I underwent my first food-based cleanse when I was 26 years old. I was working as an ecological scientist in southern Wisconsin, a couple years out of graduate school, and I had fatigue and was sick. Every several weeks I would come down with a virus which would become a sinus infection, I would get anti-biotics from the doctor and feel better for about two weeks and then the cycle would start all over again. I had been told I was healthy by MDs, who didn't have much time to talk with me and said I needed another dose of anti-biotics. This had been going on for over a year when a friend and colleague suggested I pay a visit to her naturopath, Dr. Renee Welhouse. I had other friends who had been encouraging me to find a naturopath so I was ready to check it out.
I made my first visit with Dr. Renee at the Welhouse Center in the fall of 2003. I was surprised when she told me the issue was my gut and she had a plan to help me get better. I remember that despite the newness of the ideas she shared, I felt relieved that someone believed me that something was wrong with my health and knew how to help.
I left Dr. Renee's office with a bag full of supplements including green drink powder (see my daughter's green drink mustache pictured above), vitamins and a digestive cleanse kit. At home, I told my fiance, Woody, that I was going to do what she said: eat acid fruits for breakfast, and low-starch vegetables and fats for lunch and dinner for the next eleven days until I came back to see her again. Woody was skeptical but could see that I was committed to trying this so he made me a large stir-fry of ginger with asparagus for dinner and I ate granny smith apples in the morning. I remember being a little hungry, toting my asparagus leftovers around in my backpack while doing fieldwork in Chicago area wetlands for work. I hated the green drink and didn't take it until several weeks later. I un-knowingly blew the cleanse one day when we had guests visiting from out of town who wanted to watch a movie. I convinced myself popcorn was a vegetable and could be had on the cleanse. I promptly took a nap from the starch over-load. It wasn't the perfect cleanse but I did start to feel something changing for the better so I went back to see Dr. Renee.
Over the next several months, she suggested I do multiple cleanses including parasite-, kidney-, and liver-cleanses as well as colonics. Yes, I saw the evidence of the cleansing in the toilet (a tapeworm I had picked up working in the field in Maui and small green balls from my gallbladder at the culmination of the gallbladder flush). The day she told me to do a 10-day water fast, I cried in her office at the thought of being restricted in the ultimate sense. She ignored that I was crying and told me to get started. After the 10 day fast there was an S.O.S. cleanse for drinking sodium sulfate salts and fasting on fresh juice, and receiving body work, chi machine, and steam baths....it went on. Ultimately, I felt much better, had no sinus infections, and had a new way of eating. In a couple more years I decided to make a career change and go back to school to become a naturopath and nutritionist myself. Today, I can say I have helped thousands of people through food-based cleanses.
Dr. Renee's approach to food-based cleansing was intense. It generally offered positive and almost immediate results. She herself had started cleansing in order to save her own life and the lives of many clients from cancer. I found the cleanse to be a way to get back in touch with my body and how I cared for it in a way no one had ever talked with me about. I eventually left the field of ecology and worked as a nutritionist under Dr. Renee while I worked towards my naturopathy degree (ND). When I was ready to start my own business, I started teaching food-based cleansing in a group workshop format known as "The Body Tune-up". I felt driven to share this information that had made a profound change for me and many others.
For the first several years of my naturopathy practice at Human Nature, the focus of my job was guiding people through food-based cleanses and improving the cleanses to be more accessible. After this period, I began to see limitations and potential drawbacks of cleansing. I turned to professional trainings in functional medicine to identify ways to help someone whose health problems were not easily resolved by the food-based cleansing, or who were not able to cleanse. Over thirteen years, my job has maintained a strong focus on helping people identify what they need to eat but it has expanded into functional medicine evaluations.
Today, our office still offers the annual Body Tune-up Workshop Series to locals who would like to undergo the six-week food-based cleanse. For many, the cleansing allows a "time-out" on their food routine and a finite period of time to which they can devote themselves to rebooting their health. Each year, I am impressed to learn of the benefits the participants experience. We still offer the Body Tune-up Series to individuals as well. Contact us to book an appointment to get started on your cleanse.
Despite the fact that it's been around awhile and the fad of cleansing has passed, I find that cleansing still has value for people. I have a goal to take the cleanses I learned and adjusted from Dr. Renee and bring them to a broader audience. At the same time I will discuss the scientific evidence of what is at work in the cleanses. Watch for additional articles on how cleansing works.