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Home > Healthy Living > Cleansing Diet

By Stacelynn Caughlan, Cl.N, CH

The Need for Detoxification

Every day our bodies are both nourished and challenged by the substances in our food, air and water. Our bodies must become very proficient at utilizing the nutrients and eliminating the toxins. Unfortunately this elimination process can become overwhelmed by the multitude of toxic substances in our environment. With our help, however, we can allow our bodies a much needed break through a detoxifying or cleansing diet.

The concept of detoxification is a very ancient one. Fasting has been noted in history for many centuries. A true fast differs from the type of cleanse outlined here. In a true fast, only water is consumed over a period of time, usually a few days. Many health professionals now embrace this term to also include juice ‘diets’ or juice ‘fasts’.

Cleanses are normally done once or twice a year, usually in the spring and again in the fall. Healthy living during the rest of our modern day lives (pollution, poor eating, chemicals, etc.) these toxins move inward, causing a multitude of illnesses.

The physical and emotional benefits of cleansing will vary from person to person, depending on the current levels of toxins and capabilities of the elimination channels. Normally one will experience an initial discomfort when they begin a cleanse, followed by a feeling of physical and emotional euphoria. After completion most people will find they have more energy, their skin and hair is healthier, and their digestion is improved. Often minor blood sugar imbalances and weight problems will improve.

Who should follow a cleansing diet?

An unsupervised cleansing diet is ideal for individuals are in relative good health and wish to maintain or improve how they feel. Individuals who are ill or experience chronic health problems are best to consult with a health professional to discuss any special considerations. The Spring cleanse will help bring the body out of it’s natural ‘hibernation’ state and prepare it for a summer of increased activity, fresh air, and an abundance of fresh foods. A Fall cleanse will help the body cope with the winter ahead which is typically spent indoors with little activity and poorer quality foods.

Additional ideal times to cleanse include the preconception period for both men women. Women who are planning pregnancy should be aware of the importance of a healthy and toxin free body. Men with a healthier body produce healthier and more abundant sperm. Individuals experiencing fertility problems may find that a cleanse helps clean and prepare the body for conception.

Premenstrual difficulties can often be averted with a light diet the week prior to menstruation. Allergy sufferers can also use this cleanse to asses potential food allergies and overcome seasonal reactions. People overcoming addictions such as tobacco, sugar, caffeine, or alcohol can benefit from a detoxifying cleanse. Withdrawal symptoms can diminish by reducing the amount of regenerative work the body needs to accomplish.

Who Should Not Follow This Cleanse?

As stated previously, it would not be appropriate for anyone other than a healthy individual to follow this diet without supervision. Someone with prior deficiencies and general weakness are at risk of worsening their condition. Strengthening and building should be the approach in these situations. Individuals who are underweight, suffer from extreme fatigue, experience coldness, have a heart condition, or are anticipating or recovering from surgery should delay a cleanse until their health issues have been addressed.

Women who are pregnant or lactating should also be cautious about cleansing. Although a light diet may help some women through difficult periods, nutritional needs far outweigh what can be provided on this cleansing diet.

Where and How?

Some people are experienced enough with cleanses that life continues normally for them. Others (especially those who are also giving up caffeine etc.) find that they want to plan for the worst by allowing plenty of freedom and time to themselves. You may want to start Stage Three on a weekend or a day that you do not need to work or worry about responsibilities. The third day of this stage brings a type of euphoria for some people, and although you shouldn’t plan a marathon, you may find that you are very productive. Make sure the people around you understand and respect the choice you’ve made. You may be exceptionally irritable or fatigued on the first couple of days and they will need to be prepared for this. See your doctor if necessary.

It is vital that all stages of this program be followed. Avoiding the proper beginning and end stages of a cleanse can be very harmful to the body. It is important that the body not be shocked by introducing a stage without preparation. If you have never done a cleanse before, plan a short one in order to become accustomed to it. Decide beforehand exactly how many days you are going to do your cleanse and stick to it. Some people find that once they’ve started they don’t want to discontinue. Plan ahead for this.

Stage One (3 days)

Eat the Optimal Diet (see below) if you are not already.

Stage Two (3-7 days)

  • Start each day with the "Master Cleanser"
    2 Tbls. lemon juice
    2 Tbls. maple syrup
    1/10 tsp. cayenne
    1 cup pure water
  • Eat only fresh organic fruits and vegetables. Try to be consuming as much variety as possible by including as many ‘colours’ as you can. Near the end of this stage you should be eating only raw foods including plenty of leafy green salads. Examples of what’s encouraged: Carrots, broccoli, romaine lettuce, yams, apples, oranges, bananas, avocados, strawberries, grapes, kale, tomatoes - be creative.
  • Drink at least 8 cups of clean filtered water.

Stage Three (3-7 days)

  • Start the day with the "Master Cleanser"
  • Fresh organic fruit and vegetable juices and plain vegetable broths can be taken freely. Your vegetable broth should be unsalted and seasoned only with miso, light herbs, garlic, ginger, and cayenne. A great juice combination to try is carrot/beet/apple.
  • A daily shake made with fruit juice, 2 tablespoons of psyllium husks (for fibre and cleansing), powdered spirulina or other ‘green’ powder (for protein and chlorophyll), powdered vitamin C (1000mg), and one teaspoon of bee pollen.
  • 6 capsules of probiotics or follow the instruction on the label (for healthy intestinal flora)
  • One half cup of aloe vera juice (for colon cleansing)
  • Drink up to 10 cups of water

Stage Four (2-4 days)

  • Follow stage two instructions

Stage Five (Life)

  • Follow the Optimal diet


  1. Eat small meals regularly throughout the day rather than 3 large ones. This helps keep your energy and blood sugar level, and helps you avoid overeating at mealtime.
  2. Reduce your total fat intake, especially saturated fat. Learn which foods are high in fat and eat them in moderation.
  3. Include sources of essential fatty acids in your diet every day.
  4. Increase your whole grain consumption . Avoid refined 'white flours' - this includes pastas, crackers. and breads.
  5. Increase fruit and vegetable consumption, eating what is in season and fresh. Aim for 6-10 servings a day.
  6. Reduce animal products. A reduction leaves room in your diet for healthy, life-giving fruits, vegetables, and grains. Choose deep-sea fishes over other animal protein.
  7. Minimize sugar consumption, especially white sugar (sucrose).
  8. Avoid processed foods. Read labels carefully to identify additives, and buy fresh and natural whenever possible.
  9. Drink at least 8 glasses of water or non-caffeine herbal teas. Coffee and soft drinks don't count.
  10. Increase fibre by including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes like apples, oranges, potatoes, broccoli, beans, etc.
  11. Avoid eating the same foods daily, particularly wheat, dairy, and citrus. Sensitivity may develop from frequent exposure. Learn to rotate foods.
  12. Take a good multi vitamin and mineral supplement daily in addition to a good diet, not in place of one.
Stacelynn Caughlan is a Clinical Nutritionist and Certified Herbalist who specializes in Prenatal and Pediatric Health.

Disclaimer: The information provided on is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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