To Cleanse or Not to Cleanse?

Break in the New Year by Giving Your Body a Break

Wednesday, January 2, 2013
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If this holiday season had you leaving no soirée unattended, no appetizer un-tasted, no glass half full, I’ve got a kettlebell that says your New Year’s resolution has something to do with getting healthy. And, while party season’s greatest dilemmas might be crab cake or mini quiche, cookie or fudge, red, white, or sparkling, I’m thinking those questions have faded from memory like that box of See’s, empty save for the lone (and somewhat suspect) nut or chew, and have been replaced with another: to cleanse or not to cleanse?

The fact is, according to Santa Barbara’s Melissa Costello, culinary nutritionist, wellness coach, creator of the “Vital Life Cleanse,” and author of The Karma Chow Ultimate Cookbook, “It’s important to give our body a break from daily toxins and processed foods. The body has its own natural ability to cleanse, but that can become compromised by daily living and over-ingestion of sugar, salt, fatty foods, alcohol, and caffeine.” (Hi, entire month of December!) “Cleansing allows the body to reset itself so it can work as it’s meant to.”

If the thought of giving up that stuff has you feeling anxious (and suddenly considering polishing off that last piece of chocolate, despite knowing full well it’s probably a Scotchmallow or something similarly not worth it), consider: Not all cleanses are alike; not all of them deal solely in deprivation (or cayenne-spiked lemon water). In fact, many nutritionists advocate food-based cleanses, which will have you eating plenty of healthy, nourishing, whole foods, keeping you satiated — and probably introducing you to some delicious new edibles — while still giving your body a break.

At Alchemy Arts Center — S.B.’s mecca for all things wellness — cleansing gets even simpler: Alchemy offers four annual “Earth Season Cleanses,” group cleanses that include community treatments and classes in addition to seven or 14 days’ worth of food, timed to happen mid-season (the next one starts mid-January). If that’s not your thing, or if the mood strikes at pretty much any other time of the year, Alchemy is available to do the thinking for you — they’ll prepare all the food and drinks you’ll need; you just have to get down there once a day to pick up your basket of healthy goodness, packed full of the drinks, elixirs, and food that appear on Alchemy’s regular café menu.

If even that sounds too intense, Costello said, “Practice adding more whole foods into [your] diet through baby steps. Add one new food a week, and remove one unhealthy food or drink. I also use what I call ‘food upgrading,’ where you find a healthier version of one of your everyday favorite foods; baked sweet potato fries instead of french fries, whole grain sprouted bread instead of white bread, and so on,” she said. And even this vegan maintains there’s no need to forgo meat completely. “My philosophy is to eat a mostly plant-based diet (veggies, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds) with small amounts of high-quality animal protein.”

If you do go the cleanse route, you’ll be eliminating alcohol, refined sugars, wheat, processed foods, meat, pesticides, most dairy, and caffeine (sigh). And it’s not uncommon to go through a bit of withdrawal. Although that stuff is tough on the body — specifically the liver, stomach, intestines, and kidneys — initially, detoxing from it can leave you feeling “heavy, low-energy, or emotional,” said Eric Baumgartner, program director at Alchemy. The good news is that generally only lasts a couple of days. And then, it’s all benefits: Baumgarter said you can expect more energy, better skin, better digestion, reduced inflammation, lower cholesterol, better sleep, and better focus. Not to mention a better understanding of how to eat. And cleansing your body might just be the kickstart you need to cleanse other areas of your life.

As Emma Narachi, Alchemy’s founder and owner, said, over a cold-brewed coffee (less acidic that way) mellowed with house-made almond milk, “Sometimes we can get stuck in our life, so it’s a good idea to cleanse all the accumulated waste.” She’s talking about the relationship between our diets and our lives, and how making a big change in the realm of nutrition can lead to other big changes. Put another way, Narachi believes that getting your bodily house in order might just inspire you to get your actual house in order. “First, you have the desire to change, the imagination. Then nutrition is our next step. There’s that releasing of old baggage, not only physically, but emotionally, too. As that happens, our thinking shifts … to a ‘can-do’ attitude.”

“People just kind of wake up,” Baumgartner added, “feel like a different person, like themselves, maybe for the first time in a long time.”

