestines needed to keep us healthy).
Dr. Junger argues that all of these problems can manifest themselves in unexpected ways – from allergies, acne, to chronic diseases such as diabetes, depression and atherosclerosis. Only through gut repair and the reinstatement of healthy gut flora can these issues be resolved and true health attained. He recommends a 21-day program of eating basically only healthy proteins and non-starchy, non-sugary vegetables plus some helpful supplements. So that means no refined and/or processed foods, no grains, no sugar, no fruit, no dairy, no coffee and no alcohol. Then after the cleanse is over, you reintroduce one commonly problematic food (dairy, gluten, soy) at a time for two days each to see if you have any food sensitivities that could have caused you problems in the past without you realizing it.
So now a little about myself. I had my second child two years ago and was not able to shake off the last 15 pounds of baby weight. I have suffered from seasonal allergies that start in the spring and last until the end of fall for as long as I can remember. I am allergic to all pets, many raw fruits and vegetables, and frequently have stomach issues that involve rushing to the nearest restroom. I also typically flew into a rage when I got too hungry and became drowsy and lethargic after meals. While I tried half-heartedly to choose healthy foods, I often indulged in fried goodies, processed junk, lots of cheese, wine and my favourite, potato chips.
I had never attempted or even thought to heal any of my ailments through nutrition and diet. Nor had I ever been able to follow a traditional “diet” for more than a couple of hours. But this book intrinsically made sense to me and I thought, I will do it…for my health and ultimately, for my kids.
And I did it. For 21 days plus the reintroduction phase. The results were fascinating! Read Part II to find out what happened.