Lemons, photo by Trevor LeyenhorstI’ve been asked by at least a dozen people in the past two weeks about cleansing. This article is the result, to explain and introduce the concept of cleansing. I’ve done perhaps a dozen different cleanses myself, most of them involving supplements. Some have been more intensive cleanses in which I changed the foods I eat (like the one I’m doing now).

In every case, I have felt dramatically better after and during the cleanse – I have more energy, I feel happier and more grounded, and my allergy symptoms lessen and go away. Cleansing is a part of every good health regime, for a simple reason: what goes in to our bodies eventually has to come out. We are bombarded every day with stressors and toxins and many of them lodge in our bodies as acid, mucus, or fat. These toxins –from our air, water, food, and our living and work environments – can slow down the body’s metabolism and lower immunity, leaving you feeling sluggish, heavy, tired, and ultimately causing illness and disease. 

Many health professionals, including Stanley Burroughs (originator of the Master Cleanse) believe that every disease and ailment can be traced to toxin buildup in our bodies’ key systems. So cleansing can be one of the best things we can do for our mental, emotional, and physical health. It is great for boosting the immune system; relieving chronic pain, swelling, inflammation, and fatigue; fighting cancers and other supposed terminal illnesses; weight loss and strength training; and is a vital part of almost any program designed to restore health. It’s virtually impossible to make lasting improvements in our health without cleansing.

Many professionals teach that we should be cleansing at least 3 times a year. Some people cleanse continuously: on a passive basis, by taking care with the foods they eat – increasing their intake of foods which improve the body’s acid-alkali balance while minimizing sugars and processed foods – or on an active basis, using supplements.

Spring is the natural time for those of us who don’t cleanse continuously to start ridding our bodies of toxins. As the world around us renews itself and puts out sprouts and leaves for the new growth of summer, our bodies are eager to shake off the toxins and waste that we’ve accumulated over the sedentary winter. It’s also now that we start to think about weight loss and looking good in our lighter summer clothes.

Who can benefit from cleansing?

If you have toxins in your body, you will almost certainly feel better after doing a cleanse. How do you know if you’re carrying toxins? If you:

  • eat refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, or processed foods more than once a month
  • consume soft drinks, coffee (even decaf) or low-calorie sugary drinks more than once a month
  • smoke
  • frequently get acne or other skin breakouts
  • have swelling or sensitivity in any part of your body
  • suffer from aches and pains, joint pain or arthritis (buildup of toxins around the joints)
  • feel tired, sluggish or bloated
  • have frequent headaches or migraines
  • weigh more than you used to, or want to lose weight
  • have any chronic condition or a disease which is “incurable,” according to the medical profession
  • experience heart or circulatory difficulties
  • have liver problems
  • have hormone imbalances, including PMS, cramps, or (pre-)menopausal symptoms
  • suffer from IBS or other digestive troubles

Where do toxins come from, and how can I avoid them?

The sources of toxins in our environment are impossible to avoid completely. We can eliminate symptoms and improve the efficacy of any cleanse by making it our practice to minimize our exposure to as many of these as possible.

Toxins in our air: from pollution, smog, car exhaust. Paint fumes. Nail polish and nail polish remover. Commercial cleaning products, laundry detergent, bleach. Air “deodorizers” in cars, public washrooms, and socket plug-ins in homes. Perfumes and fragrances in personal care products, candles, and poor quality incense or essential oils.

Toxins in our water: The government does what it thinks is necessary to remove risks of illness through contaminated water – but in so doing they have created another problem. Our water is contaminated with the things that are used to keep it “clean” of bacteria – and even that isn’t guaranteed. City tap water is not safe to drink on a consistent basis – for your health, you need to use bottled water or a filter which removes the chlorine, fluoride, other chemicals and, ideally, bacteria as well. City pipes are often loaded with rust and heavy metals, since most haven’t been replaced in years – another hazard to those who normally use tap water.

Personal care products are some of the worst sources of toxins – including aluminum compounds in deodorants, chemicals in traditional shampoos, conditioner, soaps, cosmetics, makeup remover, hairspray, etc. Your skin is your largest organ and your body’s secondary site of exchange with the outside world. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin. (And look up what those ingredients actually mean!) There are alternatives to most of these scary commercial products, and it’s worth it to find out what they are.

Undigested food particles: The largest source of toxic buildup according to some experts, undigested food particles are a result of our modified, highly processed, unnatural diet. Bits of food which our bodies cannot completely break down – whether due to a shortage of enzymes or the inherent nature of synthetic, processed food products – are stored in the liver and adipose tissue as fat. These particles also clog the lining of exchange tissues like the membranes of the small intestine, where nutrients are brought into our bloodstream and wastes are released. Improper digestion – and the resulting residue of undigested bits – can clog all your body’s systems and result in waste buildup, eventually leading to disease.

The single best thing you can do for your digestion and to help your body remove these unwanted waste particles is to cleanse. A good way to start is with a high quality enzyme supplement, to assist your digestive system in breaking down foods you ingest during and after the cleanse and any particles stored from previous improper digestion.

