Is there a better time for a wellness cleanse than right smack dab in the middle of midlife? I think not. That’s how I started out my new year. And you might be surprised at what I learned.
But first, let me confess that this was my Very. First. Cleanse.
Yep. Hard to believe. When my dad died twenty-eight years ago of a massive heart attack at the age of fifty-four, I went on a quest for better health. That’s how I’ve wound up right here in midlife at the age of fifty-six, living a plant-based lifestyle where I’m more active now than I was in my twenties.
It’s not that I wasn’t aware of cleanses. I’ve had many friends talk about the benefits. But I’ve refined my lifestyle to clean living. Honestly, I didn’t understand much about them. And they just didn’t sound all that appealing. How could it be THAT different from what I was already doing?
It’s not a secret I’m not a big fan of western medicine. I believe doctors are trained to write prescriptions, and I’m just not into that line of thinking. I don’t believe a pill solves anything. Getting to the root cause can help me make BIG changes in my life with long-lasting results.
So I look for health professionals that support my way of thinking. Needless to say, I don’t fit in very well with the standard practices covered by health insurance. I have my health insurance for emergencies only. Everything else I search out like-minded professionals who can help me on my journey.
Late last year, I found a functional health company called EquiLife that does things differently. They have a variety of wellness labs that can dig deeper into your health. I promptly ordered two – a Vitamin D test, and an Omega-3 and Inflammation test. I talk more about my experience with the Vitamin D test here.
As a part of the test, you get a 30 minute consultation with a wellness professional. That alone was worth the fee.
For thirty minutes, I spoke with a woman filled with ideas on ways to tweak what was revealed through my test results.
Yes! That’s just what I wanted!
I changed out my supplementation. I ordered a few new items. Changed how many I’m taking of others.
But towards the end of the call, she made another recommendation of a detox cleanse.
Okay. Bite the bullet. I’m in.
I ordered up their 7 day detox cleanse. And I waited until the first week of January to dive in.
What is a detox cleanse?
The Oxford dictionary defines a cleanse as: a process during which a person attempts to rid the body of substances regarded as toxic or unhealthy, typically by consuming only water or other liquids.
That’s probably why I never bothered.
I’m already plant-based, and eat pretty well. But I know one thing about myself – I CANNOT live without nourishment. No way, no how. I get a headache if I don’t eat at fairly regular consistency. (Plus I also turn into a raging diva, but that may be TMI. If you witness it, lead me to food immediately.)
But fasting isn’t the same as cleansing. I consider the above definition to be more of a fast. And I definitely didn’t want that.
Cleanses are growing in demand to stay on top of your health. That’s all I needed to learn to get on board. Most people are overloaded with toxins we get from a variety of sources.
You might even hear these referred to as endotoxins, they are hazardous compounds produced by your body. They include excess hormones, free radicals, bacteria, and yeast are all common internal toxins. As these accumulate, they can ramp up inflammation that can lead to all kinds of problems.
Also referred to as environmental toxins, they live in the bodies after being introduced from the environment. Think pesticides, herbicides, chemicals, heavy metals, mold, prescription medicine, over-the-counter drugs. All of these can build up in your system over time.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could just avoid these altogether? Not possible. Over the last 60 years, more than 85,000 industrial chemicals have been introduced into the world, and we’re impacted by them all. Hello, PFAS, I’m looking at you. PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they never break down and will forever be present in the human body. They can enter by seeping into groundwater, be in the air we breathe, even be in the materials we use to create our homes. That means they’re also on the dishes we use to cook with, and even the foods we eat.
Just a note: Do a search and you’ll discover detox and cleanse are two separate things, though are often used interchangeably. A detox is more comprehensive than a cleanse. Detoxing focuses in on reducing toxins, improving overall health, and weight loss. Cleansing focuses more on daily gut health, improving digestion, and giving you the support you need for basic nutrients.
What does detox cleansing do?
Did you catch the fact that the majority of these chemicals have been released over the past 60 years? That’s what makes us right here in midlife an incredible science experiment. And are we ever seeing the results!
- Stress increases the risk of heart disease by 40 percent.
