Soooo... one week in and I've already wanted to pack the whole thing in numerous times (namely when my mean husband has made delicious smelling coffee or ordered our favourite Indian take away while I'm munching away on a salad - I know!) Anyway, I haven't, and I'm glad. Only a third of the way in and I have learned a LOT, and I'd like to share those lessons with you.
A lot of people are still asking me why I'm doing this cleanse. One reason is to better understand my body and how I respond to certain foods. By taking out the main toxic triggers (allergens) from my diet (gluten, dairy, added sugar, alcohol, caffeine, soy and corn), I'm eating 100% 'clean'. This means when I introduce those potential triggers back in after 21 days, I'll know if any of them are problematic for me.
This part of the cleanse is based on an elimination diet and is a great way to identify the culprits of things like heart burn, wind, constipation, fatigue, nausea, brain fog, depression, muscle and joint pain, and many other symptoms that can occur from a food intolerance. By eating this way for 3 weeks, I'm also giving my digestive system the rest in needs to do the job it was built for.
After just 7 days I've noticed a lot about how my body works, what it likes and doesn't like, as well as having formed some quite strong opinions on the cleanse programme itself, so here they are.
3 Lessons from Week One of My First 21 Day Cleanse
1. NOT ALL CLEANSES ARE CREATED EQUAL
The two main cleanse programmes I've been researching are Clean Gut by Dr. Alejandro Junger, and Be Well Cleanse by Dr. Frank Lipman. Both are based on the functional medicine elimination diet, and the objectives of both are to:
- Remove toxins from your body
- Identify toxic triggers for you
- Remove the bad bacteria in your gut
- Increase the good bacteria in your gut
- Give you the tools you need to embark on a cleaner, healthier way of eating
There are however quite a few differences between the two. I've given you the links above so you can check them out for yourself, as it's important to choose a detox programme that you think will work for you.
The main differences I've seen are that one suggests three shakes (liquid meals) a day with a light lunch and dinner, and the other suggests two shakes a day with a large meal at lunch time. They also have different supplement recommendations (a big part of both cleanse programmes), and seem to have different lists of foods that you can and cannot eat, which brings me onto point 2...
2. THERE'S A LOT OF CONFLICTING INFORMATION OUT THERE
Having spent a whole week following a 'cleanse friendly diet', I'm still confused as to what I can and cannot eat! I'm still coming across conflicting information so it's not making life easy to say the least!
An example of this is that in the book it says:
- You can eat tomatoes, red peppers and aubergines
- You can eat red meat (organic grass fed only)
- You can eat eggs
- Only eat quinoa (no other grains, beans or legumes)
- Do not eat any dried fruit, and the only sweeteners you should use are stevia or xylitol
Whereas on the website it says:
- Don't eat tomatoes, red peppers and aubergines because they're nightshade vegetables which cause sensitivity in some people
- Don't eat red meat at all because it's highly acidic and puts a strain on all your organs, particularly your detox organs
- Don't eat eggs
- You can eat brown rice, quinoa, beans, legumes and lentils
- You can eat date paste and coconut nectar as sweeteners
Confused or what?! Yup, me too! I need to decide which approach I'm going to carry on with for week 2 - and I'll be sure to let you know of course! - but my lesson here is try not to freak out when you come across all of this conflicting information, as you inevitably will. Just try to focus on your goals for the detox and the main principles the programme you've chosen has suggested you follow.
3. DOING A CLEANSE IS NOT EASY!
Of course I knew it wouldn't be plain sailing. But I didn't realise quite HOW MUCH I relied on certain foods. I kept telling myself I didn't need or even want a hot cup of English breakfast tea on the weekend all snuggled up in bed with my two favourite boys (BUT I REEEEAALLY DID!), and that having store-bought (ie quick and easy) organic hummous with my cleanse friendly crudités (chopped veg) was way over rated (when in actual fact I just wanted to bury my face in it!).
7 days in though and I've now realised that the first week of a detox is very much a 'settling in' period. You may have a few slip ups (picking up the cheese your child throws on the floor and casually popping it into your mouth like you usually do, or enjoying your cleanse friendly beetroot dip and then realising beetroot is on the no go list.. doh!) But that's ok! I mean you're learning a LOT of new rules and it can take time.
4. READ THE LABELS ON EVERYTHING
Now I tend to do this anyway, but was so surprised this week when I popped into the supermarket to grab something quick and easy for lunch, when I picked up a packet of roast turkey. I mean surely this was just turkey right? Wrong! I can't remember what the other ingredients were as I was so shocked that it had SUGAR on the ingredients list! Why on earth would turkey have sugar in it?! Ok maybe that cheap 100-slices-in-a-pack type of turkey, but not that expensive Waitrose own, hand carved, oh-don't-I-look-so-home-cooked type of turkey?
Added sugar is absolutely everywhere. So make sure if you're buying anything other than fresh organic whole foods - whether during a cleanse or not - ALWAYS read the label.
5. SUPPLEMENTS: A NECESSARY EVIL?
Both cleanses I looked into had their own special pre-packaged supplements you could buy. For a whopping price tag I might add! Now I'm not saying they're not worth buying. In fact in some ways I wish I'd made life easier and just paid for them so I didn't have to research each supplement and decide which was the best one for me! But I didn't.
The supplements market is an absolute minefield! Even going into my local health food store 'As Nature Intended' was tricky. The staff there are incredibly knowledgeable, but when they gave me a 'recommended' supplement and I looked at the ingredients list, there were a ton of unnecessary additives in there such as bulking agents, sugars and preservatives. There certainly are supplement brands you can buy that don't include all the crap, but it does take a lot of research and effort to figure it all out. In fact even some of the ones I bought aren't as clean as I'd like them to be and next time around I wouldn't buy that brand; Solgar being one of them.
The supplements I'm taking for my cleanse are:
- Multi-strain probiotic
- Saccharomyces boullardii
- Complex B vitamins
- Digestive enzymes
There are two others suggested on the Clean Gut supplement recommendations, but I have already spent a lot of money (around £100), and decided that these would be enough to support my first cleanse! I'm also adding pea protein to my shakes to try and keep me fuller for longer.
The document I've given you the link for above outlines why each supplement is recommended, brands you can rely on (although these are all US based) and how to take them, so is pretty useful.
So yes, this week has been a steep learning curve to say the least! But, I'm feeling good and am looking forward to what week 2 has in store.