It also helps if you increase your intake of naturally enzyme-rich raw foods (enzymes are deformed and stop working once they’ve been heated above 118F) and stop eating the foods which are the most detrimental: refined (white or brown) sugar, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavourings, food dyes, refined wheat flour, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, and anything caffeinated (coffee, chocolate, and black tea all fall into this category, because they vastly stress your kidneys and adrenals). Finally, one of the worst foods for imbalancing the hormones, in both men and women, is soy – tofu and any processed soy products are best used only in moderation if you can’t avoid them completely.


There are several types of cleansing, each suited to different lifestyles and different bodies’ needs. I’m going to summarize some of the many factors and give you a guideline for what to look for in a good cleanse for your system.

Cleansing 1: Dietary Cleanses

Many people choose to cleanse by changing their diet, for a short period or permanently. One of the latest health sensations has been the emphasis on raw foods in our diet – something I’ve been learning more about recently. Typically, a dietary cleanse is the friendliest form of cleanse for your body, but the hardest one to sustain in a busy modern lifestyle.

Most weight loss diets are cleanses of a sort – but they forget to take into account the fact that you need to remove toxins in order to keep weight off. If you don’t get the toxic elements out of your system, your body will redistribute them by regaining the weight you’ve lost in order to buffer these wastes.

A few important pointers, from the perspective of cleansing by improving our diet:

Fruits and vegetables are great for your body – especially raw. They are full of water (most of us are chronically dehydrated – in fact, 90% of headaches can be “cured” by drinking a glass of water) and rich in minerals and vitamins in a form that is easily available for our bodies to absorb and digest. Raw foods are also loaded with the enzymes we need in order to break down our food and process physical toxins. Sufferers of arthritis or chronic pain and stiffness can benefit from boosting their enzyme intake – whether in their food or by taking an enzyme supplement – especially enzymes taken between meals, which will break down the accumulated toxins that are causing the inflammation or pain.

One key point to keep in mind when researching foods and cleanses is the acid-alkali balance of what you eat. In simplest terms, foods which make your body more acidic contribute to mucus, inflammation, and lowered immunity. Foods which make your body more alkali strengthen the immune system and combat the acidity of our normal mainstream diet.

The acid/alkali properties of a food before it is digested don’t necessarily correspond to its value within the human digestive tract – for instance, lemons, high in citric acid, actually have a positive “ash” pH value and make your body more alkaline. In fact, they are one of the best foods for alkalizing and cleansing, and a major part of the well-known Master Cleanse or the “lemon cleanse.”

Sugar, meat, and milk products all have a high acid “ash” pH value (the acid/alkali property of a food after being burned or consumed by the digestive tract). Lemons, most vegetables, and raw nuts and seeds have an alkali “ash.” For charts on these values, refer to http://www.thewolfeclinic.com/acidalkfoods.html and a more detailed explanation of the same values at http://www.rense.com/1.mpicons/acidalka.htm

Cleansing 2: Supplements

If dietary changes just aren’t possible for you in your lifestyle, a more practical way to cleanse is to use a cleansing supplement. Some of these cleanses are easy, and some are difficult. One of the best cleanses I know is easy as pie – 2 ounces of Ningxia Red wolfberry juice, first thing in the morning and in mid-afternoon, with a squirt of fresh lemon juice, to cleanse and rebuild the body.

There are dozens of supplements available, running a wide gamut from helpful and safe to those which are dangerous and will cause toxic reactions. The bulk of these focus on fibre, such as apple pectin or psyllium, along with herbs or vegetable extracts which aid the liver, the main storage site of toxins in a stressed body, to release buildup. I prefer supplements which include therapeutic essential oils to help ease the digestive process.

A good supplement or kit for cleansing will contain (a) enzymes, to help you break down your food and any stored buildup; (b) ingredients which will encourage your liver and other tissues to release stored wastes; (c) fibre and other material to make sure that your body is purging all the toxins that are released (This is essential! Many cleanses work on the liver, without doing absolutely vital work on the colons – and then material dumped by the liver blocks the colon or is reabsorbed, causing toxicity reactions. These are the kinds of cleanses that you’ve been warned about); and (d) nutrients, minerals and vitamins to help your body rebuild what is being purged.

On an ideal cleanse, your body is gently eased into “cleansing mode” – you will not be running to the bathroom all day, and you should feel great!

Note: For those who have asked me recently about cleansing supplements that I recommend – there are several listed on my website http://oilsdragon.younglivingworld.com/MainFrame.asp?BodyFrame=products/ProductCatalog_Main.asp?CategoryCode=CLEANSINGS and at www.youngliving.com which are effective and safe. Please contact me for more information on how to use them or if you’d like my recommendations for your personal “best fit” for cleansing.

Cleansing 3: The Liver, Colon, and More to Know Before You Begin a Cleanse

You think you’re an expert on multi-tasking? You could still stand to learn something on the subject from your liver.

