Kitchen Skills: Eating Clean

Real food the real answer to digestive cleansing

Barb Sheldon-Thomas
Photo: Russ Sedin

As competitions draw closer, many athletes look to cleansing kits as a solution to help improve their digestion and energy levels. But maybe you should look to real food — the right real food — to cleanse your system safely and effectively.

While many off-the-shelf cleanse kits stimulate liver and detoxification pathways, they can be harsh. Symptoms of toxicity during a cleanse are normal (nausea, lethargy, headaches, stomach upset, etc.) but not symptoms athletes can afford to deal with during training. Launching into full-fledged detoxification mode can be unsettling at the very least and even dangerous for some people.

It’s important to recognize that your body works constantly to detoxify you. This is what keeps your health in balance. Looking at food first to support your body’s natural ability to detoxify can be a gentler and surprisingly efficient way to get results. Giving your body the fuel it needs to support these biological mechanisms, while avoiding substances such as sugar, rancid fats and alcohol that create congestion in your system, will go a long way to increasing energy and balancing digestive health.

The urge to spring clean both our homes and our bodies happens naturally at this time of year. In the spring, nature provides us with cleansing foods that are available locally and work efficiently in the body to help move toxins out of the system. These foods support overall health of your liver, the body’s major detox organ.

Dandelion greens, asparagus, arugula, lemon, cabbage, beets, fresh herbs and artichokes are delicious and powerful foods that can have a major cleansing impact on your body. In the kitchen, create simple raw salads and homemade dressings that do away with processed, congesting oils and sugars. Use your blender to make raw juice and smoothies that contain these ingredients, filled with anti-inflammatory enzymes that help digestion and allow nutrients to be absorbed easily.

Water is fundamental to cleansing your body. Add alkalizing lemon (nature’s best cleaning product) and stimulating cayenne pepper to your water bottle to support your liver and metabolism everywhere you go. Eating fermented foods containing probiotics that aid digestion, such as kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut gives your body the chance it needs to detoxify.

If you feel like your body needs a harsher reset, be mindful to embark on a more serious cleansing protocol under the supervision of a health care provider.

Quiet & Noisy Foods

Some foods give your body the chance to cleanse and rest, while others create “noise” — congestion and toxicity — in the body.

Quiet (Cleansing)

  • Lemon: stimulates bile flow which removes toxins
  • Herbs: contain chlorophyll to support blood health
  • Garlic & Onions: support liver detox
  • Asparagus & Artichokes: diuretic, neutralize excess ammonia, cholesterol support
  • Bitter Greens: stimulate digestive juices for proper assimilation of nutrients
  • Cabbage: inhibits cancer cell growth, moves excess hormones out of body
  • Spices: rev up body heat to help move toxins through skin

Noisy (Inflammatory/Congesting)

  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Refined Oils
  • White Flours & Grains
  • Fast Food (battered, deep fried)
  • Processed Sauces & Salad Dressings



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