New Year Cleanse: How to reset your hormones and detox your body.
How can a new year’s cleanse help me get my health back on track?
Doing a cleanse in the new year has many possible health benefits: it can help reset your hormones, detox your body after the holidays, decrease inflammation and combat chronic disease. There are many ways to set up a cleanse that works for your life and your health goals.
It’s the new year! New things help us to re-focus and start or re-start our routines. Whether you like or loathe New Year’s Resolutions (I call them New Year’s Intentions), it is undeniably a good time to make a change. Human beings do really well with symbolism and having a significant date can be a good thing, even though new year’s resolutions are something of a cliché. So regardless of your resolutions, or lack thereof, we are going to explore how and why to do a new year’s cleanse to detox from the holidays, kickstart your health journey, reset your hormones or establish healthier habits.
Just as there are many reasons to do a cleanse, there are many ways to do one as well. Remember, though I am a doctor, I am not your doctor and I highly encourage you to work with a qualified healthcare professional before doing a cleanse or starting a new routine. This article is just a jumping-off point to provide information, ideas and inspiration.
A cleanse can be as basic or as involved as you want and each variation will provide different benefits. A few times a year, I will do a 1 day fast where I only drink water. This is both simple and short so it is easy to fit into any busy schedule. It helps to give my gut a “day off” to rest, is part of many spiritual traditions and is generally very safe to do. For the new year (meaning sometime in January), I try to do a more complex cleanse lasting 2-3 weeks to reset after the holidays (granted I am skipping it this year because I am pregnant).
Basic cleanse tenets: decide what you are avoiding, decide what you are adding, pick a time frame and ideally involve an accountability buddy or even a cleanse partner. The classic “elimination diet cleanse” involves avoiding common allergens or inflammatory foods: wheat, dairy, alcohol, sugar, fast food, fried foods, pork, soda pop and processed food. It is the sort of “Whole 30” approach. Eat whole foods for a period of time and allow your body to heal. This can be done with food alone or combined with supplements to support the body’s natural detox/clearance pathways and/or additional actions such as exercise, saunas, contrast showers, colonics and massage.
A cleanse of any length can be effective and working with your healthcare provider can help determine how long would be optimal for your individual circumstances. The longer you go, the more you will reset your body and the greater potential benefit. But aiming for too long may set you up for failure and not truly be necessary. Anything between 2-4 weeks is usually a reasonable time frame. I believe it is important for humans to have a pre-determined length so that the end is in sight when it gets hard to stick to the plan (which it will). You also want to consider having several days to gradually transition foods back into your diet so you can assess the individual impact of foods you have been avoiding. This also gets tough if you are on a cleanse for too long. If you go back to all your old eating habits at once, it is harder to distinguish what has the most impact on your health.
So, you build a cleanse that is targeted for your body and your health goals. You have clear parameters and a time frame. But why exactly are you cleansing in the first place? Well, by January, most of us have had a month or two of special indulgences. Office Christmas party, honey-baked ham, holiday-themed cocktails, cookies, hot cocoa, large family meals with second helpings. You get the picture. A cleanse helps us get back to a clean slate, it is a way to get in touch with what a state of vibrant health feels like and “get back on the wagon” in regards to our healthy habits. It can calm inflammation in the body, reset hormones and reverse the progression of chronic disease more quickly than piecemeal measures. Oftentimes we try to keep the bulk of our lives the same with minor additions or subtractions and then we expect dramatic results. But the truth is that usually drastic action is required to see a very noticeable difference. So rather than taking a liver support supplement for a month or eliminating soda from your diet, a cleanse puts us radically into a state of compliance with good health habits. Then you can re-introduce certain foods and determine which you want to avoid or limit on a longer-term basis. A cleanse gives you specific information about your body and your health which is very valuable.
One final note about cleanses and weight loss. While you may lose a few pounds on a cleanse, it is not designed primary for weight loss. Sustainable weight loss comes from gradual and ongoing health changes, not a crash diet or a temporary strict intervention. A cleanse may be part of kicking off better health habits and thus will support your long-term weight loss journey but in this way, it is the means, not the end. It is important to have realistic expectations for what you will gain from a cleanse. You will get information about how your body feels when you avoid certain foods and what happens when you re-introduce them. You may have forgotten what a state of vibrant health feels like and this experience is one of the greatest motivators to stick to healthy habits. A cleanse gives you something of a clean slate to re-focus your health journey and go boldly into the new year!