Q: What are your thoughts and suggestions for a spring detox plan? --Suzanne M., Hollywood, Calif.
Really, the best way to "detox" is to eat sensibly. As Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules and other books, says, "not too much, mostly plants." On top of that, exercise, drink water, get enough sleep, and fast for 12 hours a day. Work backwards from breakfast. If you need to be at work at 8:00, then breakfast will likely be around 7:00. That means you need to quit eating by 7:00 the night before. Rest your intestinal tract for 12 hours every day, and you can add years to your life.
If, however, you have the urge for a deeper spring cleaning, consider the following 3 easy programs. The first one lasts for only one week, and demonstrates how you can really get by just fine on a lot less food than you probably usually enjoy. The second can help you discover which foods might be really bad for you, and involves several days of consuming juices only. The third is less intense, but longer, which gives your body a chance to dig deeper into years of accumulated, stored garbage—and dump it!
For a complete resource, look for the 7 Day Detox Miracle by naturopathic physicians Dr. Peter Bennett and Dr. Stephen Barrie. In the book, they point out that the following are normal reactions to detoxification—fatigue, headaches during the first 3 days, offensive body odor, sleep problems, hunger, increased gas, and itchy skin.
So why bother? Because if you stick with the program, you’ll wind up with increased energy; reduced allergic symptoms; improved digestion; better mental focus; stronger immunity; and you'll probably even lose weight. Not too bad, huh?
A few general rules before you start any detox program: If you take a prescription medication, it will have a stronger impact on your system as you “get lighter.” So consult a nutritionally savvy physician. Also do not fast if you are significantly underweight. And remember: Thirst is often mistaken for hunger. If you think you’re hungry, try drinking water first.
Days 1 and 2: Consume as much water, lemon water (the Master Cleanse is fine), or herbal tea as you want. But only these liquids. Over a weekend is probably a good idea for most.
Days 3—7: Take 8 oz. of hot lemon water first thing in the morning, followed by the following:
Breakfast: A rice protein shake made with fresh fruit and water; a small bowl of brown rice (1 cup); herbal tea.
Snack: Fresh fruit, herbal tea.
Lunch: Mixed salad; all vegetable soup; 1—2 cups cooked brown rice; 1—2 cups steamed mixed vegetables; large baked yam or sweet potato.
Snack: Rice protein and veggie juice shake; 2—3 rice cakes; herb tea.
Dinner: 1—2 cups brown rice; 2—3 cups steamed or lightly sautéed vegetables; veggie soup; salad; baked sweet potato.
While on this detox, avoid aluminum cookware or plastic food containers. Use natural cleansing and cosmetic products. Try to sweat daily, either through exercise or sauna. It’s imperative to move your bowels daily. Use a mild laxative if necessary.
My favorite resource for this program is The Fasting Diet by Dr. Steven Bailey, a naturopathic physician in Portland, Ore. According to Dr. Bailey, “Fasting—not starving—can (1) detoxify your body, (2) enhance your immune function, (3) increase your ability to heal, and (4) lead to heightened awareness, sensitivity, and energy.”
This program has 3 phases. The first 3 days (phase one) involve eating lots of fiber to cleanse the colon. Phase 2 is 5 days of fresh juice only: fruit juice in the morning and vegetable juice afterwards. (You will need a juicer.) Phase 3 covers the final 6 days, when potentially irritating foods are re-introduced into the diet, and you look for reactions, which usually come in the form of mood swings, skin problems, or gastrointestinal issues.
If you’re interested in this program, I highly recommend the book. It’s full of valuable information for successfully completing this detox regimen.
This idea is based on Dr. Jeffrey Bland’s The Twenty Day Rejuvenation Diet Program—a sensible eating plan that you can stay on for the rest of your life (with occasional breaks for treats). On this program, you spend three weeks avoiding "gunk-up-the-system" food, while eating lots of vitamin C— and beta-carotene-packed foods.
The NO list:
A major purpose of the Rejuvenation Diet is to “unpoison” your system from toxins. “The intestinal tract serves as an important barrier between the body's internal processes and a fairly hostile external world,” writes Bland. “The liver is the most important detoxifying organ. Given the proper nourishment, the liver is capable of regeneration, both in building new tissue and in restoring its ability to detoxify foreign substances.”