The liver performs literally hundreds of functions, including: processing fats and sugars for storage, processing them again for use when it’s time for those stores to be used, converting and building enzymes and hormones for dozens of functions within the human body, and filtering and sorting wastes and chemicals that could be dangerous from the bloodstream. When your liver is stressed by toxins, its ability to perform important functions – like creating and modulating hormones, the body’s internal signalling mechanism – is compromised.

A stressed liver can be reflected in many ways – skin breakouts and rashes (the body’s attempt to eliminate excess toxins in the faster way possible), headaches, poor elimination via the small intestine and colon, fatigue or problems with eyesight. It can also be a primary cause of weight gain.

Because cleansing the liver is so vital to the inner workings of your body, some cleanses focus on the liver to the exclusion of everything else. These cleanses don’t work. Why? Because your body is an integrated system. In order for wastes to be removed from the liver, they need to be processed by the colon. If your colon isn’t clearing material properly (by which I mean at least 3 bowel movements a day), then any material which is “dumped” by the liver will back up and be reabsorbed, often with unpleasant results.

More sensible cleanses focus on clearing first the colon and digestive system, and then work on the liver. The best cleanses, in my opinion, start gradually and work on both, easing your body into a comprehensive cleansing mode which is much more effective than a cleanse done in bits and parts.

Finally, a factor to consider when cleansing is what your body needs to replace the toxic elements you’ve removed. The body can cling to toxins for several reasons. You may need to do an additional parasite cleanse (parasites can make you crave sweets and processed foods, and bind toxins in your body) or improve your intestinal flora with probiotics like acidophilus, which eliminate harmful bacteria in the digestive tract. Minerals are a good idea after any cleanse, since some needed minerals are elminated along with the wastes we wish to lose.

Cleansing 4: Aids to Easy Cleansing

These are a few recommendations to ease the cleansing process and help you avoid detox symptoms of rapid cleansing. When a cleanse occurs too quickly, toxins that are dumped from the liver can be reabsorbed – also known as incomplete cleansing – causing skin breakouts, headaches, or stomachaches. A cleanse that is properly fitted to your needs should not result in any of these complaints. Even so, there are a few things you can do to help a cleanse along and to minimize problems.

First, watch what you eat. Try to incorporate more lemons and fruits into your diet, while minimizing refined sugars. Fruits are amazing tools for cleansing, while vegetables help build and restore the body’s nutrient needs.

Avoid chemical smells. Perfumes, adulterated poor-quality essential oils, and commerical shampoo fragrances can trigger headaches and allergic reactions at the best of times – and while you’re cleansing, the last thing your body wants is to be exposed to more toxins. Avoid second-hand cigarette smoke as much as you can as well.

If you do experience a reaction, the best thing to treat it is something natural and completely free of additives, ideally something which will assist with the cleanse. Your body doesn’t want the junk additives in pharmaceutical or over-the-counter drugs during a cleanse any more than it wants smoke or synthetic fragrances. Peppermint essential oil (preferrably AFNOR-certified, therapeutic-grade quality) is effective for treating headaches, stomachaches, and any other symptoms that may arise during the cleanse. A drop of lemon or peppermint essential oil in water every morning, and several times throughout the day, will make your cleansing transitions easier and more pleasant. For people who are the most sick or most sensitive (and most therefore in need of a cleanse!) the best way to begin can be as simple as taking lemon oil in water daily for a week or two, to ease their body into cleansing in a very gentle way.

Finally, if you’d like some help with the emotional aspects of cleansing, I recommend a form of energy therapy known as “energy psychology.” Energy psychology can help release emotional ties to foods and to things which may be toxic to us, and can help you cleanse mentally and emotionally even as you cleanse physically. Cleansing can be a transformational experience on many levels, and some form of meditation or internal work would not be amiss while you cleanse.

So, how do I cleanse?

The best advice I can give you comes in three parts:

  1. Start small.
  2. Ask for advice if you need it.
  3. Pay attention to what your body tells you once you start.

For More Information

For information on cleansing in general and the Master Cleanse in particular, see Stanley Burrough’s classic, Healing for the Age of Enlightenment.

For information on the ingredients in your personal care products, I recommend the booklet Rub a Dub, Dub: Is Cancer in your Tub? which is available from Essential Science Publishing (E.S.P.).

A chart of acid/alkali “ash” food values is available in The Essential Oils Desk Reference (E.S.P.) and at http://www.thewolfeclinic.com/acidalkfoods.html

For an introduction to raw foods for health and weight loss, I recommend Eating in the Raw by Carol Alt and The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose. The latter is especially useful for beginners to healthy eating, and is full of small changes and transition steps to take towards a healthier diet.

For more information on energy psychology, please visit http://www.energypsych.com and http://www.emofree.com A list of certified practitioners is available at http://www.energypsych.com/Content/certpract-map.htm

As usual, feel free to contact me with any comments or suggestions.

Image credit: Trevor Leyenhorst