- Heart disease kills 18 million people each year.
- One in two women will develop cancer in their lifetime.
- Chronic pain is at epidemic levels.
- Someone in the US develops Alzheimer’s every 66 seconds.
- Up to 50 million people in the US suffer from autoimmune diseases.
- Around 70 million people in the US are affected by digestive issues.
What are the benefits of detox cleansing?
It strengthens the immune system. And if we’ve learned anything these first two years of the 2020s, it’s that our immune systems are vitally important. Long-term exposure to toxins leads to inflammation. Cleansing the body of toxins can strengthen the immune system.
It supports vital organs. Skin, liver, kidneys, nervous system, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system – they all can be impacted by inflammation. Cleansing gives the support each system needs to reverse potential problems.
It improves gut health. Gut health is THE topic on everyone’s minds these days. When your gut microbiome is out of whack, it can lead to numerous health issues. Cleansing gives the gastrointestinal tract a chance to rest and heal.
It slows the effects of aging. Hey, everyone moving through perimenopause into menopause and beyond. This alone is a reason to give it a try. Toxins can impact the effects aging has on the body. It’s time to give it a rest.
It can help with weight loss. As I was taking part in my 7 day detox, a lot of people in the community were talking about the potential of weight loss. It wasn’t on my list of desires, but a lot of people have had great results. That’s because toxins can negatively impact your metabolism too.
It can help you build a new habit. I’m a relatively good eater. But I have a few things I was trying to reduce. I ate organic corn chips a bit too often. I can’t help it; I love Mexican food, and chips and salsa just taste great. I also love a good crunch. But I really wanted to reduce my habit. This gave me a chance to go 7 days without it. I did it! I survived it! And I’m already vested in new habits.
Are you onboard?
That’s why I decided to do a detox cleanse right here at midlife, at the beginning of the year
You can’t just jump in. It’s a mindset thing. You have to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for what you’re about to begin.
I was the only one in my household doing it. It took willpower as they ate differently. I had to prepare myself for what I would experience along the way.
Here are the biggest a-ha moments from my 7 day detox cleanse:
- I felt better at the end! Isn’t that why we all do this in the first place? But it worked. I did!
- I reprogrammed the way I think about lunch. I’ve been a leftovers and chips person for too long. I learned just how easy it was to produce fresh meals at both lunch and dinner. (I knew this. I’ve done it before. But this helped me re-establish the habit.)
- I haven’t seen much of this anywhere online, but my teeth felt better. Like straight-out-of-the-dentist-after-a-cleaning better.
- My fingers no longer click when I rise in the morning. As a writer, I pound out more than a million words a year. I’ve noticed a clicking noise lately during my morning stretching routine. But by the end of the cleanse, no clicking. And I haven’t changed my writing habit. (This post is evidence of that.)
- I lost weight. Not a ton. But enough for me to tell my clothes fit differently.
- I slept VERY WELL!
I’ve got a gift for you!
I know from networking with all the other community members cleansing at the same time as me that the number one question on people’s minds as they moved into their first meals was: What should I cook?
In this detox, we combined nutritional support shakes with lunches and dinners. For a 7 day detox cleanse, that meant 5 lunches, 5 dinners, and all were limited to specific proteins and vegetables. (One cup of protein and two cups of vegetables per meal.)
EquiLife’s detox comes with a can of Daily Nutritional Support (chocolate shakes), and two separate bottles of detox formula supplements. For the 7 day detox cleanse, here’s what I did:
Four times per day, a detox shake, plus supplements both morning and night.
Four times per day, a detox shake, plus supplements both morning and night.
Days three through five were a bit different. You adhere to two shakes per day – one at 8am and one at 3pm. Then you incorporate health lunches and dinners into the plan. Behind the scenes, we posted photos of what we were eating. I thought I’d show you too!
And just in case you’re curious, I’ve included the recipes too.
I have a download of it in case you’re interested in a cleanse – or if you just want some very simple plant-based recipes to eat lighter for a few days.
