Talking with Samantha Heller, Author of The Only Cleanse: A 14-Day Natural Detox Plan to Jump-Start a Lifetime of Health

The only cleanse you need is the one with which you were born!

Samantha Heller, M.S., R.D., CDN, is a nutrition expert who truly gets it! I was very excited to contribute some of my recipes to her new book and even more excited to sit down and ask her some questions about the concept behind The Only Cleanse.

Detox and cleanse diets are still wildly popular. How do you define “cleansing,” and what was your motivation for writing this book?

Samantha Heller: The only cleanse you need is the one with which you were born! The human body is cleansing itself every second of every day to keep us alive. The liver, kidneys, lungs, gastrointestinal tract and skin are brilliantly defending the body’s health, smacking down pathogens, detoxifying poisons and healing and repairing damaged cells. There is no such thing as a “cleanse” per se. We think of cleanses as fasting, juicing, teas or colonics that will detoxify our insides. But the real question is, what exactly do you think is being “detoxed”? How does this work from a physiological standpoint? The truth is, with these practices, there is not a shred of scientific evidence that anything is being cleansed or detoxed! What we need to do for optimal health is support our body’s natural ability to be healthy and “cleanse” itself. The Only Cleanse is a comprehensive, evidence-based guide to delicious healthy eating, managing stress, sleeping well and detoxifying your personal space such as your home and personal relationships.

There are many reasons I wrote this book. First, I wanted to deconstruct all the craziness that surrounds the notion of cleansing and detoxing. There are hundreds of thousands of websites selling all kinds of products and services that prey on people’s desire to be healthier or cure disease. While there are well-meaning people offering these services, there are also scammers — neither of which has any idea what they are talking about. At the scary end of the spectrum, I see patients who are denying traditional medical care for diseases like cancer, thinking they can detoxify the cancer “naturally” for a mere $10,000. I find this very distressing. In addition, people are starving themselves or taking over-the-counter teas or supplements or herbal enema preparations thinking they can cure disease or cleanse their bodies, all of which can land them in the emergency room with liver toxicity, kidney failure or cardiac arrhythmias. Let’s redefine the notion of cleansing to mean that we are supporting, respecting and enhancing our body’s innate, spectacular ability to keep us healthy.

There’s lots of talk in the nutrition world about the microbiome. What exactly is it, and how does it impact health?

SH: The microbiome is a very exciting, very hot area of research these days. On and in our bodies live trillions of microbes like bacteria and fungi. Don’t let this creep you out, because human life actually depends on these microscopic creatures for survival. They live on our skin, [and] in our ears, mouth and gastrointestinal tract. The Only Cleanse focuses on the gut microbiome, where trillions of microbes are helping us digest food, extract nutrients, manufacture disease-fighting compounds, amp up immunity and maintain the health of the entire body. These creatures rent space in our gastrointestinal tracts, and as landlords we need to feed and care for them. The Only Cleanse outlines which foods are best and worst for the gut microbiome.

In addition to being an experienced and well-respected registered dietitian, you are also an exercise physiologist. How does exercise factor into a lifetime of health?

SH: The human body is designed to move. When it doesn’t move regularly, it weakens

and gets sick. Exercise is almost the panacea to amazing health. Regular exercise fights just about every chronic disease, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, anxiety and dementia. Exercise is the best stress-busting, energy-pumping, sleep-promoting, brain-boosting activity you can do. So get off your fanny and let’s go!

Can you tell HE readers a little about the 14-Day Plan?

SH: The 14-Day Plan is a mostly vegan plan (with the exception of yogurt and honey) that includes recipes, menus, Mindful Moments, Space Cleansers and a step-by-step daily guide to help readers embark on a healthy lifestyle. Stress management, sleep hygiene [and] learning strategies for managing life’s difficulties, as well as plant-based eating, are all included.

It is a flexible plan that allows participants to modify recipes according to their tastes and needs, as well as being practical and realistic. The food plan is designed to minimize prep time and food waste and teach us how to make plant-based meals that are delicious.

Lentil Artichoke Soup
280 Calories per serving (serves 4-6)

A hearty soup your mouth will savor and your micro biome will love. Artichokes and lentils offer a hefty dose of gut-friendly fiber along with protein, vitamin C, antioxidants and more.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 yellow onion diced
1 carrot sliced or diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 bay leaf
1 cup dried red lentils
12 28-ounce cans fire roasted chopped tomatoes with juices
1 15-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts, drained, dice the
edible portions

1/2 bunch kale. Cut out ribs and julienne the leaves. Roll them up and make thin slices across the roll.

In a three-quart pot over medium heat, add the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until fragrant and just translucent. Add the carrot and cook three or four minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the garlic, basil, and oregano, and cook for about one minute. You do not want to burn the garlic. Add the water, pepper flakes, salt, bay leaf, and red lentils. Stir. Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer and add the tomatoes with their juices, artichokes, and kale. Simmer for twenty minutes, until the lentils are tender but not mushy.

Remove the bay leaf and salt to taste.

Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Variation: Add one tablespoon of sherry or wine vinegar just before serving.

Samantha Heller, M.S., RDN, registered dietitian, exercise physiologist, health expert, motivational speaker, media expert, author, performer 

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

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