The terms detox or detoxification can be quite confusing. We apply them to getting off drugs that we have been abusing or addicted to physically and emotionally. We also talk about detox as a period where we clean up our diet and lifestyle—this is what I am talking about in this article. Most people in our culture have a habit of using what I call the SNACCs: Sugar, Nicotine, Alcohol, Caffeine, and Chemicals.
From my talks around the country, I’ve learned that about 90% of people have a habit of using at least one of these substances; they use them daily to support their energy or affect their mood. About 50% of folks have a habit of using two of more of these. A common approach for many is to use caffeine and sugar to get going in the morning and possibly later in the day, and then alcohol and/or cannabis to settle down at night. There’s a fine line between supportive use, habit, abuse, and addiction—like a continuum, one level leading to another. And it’s also of interest that many family physicians, such as I’ve been for nearly 40 years, see that most everyday complaints are of fatigue and insomnia. I believe these are the result of not balancing the stimulants and sedatives. While a healthy lifestyle goal is to possess and utilize our own natural energy to be productive in the day and to be able to relax and sleep well as night, that’s not always easy, right?
Let’s look a little more closely at nutritional detoxification and review what we’re trying to achieve.
The simplest way to understand symptoms and disease integrates Western linear thinking, Chinese medicine and its philosophy of yin and yang, and the naturopathic approach to health and illness. Problems in the body (and mind) often arise from either deficiency, where we are not acquiring sufficient necessary nutrients to meet our needs and body functions, and congestion, where we are having excessive intake, both from reduced eliminative functions and the over-consumption of foods or non-food substances, such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, refined sugar and food chemicals. People who are deficient may experience such problems as fatigue, coldness, hair loss or dry skin, and they need to be nourished with wholesome foods to aid healing.
Congestive problems, however, are more common in Western, industrialized civilizations. Many of our acute and chronic medical diseases and dilemmas result from the clogging of our tissues and tubes, and the suffocating of our cells and vital energy. Colds and flu, cancer and cardiovascular diseases, arthritis and allergies are all examples of congestive disorders.
These medical problems may be prevented or treated at least in part and often with dramatic results by embarking on a process of cleansing and detoxification. Incorporating dietary changes—including consumption of more fresh fruits, vegetables, and water, while reducing animal fats and proteins (meats and milk products, for example)—and eliminating any damaging substance abuses is the beginning of the rejuvenation process for the human body. This was discovered long ago and is still true today even though medical science may make light of it in deference to the quick solution to major diseases.
I consider the cleansing/fasting/detoxification process (different degrees of the same process of reducing toxin intake and enhancing toxin elimination) to be the missing link in Western nutrition and a key to the health and vitality of our civilization. In my nearly 40 years of medical practice, during which I have extensively utilized various detoxification and healing/rejuvenation practices for both myself and literally thousands of my patients, I can tell you that I truly believe that cleansing and detoxification is virtually one of the most powerful healing (real healing of ailments and not just suppression of symptoms) therapies I have seen.
I have written extensively about detoxification, both in Staying Healthy With Nutrition book and The Detox Diet 3rd Edition: The Definitive Guide for Lifelong Vitality with Recipes, Menus, & Detox Plans, in which I discuss both the medical and health factors of the cleansing process.
The basics of the Detox Diet below give you a general idea of what is involved. What I attempt to do in my writing and practice is to place your health and that of your family back into your hands, because so much of it is up to you. It really matters how you live–what you do and what you eat, and what you think and feel. Take hold and do what you can to be vital and healthy. It is really worth it!
Below is a sample diet for a simple 3-meals-a-day plan to detoxify and help to heal the body, the Detox Diet Menu from page 68 of The Detox Diet, 3rd Edition (Ten Speed Press, 2012).
Special guidelines for the Detox Diet:
- Chew your food very well and take enough time when you eat.
- Relax a few minutes before and after your meal.
- Eat in a comfortable sitting position.
- Eat primarily steamed fresh vegetables and some fresh greens.
- Take only herbal teas after dinner.
The Detox Diet menu plan:
- Morning (upon arising): Two glasses of water (filtered, spring, or reverse osmosis), one glass with half a lemon squeezed into it.
- Breakfast: One piece of fresh fruit (at room temp), such as apple, pear, banana, grapes, or citrus. Chew well, mixing each bite with saliva.
- 15-30 minutes later: One bowl of cooked whole grains–specifically millet, brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, raw buckwheat, or buckwheat. Flavoring can be two tablespoons of fruit juice for a sweeter breakfast taste, or use the “better butter” mixture mentioned below with a little salt or tamari for a deeper flavor.
- Lunch (Noon to 1 P.M.): One or two medium bowls of steamed vegetables; use a variety, including roots, stems, and greens, e.g. potatoes and yams, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, asparagus, kale, chard, and cabbage. CHEW WELL!
- Dinner (5 to 6 P.M flagyl tablets 200mg.): Same as Lunch
- Seasoning: Butter/canola, olive, or flaxseed oil mixture. Make this “better butter” by mixing half a cup of cold-pressed canola oil (or olive or flaxseed oils) into a soft (room temperature) half-pound of butter, then place in dish and refrigerate. Use about one teaspoon per meal or a maximum of 3 teaspoons daily.
- 11 A.M. & 3 P.M. One or two cups of “veggie water”, water saved from steamed vegetables. Add a little sea salt or kelp and drink slowly, mixing each mouthful with saliva.
- Evening: Herbal teas only, e.g. peppermint, chamomile, pau d’arco, or blends.
- NOTE: You may feel a little weak or have a few symptoms the first couple of days; this will pass. Clarity and feeling good should appear by day 3 or 4, if not before. If during this diet, you start to feel weak or hungry, assess your water intake and elimination; if needed, you can eat a small portion of protein food (3 to 4 ounces) in the mid-afternoon. This could be fish; free-range, organic chicken; or some beans, such as lentil, garbanzo, mung, or black beans.