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Should You Cleanse if You Have a Chronic Illness?

If you are living with a chronic illness, there is a good chance that you have contemplated a cleanse, someone has suggested one to you, or you have actually done one. If you are considering a cleanse, especially with the new year approaching, allow me to give you a little more information on which to base your decision.

Chronic conditions are most often a reflection of a deficiency in the body, rather than an excess. When you are deficient, they best strategy is to focus on replenishing and nourishing your body. Cleansing can be great tool when you are dealing with an excess condition, but when you have a chronic illness you could end up doing more harm than good. Cleansing is a tool for breaking things down and can be a shock to the system. When you're sick, you don't need to break things down, you need to build things up and you need to be gentle. In addition, our bodies are built to self-cleanse. That's what our kidneys are for. If we treat our bodies well, we don't need to do any extra cleansing.

So how do you nourish yourself? Add the following to your diet:

  • Eat healthful building foods, such as meats (if you're not a vegetarian or vegan), bone broths, whole grains, beans, legumes, root vegetables, soups and stews.

  • Eat more cooked foods than raw.

  • Eat what feels good in your body.

  • If it's cold outside, stick with warm foods.

  • If you find you are often cold, add warming spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cayenne and pepper to your food and drinks.

  • As always, try to eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods.

  • Avoid packaged foods, but if that's difficult, don't buy anything with more than five ingredients or anything with ingredients you don't recognize or can't pronounce.

If you feel you MUST cleanse, do it gently:

  • Drink about half your body weight in ounces of water per day. (ex: if you weight 160 lbs, drink 80 oz of water, or 10 cups).

  • Eat only whole foods for a few weeks or a month. This is really all anyone needs to do to cleanse their system.

  • Avoid juice cleanses where all you consume is juice. There can be good for excess conditions, but not for deficient ones.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do for your body diet-wise is to make a lifestyle choice to eat a whole-foods diet at least 80% of the time, all the time. When you eat that way, there's no need to even consider a cleanse.

So should you cleanse if you have a chronic illness?

In a word, no.

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