It is estimated that the average person is exposed to approximately 100 synthetic chemicals daily. Even the healthiest of us are affected by chemicals in the air, in shampoo, lotion, cleaning products, foods, etc. Because we’re being constantly exposed to toxins, a cleanse or “detox” can be a beneficial way to flush these things from your system.
One of my favorite functional medicine doctors, Mark Hyman, believes in quarterly detoxes. Why? Well look at all of the toxins that can invade your body daily:
- Growth hormones
- Artificial coloring agents
- Rancid oils
- Phthalates and plastics
And when we think about the Standard American Diet, it’s full of sugar, gluten, dairy, and highly processed foods which all cause inflammation in the body (more on that here). Add in those foods with the toxins above and you’re asking for some serious digestive issues, and other symptoms.
Remember, heal the gut, heal the problem.
The goal of detox is to remove the unwanted waste and toxins from your body before disease sets in. Different cleanses do different things of course, but in general, a detox that lasts just a few days is enough to improve digestion and reduce inflammation. Cleansing is nothing new- people have been doing this for centuries. Our ancestors used herbs, colonics and even sauna as a way to detoxify their bodies. A well put-together detox program will work on balancing your acid/alkaline balance, support your adrenals, heal the gut, eliminate cravings, and allow you to identify any foods that are wreaking havoc on your body.
How do I know if I should detox?
If you’re dealing with any of these symptoms, then yes, you may benefit:
- Moodiness or PMS
- Bloating or gas
- Digestive issues
- Autoimmune problems
- Skin problems
- Hormonal imbalance
- Weight gain or inability to lose weight
- Trouble sleeping
- Sinus problems
- Lack of energy and motivation
- Inability to focus and concentrate
- Sugar and carb cravings
- Brain fog
- Baggy eyes and dull skin
- Poor immunity
There are multiple detoxes on the market (juice cleanse, OTC detoxes, etc), but there are also more natural, well-researched cleanses that you can do on your own. My suggestion though, is to listen to your body. If you try one and feel weak or sick, stop the cleanse. While sometimes it is just your body killing the parasites, candida, etc., other times it is actually an illness due to the cleanse. Better to be safe than sorry.
Below are 2 different types of cleanses I recommend, as well as some things to expect:
Whole foods detox
This one is simple. Eat JUST fruits and vegetables for a few days. This includes as many fruits and vegetables as you wish, as well as olive oil, salt, pepper and any herbs. The produce can be raw or cooked (raw is best though), made into smoothies, etc. The first three days you may notice headaches, skin blemishes or changes in your bowels, but that is just your body ridding itself of all the caffeine, sugar, and anything else you’ve consumed over the years.
Make sure you drink lots of water and herbal teas (no caffeine!) to stay hydrated. I could personally only do this for a few days, but research shows that it’s perfectly safe to do for up to 10 days. You’ll just need to slowly reintroduce foods so you don’t upset your system.
Vitamin C flush
You’ll need to purchase powdered mineral ascorbate C (aka Vitamin C powder found at a health store). Vitamin C is known for aiding in detox as it neutralizes the effects of pollutants. The amount to take will vary by the person. Most should start with 5000mg daily, but others can go up to 15x that. To begin, drink 1/2 teaspoon of the powder with water or fruit juice, and repeat every 15 minutes until you have (sorry for the lack of better words) watery diarrhea. As soon as this occurs, stop taking the vitamin C. Doing this just once every few months can drastically improve energy, rebalance intestinal flora, and strengthen the immune system…just make sure you do it when you’re not going anywhere that day (1).
As with everything, there’s always a caveat. First, as I mentioned above, make sure to listen to your body. If you do one of these and truly don’t feel well, stop. Or if you’re working with a practitioner throughout the process, let them know. Also, if you’ve got some disordered eating habits, or really struggle emotionally with food, I’d avoid the whole foods detox. As great as it can be for your body, the restrictive nature may lead to an even unhealthier relationship with food. Of course, only you can determine what works best for you.
(1) Lipski, Elizabeth. “Digestive Wellness: 4th ed.” Mcgraw Hill, 2012.