Author of The Immune System Recovery Plan
Detox and cleanse programs have become the latest rage for quick weight loss and a boost in energy. Celebrities carry their green juices everywhere, and magazines run articles promoting rapid weight loss and perfect skin. But many of these juice-based programs are big on promises with little basis in science.
Here, I will help you learn the difference between fad diets and detox that is medically proven to work.
What is a detox program?
We are all exposed to toxins in our lives, and nature gave us this wonderful built-in detox organ called the liver. However, your liver can get fatigued trying to keep up with the chemicals, heavy metals, pesticides, and plastics that, despite your best efforts, are coming into your body every day. A detox program is a lifestyle program that helps you rid your body of toxins by supporting your liver. A good program should focus on 3 things: food, supplements, and cleaning up your environment to reduce your exposure to every day toxins.
What is a cleanse? Is it the same as a detox?
People often use the word "cleanse" to talk about anything from a juice fast to gut cleanses that use laxatives to "clean out" the bowel. This is very confusing! Cleansing can be part of your detox program, but when it comes to detox, it specifically refers to eating and drinking foods that support excretion of toxins, thus "cleansing" the liver and tissues. This should not affect the gut or the bowels.
A "juice cleanse" can be very supportive and part of a detox program, and when organic and from a good-quality company, can supply high amounts of important nutrients for your liver.
Who should do a detox program?
Toxins are stored in fat cells and this can cause accumulation of body fat that is hard to get rid of. Helping the body release these stored toxins so that the body will then metabolize the fat, should be the first step for anyone who wants to lose weight. If you are tired and don't know why, feeling puffy all over, or having difficulty concentrating, these could be the signs of too many toxins in your body and you could benefit from a detox program.
If you have an autoimmune disease, chronic pain, headaches, or any symptom that is bothering you and you don't know why, a detox program would be good for you, too.
Who shouldn't do a detox program on their own? (Supervision is suggested!) If you are undergoing treatment for cancer, or are on steroids or any other life-sustaining medication, or if you have inflammatory bowel or other severe gut issues, you should consult with your doctor or an integrative practitioner such as a naturopath, chiropractor, or functional medicine specialist before starting a detox.
What should you eat?
There must be a food plan! Supplements alone aren't enough.
Eat lots of organic greens like kale, cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cabbages, and antioxidants from deeply colored fruits and veggies. These nutrients support enzymes in the liver that process and remove toxins.
Don't forget the protein. While juicing is great, your liver also needs amino acids, which you get from eating protein. Vegetable sources like beans, nuts, and seeds are just as healthy as chicken and fish, which are also good.
What not to eat: foods that are stressful to your liver. For the duration of your detox program follow these dietary guidelines.
Remove all processed sugar: Cakes, cookies, breads, candy, soda and juices. Eliminate coffee and alcohol.
Do not eat gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs and red meat.
Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, kamut and spelt. Choose gluten-free grains, such as quinoa, millet, rice or buckwheat.
Avoiding dairy means all cow, sheep, and goat products like yogurt, kefir, cheese, butter, milk, and cream. Choose non-dairy milks and cheeses made from rice, almond, and coconut.
Avoiding corn means you must read labels and avoid corn starch, corn syrup, and all foods that have corn listed in the ingredients in any form.
Avoiding soy includes soy sauce and all products that have soy listed as an ingredient in any form, such as soy protein, soy lecithin.
When you finish your detox, you can reintroduce each of these foods one at a time, every 3 days, to see if they trigger a physical symptom, like a headache, fatigue, brain fog, arthritis, or gut symptoms like gas and bloating, or another symptom that is familiar for you. If it does, then you are sensitive to this food and you should remove it from your diet or eat it very rarely.
Do I need supplements or can I do a detox with food alone?
We recommend adding some liver-boosting supplements to your food plan and you will really get the detox engine going. Include antioxidants, B vitamins, herbs like milk thistle, and amino acids like glycine (you can also get this as part of a liver-support protein shake).
You can check out our recommendations at www.immuneprogram.com
You can also do various cleanses without supplements, but make sure to eat protein or drink protein shakes if you are choosing to do a juice cleanse. Remember, a detox program includes supplements, while a cleanse can be juice and food alone and are meant to be short term.
Clean up your world.
A detox program should address not only what you are eating, but also your exposure to toxic environmental factors at the same time. Work on filtering your water, eating organic, not using pesticides on your lawn or using harsh cleaning products.
Check out www.ewg.org for ideas on cleaning up your house and your environment. What to expect during a 21-day detox program:
The first week you might feel more sluggish, or worsening of the symptoms you are familiar with. For most people, this is mild and passes by the end of the first week. If your symptoms get much worse, are uncomfortable or cause you to be concerned, it is a sign that you probably have lots of toxins in your body and need to slow down the detox. This happens most often when you do a detox program for the first time, because your toxin load is the highest. You can slow down the detox by cutting the supplements in half, or even taking a few days off.
By the second week you will begin to feel more energy and notice you are feeling better. And by the third week you should be feeling great! If you are very toxic, you might not feel better until the third week, but stick with it, eventually the clouds will part and the sun will come out.