Cleansing. That sounds daunting. Unsure of what it really means? Fear not. Cleansing is really just a broad (and VERY frequently used…) term for any regimen or diet that eliminates specific foods or food groups to aid in resting the digestive system, allowing the liver to do its detoxification magic and “reset” the GI tract. It helps clean up your intake and really allow the body to reset. Unfortunately, people often associate cleansing with those who “crash diet” or cleanse as a way to severely limit calories and lose weight quickly. Cleansing can certainly result in weight loss (as can any regimen where you cut the crap, so to speak…), but that should certainty NOT be the number one goal when cleansing. Here we are talking about cleansing to get healthy!
My Journey to the Cleanse
For months in the spring, I had been waking up achy all over and headach-y almost every day, feeling sluggish and just blah. No matter what I did, I just could not get into a good pattern of feeling good. UGH…frustrating. With gluten intolerance, Reynaud’s, and Hashimotos Thyroiditis, I could not point my finger at any ONE thing that was dragging me down. I had been tossing around the idea of cleansing but was not sure what to do. Should I juice? The most widely
publicized cleanses are juice fasts. These cleanses involve purchasing three to five days worth of juices (green juice, veggie juice, fruit juice and nut milk) that are to be consumed on intervals during the day as “meals”. Usually people do five to seven juices during the course of the day. Although it sounded interesting, I felt like I needed a little more substance and a few more calories due to my daily demands. I had recently finished reading Revive by Dr. Frank Lipman which I loved. I had been following his blog and looking into his methods for over a year so when I saw more information about his Be Well Cleanse program, I realized I had found my plan. Dr. Lipman’s Cleanse involves drinking three shakes per day, as well as having lunch and dinner, from a list of “cleanse” approved foods. The shake powder comes in individual packets, along with daily packets of vitamins and enzymes. Dr. Lipman provides the list of approved foods and gives recipe ideas to follow to get your started. You drink two shakes in the morning and one in the afternoon between lunch and dinner. I liked the idea of incorporating a light lunch and dinner into the plan. I decided I would also make an appointment with Dr. Lipman and see him in NYC at his office, the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center. If I was going to do this, I wanted to do it right and get back to feeling good! I have had a few recent discouraging appointments with other physicians so I was hopeful this was the best next step.
Here’s the short story…..
What does the cleanse look like? Three berry flavored shakes for you to make with water, nut milk or coconut water. No gluten, no dairy, nothing processed (read: NOTHING from a package), no peanuts, no coffee, no corn, no soy….that is the picture. The game plan: Early morning shake, late morning shake, lunch (usually a nice salad with baked chicken), afternoon shake, and dinner (some lean, organic protein and veggies). I stuck with organic veggies when possible, organic lean grass-fed meats, “shaking” each day and just good, clean, eating. I also kept up my usual exercise routine and tried to squeeze in a little more yoga when possible.
Well, Day 1 and 2 I had a serious headache and was a little cranky. Not to mention I picked a bad day to start. Like, really bad. I worked a night shift the night before and we had pre-cana the next day, all day. I was awake for around 23+ hours before finally crashing around 4pm. I had to get to bed because I was headed back to work for a day shift the next day. I was pretty tired and had a headache but I was not too much worse for the wear those first few days. I have to say that the headache is VERY common the first few days on any cleanse. I had already come off of coffee and was sticking to green tea, so I was ok there. Also as part of my “gut healing” I am staying away from NSAIDs (motrin, advil, aleve, etc) but I did take a little tylenol while at work those days because my headache was killing me.
I had a hard time getting down all three shakes each day. I just could not consume that much liquid and protein. I contacted one of Dr. Lipman’s health coaches who assured me it was ok to just do the two each day. (I did both in the morning…) The afternoon shake was for those who felt they really needed an afternoon ‘snack’ or were very hungry between lunch and dinner. I didn’t fall into this category so I dropped the third shake. No worries.
