As you learned in last week’s blog, January is also the perfect month for a cleanse. A cleanse can help you improve the cornerstone of your health — your gut — so you can reap all the benefits of a healthy microbiome and digestive system.
That said, the type of cleanse and how you approach it matters to your success. If you want to reboot your gut health and improve your productivity, mood, energy levels, libido, and your digestion, avoid making these 5 mistakes when you’re doing your January cleanse:
1. Eating Too Much Fruit
You might read the headline above and think “Wait, what? I thought fruit was healthy!” Fruit falls into the category of “healthy in moderation.” A little bit of fruit can provide you with fiber, antioxidants, and other healthy nutrients, but too much fruit can be like a sugar bomb for your system, leading to a yeast overgrowth called candida in the digestive tract and uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, fatigue, achiness, abdominal pain, and brain fog.
For example, Jessica came to see me after doing a popular 30-day whole-food diet that allowed unlimited fruit. Well, she went a little overboard with the fruit. And even though she lost weight during the month-long program, she also ended up with a bunch of uncomfortable symptoms that had her make an urgent appointment with me. She was complaining of bloating, brain fog, fatigue, and achiness. In addition, she couldn’t stop craving fruit. Given her prior history of yeast overgrowth, I instantly recognized her symptoms as a return of the yeast symptoms. So, we removed all fruit, except for low-sugar fruit (like berries) from her diet, and placed her on herbal antifungals. Within the next month, she was starting to feel back to normal.
Like Jessica, if the cleanse you’ve chosen doesn’t have a limit on daily fruit intake, or you find yourself eating fruit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you are sabotaging your progress. Instead, limit your fruit intake to 2 to 3 servings a day of low-sugar fruits like berries, grapefruit, or green apple. And have high-sugar fruit like grapes, red apples, and melons only seasonally and as a treat, not a regular snack.
2. Not Eating Enough Protein
Many cleanses — especially plant-based cleanses or juice cleanses — limit protein intake. But the amino acids that make up protein are essential for detoxification, and not getting enough will slow your progress and leave you feeling shaky, hungry, and unfocused. That’s what happened to my patient, Jill, who tried a popular cleanse back in the early 2000’s.
When Jill came in to see me she was on Day 6 of the Master Cleanse — a modified juice fast with tea and lemonade made with maple syrup and cayenne pepper. She thought the mental slowness, exhaustion, and hunger pangs were all part of the detox process. She was happy going through it if it was going to yield great results in the end. The problem, I explained to her, is that when you don’t support Phase II liver detoxification with amino acids (which are lacking in this cleanse), then you slow down the very important second step in liver detoxification (I talk about this in detail in my Gut Detox Masterclass, by the way), which basically helps carry all the garbage out of your cells. In other words, you create a waste management issue for your cells, which is the opposite of what you want to do when you detox.
So instead, the important thing to do while cleansing is to focus on clean sources of protein that are gentle on the gut, like organic free-range chicken, nuts and seeds, and micronized pea or chickpea protein. The Cleanse Shake in the Happy Gut® Reboot: 28-Day Cleanse contains 17 grams of micronized pea protein per serving as well as metabolic detoxification-supporting nutrients like B vitamins, trace minerals, milk thistle, NAC and l-glutamine.
3. Neglecting the Gut Triad
If you’re doing a cleanse for the first time this month, you might be overwhelmed by just how many there are to choose from. Well, as “America’s Gut Doctor” I’m here to tell you that a good cleanse will always focus on the The Gut Triad, also known as the 3 Pillars of Detoxification. You’ve got to hit all three of these to truly detox (and many of the cleanses I see advertised on the internet are missing at least one). Missing any of the following means that you are short-changing your detox:
- Liver Detoxification— this is the most often addressed step in detoxification, which most cleanses get right; however, as mentioned with Jill, previously, many neglect Phase II detoxification, which involves actually purging stored toxins from the body.
- Gut Health — healing the gut lining that has been damaged and having regular bowel movements are crucial to moving toxins out of your system . Many cleanses neglect this step and do not include enough fiber and other gut-healing nutrients.
- Gut Microbiome Support — the gut microbiome plays a key and important role in detoxification, especially when it comes to expelling excess toxins and hormones, like estrogen. If you’re going to put in the effort to complete a cleanse, it’s important to devote some time to rebalancing the gut microbiome, which can get thrown out of whack from our inevitable exposures to antibiotics, pesticides, and gut-altering medications, like Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen.
4. Undereating or Starving Yourself
In fact, the best cleanse leaves you feeling satisfied, full, and brimming with energy. A cleanse isn’t about starving yourself, it’s about eating the RIGHT foods. With the right nutrient-dense foods you can do a cleanse and still nourish your body properly to give it the tools it needs to be more resilient. I hear all the time from patients doing the Happy Gut® Reboot: 28-Day Cleanse that they are pleasantly surprised by how satisfied they feel and how much energy they have. Don’t settle for detoxes that make you think you have to restrict!
Like Paul, who had this to say about the Reboot:
“I did the 28 day cleanse and my co-worker expected me to be irritable because his former boss used to do a juice cleanse and would become irritable… I felt energized as well as focused on this cleanse, and he was appreciative. I was actually eating and not hungry.”
5. Not Cleansing for Long Enough
An internet search for cleanses will yield all sorts of time frames — 3 days, 7 days, 14 days, 28 days, or even 90 days. All are common lengths for cleanses. So, what is the ideal length for a cleanse? In my experience, if you’re taking into account everything I said above in Mistakes 1 through 4, then a month is the minimum amount of time required to make a significant impact on your health. A cleanse needs to be long enough to address chronic health issues but short enough that it feels doable.
When you’re working on the gut, the first 1 to 2 weeks of a cleanse are focused on clearing out inflammation, so tagging on only one more week (like you would with a 21 day cleanse ) is not enough to fully solidify the changes. That’s why I designed the Happy Gut® Reboot Cleanse to be 28 days — so that it fits neatly into one month but you still feel REAL, MEASURABLE differences in how you feel on a daily basis.
After 28 days, you should feel noticeable improvements in your mood, energy levels, digestion, skin, and even in the symptoms of any chronic disease you may be struggling with.
But maybe you’re the type that needs to dip their toes in the pool before jumping in. That’s okay! For those of you that don’t feel quite ready to commit to a full 28 days, I recommend the Happy Gut® Reset: 7 Day Detox; this program doesn’t focus on rebooting your health or accomplishing deep gut healing, but instead on resetting and increasing energy levels, while reducing pesky symptoms like bloating and constipation.
Even though it’s only 7 days long, the Happy Gut® Reset is designed to produce noticeable results, including shedding those stubborn pounds that just won’t come off. Many like it so much that they extend it to 14 days!