1 cup kale, chopped
2 tablespoons avocado
½ cup yellow pepper, chopped
½ cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
¾ cup canned organic chickpeas, rinsed
Use your hands to massage avocado into kale. Place in a bowl or plate. Top with pepper, tomatoes, and chickpeas. Enjoy!
1 medium sweet potato
¾ cup canned organic black beans, heated
½ cup red cabbage, chopped
½ cup pico de gallo, or fresh salsa
2 tablespoons avocado
- Clean sweet potato and place it on a baking tray. Poke with a fork several times for venting. Bake in a 425 Fahrenheit oven 45 to 60 minutes, or until tender.
- Add red cabbage to a bowl and toss with a dash of lime juice.
- Slice sweet potato in half. Fill with black beans, cabbage, and top with salsa and avocado.
½ cup onion, chopped
½ carrots, chopped
½ celery, chopped
½ diced tomatoes
? cup dry lentils
2 cups veggie broth
½ teaspoon each ground cumin, coriander, smoked paprika
- Heat a tablespoon of veggie broth over medium heat in a pot. Add onions, carrots, celery. Cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, veggie broth, lentils, and spices. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer for 20 minutes, until lentils are tender.
1 block extra-firm tofu
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
- Cut the tofu into block-sized pieces.
- In a bowl or bag, combine all other ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Add the tofu and seal tightly. Marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes or longer. The longer you let it soak up the flavors, the better it will be.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tofu on parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes.
- Flip, and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until crispy.
- Serve with steamed veggies.
1 cup mixed greens (kale, spinach, arugula, etc)
½ cup cucumber, sliced
½ cup radishes, sliced
1 cup chickpeas
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon hemp hearts
- Mix the olive oil and lemon juice at the bottom of a bowl. Add 1 cup mixed greens and toss. Arrange on serving plate.
- Place 1 cup chickpeas in the middle. Arrange cucumber and radishes alongside.
- Sprinkle hemp hearts on top. Enjoy!
1 cup extra-firm tofu, crumbled
½ cup spinach, chopped
½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
½ teaspoon each cumin, turmeric, garlic powder, chili powder
Handful of green beans
Salt and pepper to taste
- Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat on medium. Add tofu and heat thoroughly, about 5 minutes, crumbling it further into scrambled egg consistency. Add spices and thoroughly mix.
- Mix in spinach until wilted.
- Turn off heat and stir in tomatoes.
- Heat a teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add green beans and toss constantly until a deep green color comes out, 1 to 2 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Plate, and enjoy!
1 cup tofu (I use what’s left over from day 4 dinner)
1 cup mushrooms, chopped ( I use portabella)
1 baby bok choy, white part chopped
¼ cup peas
2 cups veggie broth
- With scant amount of olive oil, saute mushrooms until they release their water.
- Add bok choy and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add veggie broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Add peas and tofu, and let simmer for 5 minutes.
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large celery stalk, chopped
15 oz can organic diced tomatoes
4 cups veggie broth
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch kale, stems removed, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
- Use a tablespoon or two of veggie broth and heat the soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery, and saute for 5 to 7 minutes or until soft.
- Add tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, and thyme, stirring to combine. Bring to a simmer and boil for 20 minutes. Stir in kale for the last 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and remove bay leaf. Salt and pepper as desired. Enjoy!
- I made a big pot of this to use as leftovers. Yum!
Leftover white bean soup from day 6.
Romaine lettuce leaves
1 block tofu
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
½ cup finely chopped water chestnuts
½ cup shredded carrots
- Press tofu for a few minutes to release some of the water. Using a fork, break apart tofu to resemble scrambled eggs.
- Heat pan over medium heat. Add tofu and heat for 5 minutes until moisture starts disappearing. Stir often.
- Add in mushrooms and water chestnuts and combine. Heat thoroughly and stir until mushrooms release water and chestnuts are tender. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Wash and dry individual romaine lettuce leaves and arrange on a plate. Spoon ½ to ? cup tofu mixture onto each leaf, depending on leaf size. Sprinkle shredded carrots over the top.
Have you done cleanses in the past? Are you curious enough to try one now? I’d love to hear your stories.