Sounds pretty delicious, doesn’t it?


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Oy, it never ends. Follow the money.

Oblati (anonymous profile)
January 2, 2013 at 5:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I can't imagine giving up on life like that.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 2, 2013 at 7:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

There are jobs, and there are jobs. Each to their own; people make a living at what interests them. I say, good job. And I have seen too many succumb or become diseased because of unhealthy eating/drinking. I applaud attempts to change that.

tabatha (anonymous profile)
January 6, 2013 at 7 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I have seen diss-ease from unhealthy thinking. Superstitious beliefs in junk science magic totems and magic rituals is but one example of unhealthy thinking.

Oblati (anonymous profile)
January 6, 2013 at 10:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"Superstitious beliefs in junk science magic totems and magic rituals is but one example of unhealthy thinking."

I agree, Obati.

Based on your advice, why did you post this rather pious christian bible reference here?
"2 Thessalonians 10"

Chester_Arthur_Burnett (anonymous profile)
January 6, 2013 at 10:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Geeezzz....People, people: Good eating equals good life. For 50 years I've been hearing people say you are what you eat. I some times wonder what commenters are ingesting....

restrada_2001 (anonymous profile)
January 6, 2013 at 2 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I guess it depends on if you consider food one of the natural pleasures of life or just a means of ingesting calories and nutrients.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 6, 2013 at 2:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This isn't talking about eating; this is talking about purging. Dubious in theory at best; junk science sold to the gullible in practice at the worst.

Oblati (anonymous profile)
January 6, 2013 at 4:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

do we eat to live or do we live to eat? That's the question, all 'junk science magic rituals' criticisms to the side.
Tabatha you hit it on the head... I do enjoy eating and the epicurean pleasures are fine, in moderation, a small glass of vino... but essentially I do partake of food in order to live more fully, more intensely, I eat so I can do my job better and enjoy family and friends and music...etc. Balance, eh?
Living several years in Europe, it does seem like much of our food isn't the best,although much cheaper than over there.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
January 7, 2013 at 5:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Coming off a caffeine addiction can take several very unpleasant days.
But more importantly, why would anyone want to?

But if the author here is allegedly vegan but eats mean anyway, what if anything here should be believe?

Food certainly can be healthier, but stuff like this is more religious or spiritual rather than any form of science, junk or not.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
January 7, 2013 at 9:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The reporter may have branded Costello a "vegan."

From the article:
"And even this vegan maintains there’s no need to forgo meat completely. “My philosophy is to eat a mostly plant-based diet (veggies, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds) with small amounts of high-quality animal protein.”

Because as you pointed out John_Adams, only a hypocrite or charlatan would use the very specific term vegan while chomping down meat.

That said, the program is less "purging" as Oblati asserts, and more "replacement." Overall it seems a sensible program which may provide benefit to those with over-sweet, fatty, and process-food diets.

Not to be confused with the hokum and potential harm associated with the fasting, purging, and cleansing regimes often found in the various fuzzy-thought food-cliques in Santa Barbara.

Chester_Arthur_Burnett (anonymous profile)
January 7, 2013 at 11:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I always thought that building looked like something Rasputin would live in.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 7, 2013 at 1:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Guess what. When food finally is broken down by the digestive process it becomes merely simple molecules that can pass the intestinal barriers into the blood stream.

Think about how an orange gets into your blood stream to do what it needs to do elsewhere in your body. It gets broken down biochemically into very simple sugars(along with its other nutrients), pretty much the same as a See's scotch mallow.

The body does not know the source of the simple sugars, just that they are the simple molecules that can pass into the blood stream. It doesn't know if it started out as a McDonald's apple tart or a chunk of organic dried mango, once it all gets down to a molecular level.

There are no toxic foods. They would kill you outright if they were in fact toxic. But there are "toxic" quantities of normal foods. That is a human problem; not a food problem.

One gets ahead of the game promising not to over-eat; not by committing to under-eating. Or paying someone to tell you what you just learned here for free.

Oblati (anonymous profile)
January 7, 2013 at 2:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Didn't we just read about a juice that doesn't need to be digested :?
If you're gonna brings Sees Candies into the discussion Oblati, I hope you brought enough for everyone.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 7, 2013 at 4:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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