By the end of the first week I was in a groove. I was adding frozen berries to my shake with coconut water each morning and sticking with the cleanse foods for the rest of the day. By Day 7 my ‘scary red hands’ from the Reynaud’s were staring to look good! REALLY GOOD! The redness and cracking was actually going away. This was shocking. My hands have been red for YEARS with little change in color or texture, except when they get terribly red in the dead of winter. Having ‘normal’ looking hands was a real breakthrough.
I had my appointment with the good Doctor on Day 10 and whipped out some pictures. I showed him what my hands usually look like and how they were after JUST 10 days of cleansing. We reviewed all of my lab work from the past few years that I had compiled and he and I chatted with two other health professionals from his office, in a group setting. However, we were sure something was still triggering me, (as I mentioned in a previous post), because my ANA turned positive in recent blood work. Despite my best efforts, something was still causing inflammation. No wonder I still fell achy and blah. Bummer, huh. After an extensive appointment, we decided on a plan of action! He told me to keep up the cleanse for the rest of the allotted time and then he laid out an autoimmune regimen we worked out to transition to after the cleanse.
I also had some funky rashes break out on the cleanse as I detoxed in the first week or so. I have read that this is normal as you eliminate toxins from your body. I had a bad abdominal rash after eating artichokes for the first time during the cleanse. and got hives when I tried a new granola in the second week. Also, I had a major reaction to salmon, breaking out into hives all over my back twice after eating it. I have had salmon once since and have been ok, so maybe it was just a blip and I am being cautious with the artichoke situation for now.
At Day 10 (time of the appointment) my gut was still feeling funky. I was still having lots of bloating and tightness in my abdomen, so there was definitely some more GI work to do according to Dr Lipman. For the rest of the cleanse and another week after, I was on a hefty dose of probiotics to reset my flora and get my GI tract in order. After Day 10 I stuck with the cleanse foods BUT also cut out all grains (yes even the GFree ones like rice, quinoa, oats….) and cut out legumes. This may sound very restrictive but in literally TWO days my stomach felt the best it has in a LONG time. No more bloating, no discomfort. No Rashes. This was the start of my Paleo lifestyle!! (More on THAT to come….because this is the biggest transition ever for me!)
By day 14 I had so much energy, no GI discomfort, my digestion was doing great, no bloating, no rashes, no ACHES, no HEADACHES, and my. hands. looked. normal. You can tell people that you “feel amazing” but when you can SEE progress by having hands go from red and cracked to smooth and normal, people really start to take notice. Quite literally, I could not stop looking at my hands.
In all, I LOVED this cleanse. It was the start of a major change in lifestyle for me but was not a jarring progression. Dr. Lipman talks about the need for adequate protein on the cleanse to support this liver’s hard work at detoxing. While there is protein in the shakes, he also recommends eating healthy, organic, lean protein each day. For someone who was basically vegan, this was a transition for me that took getting used to. I started with chicken breast and just white meat for most of the cleanse. I did make Bison a few times which was awesome. By the end of the two weeks I was used to consuming some meat each day which was getting easier! I certainly did not feel deprived or hungry on the cleanse. I felt like I was doing my body a favor and giving it a nourishing reset.
Where am I today?
There is a big post coming on this and my Paleo lifestyle but here is a good preview…..
I still follow the cleanse approved foods for the most part as my daily lifestyle. I added back in strawberries and lean grass-fed red meat but stay away from soy, corn, gluten (obviously!), sugar, and dairy. I have occasionally had a grass-fed yogurt or two but that is it on the dairy front. I also have not had eggs since I started the cleanse. I will have the occasional nightshade (basically just tomatoes) if they are in a salad. I’ll have a few pieces of tomato but I don’t go crazy on nightshades since I feel good without them! I will also have the occasional (organic…) coffee, black, no creamer…but not every day.
At the risk of sounding dramatic…this cleasne was life changing. The first of May started a total revolution for me in terms of my health and how I eat. For the first time, I feel like I have seen changes for the better with my autoimmune conditions. I have a doctor that is behind me, supporting me and guiding me to better health. We have mapped out a plan to make me feel better and there are visible changes! It all started with the Be Well Cleanse!