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 Detoxification Programs: General Detoxification and Cleansing 

The sample yearly program provided here is designed for a basically healthy person who eats well. It would not be appropriate for those with deficiency problems such as extreme fatigue, underweight people, those who experience coldness, or those with heart weakness. There are even more contraindications for fasting, which releases more toxins than this program does. Releasing too much toxicity can make many sick people sicker; if that happens, they will need to increase fluids and eat again until they feel better. People with cancer need to be very careful about how they detoxify. Prior to or just after surgery is not a good time to detoxify, but after healing, say about four to six weeks later. Pregnant or lactating women should not do any heavy detoxification, though they can usually handle mild programs.


For 7-21 days between March 10 and April 15, use one or more of the following plans:

  • Master Cleanser (lemonade diet).
  • Fruits, vegetables, greens.
  • Juices of fruits, vegetables, and greens.
  • Herbs with any of the above.
  • These plans can be alternated and even include a 3-5 day supervised water fast.
  • Remember to take time (about half as long as the fast) for the transition back to the regular diet.
  • Elimination and food testing can also be done at this time.
3-day cleanse at new moon time in May as a reminder and enhancer of food awareness.
One week of fruits and vegetables and/or fresh juices to usher in the warm weather sometime between June 10 and July 4.
Late Summer
3-day cleanse of fruit and vegetable juices around the new moon time in August.
7-10 day cleanse between September 11 and October 5, such as:
  • Grape fast--whole and juiced--grapes, all fresh.
  • Apple and lemon juice together, diluted.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, raw and cooked.
  • Fruit and vegetable juices--fruit in the morning, vegetables in the afternoon.
  • Juices plus spirulina, algae, or other green chlorophyll powders.
  • Whole grains, cooked squashes and other vegetables (a lighter detox).
  • Mixture of the above plans.
  • Basic low-toxicity diet with herbal program.
  • Colon detox with fiber (psyllium, pectin, and so on) along with enemas or colonics.
  • Preparing and planning new autumn diet, enhancing positive dietary habits.
3-day cleanse on juices or in-season produce around new moon in late October/early November.
A lighter diet in preparation for the holidays (can be done between December 10 and January 5):
  • Avoidance of toxins and treats, with a very basic wholesome diet.
  • One week of brown rice, cooked vegetables, miso broth, and seaweed. Ginger and cayenne pepper can be used in soups.
  • Saunas or steams and massage--you deserve it!
  • Hang on until spring!

Where Can We Detoxify?
During basic, simple detox plans, most of us can maintain our normal life functions. In fact, energy, performance, and health often improve. For some though, detox may produce symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, irritability, mucous congestions, or aches and pains; any of the symptoms of toxicity may appear, though usually not. According to naturopathic theory, any symptoms that have previously been experienced may also be experienced transiently during detox/healing, and I have seen this occur. However, sometimes it is hard to know what is actually happening. Should we treat the problems that come up or simply watch them? Since my basic approach in medicine is to allow the body to heal itself and support the natural healing process whenever possible, that is what I try to do unless the person is very uncomfortable.

For many of us, especially the new or inexperienced, it is wise to begin any special programs, diet, or lifestyle changes with a few days at home. In time, experience will show what is best for us. Most of us can maintain a regular work schedule during a cleanse or detox program (we may likely be more productive), but it may be easier to begin a program on a Friday, as the first few days are usually the hardest. This is because some people may be more sensitive during cleansing to their work environment or to chemical exposures, for example. Also, certain individuals may be faced with temptations or the influence of other workers or family members challenging their decisions, and for this, knowing and trusting what they are doing and having the support of a professional or group will add to their comfort and willpower.

At the end of the first day, at around dinnertime, symptoms may begin to appear, with headache and fatigue the most common, and it is good to be able to rest and spend time in familiar surroundings without a lot of outer demands. By the third day, we usually feel pretty stable and ready for work life. However, many people like to start new programs on Monday and just know that they will do fine, using willpower and visualization to see it through. People often feel better than ever and are able to accomplish tasks and meet challenges more easily than usual. In fact, experienced fasters may fast during busy work periods to improve their productivity. Preparation and projection, clearing doubts and fears, and keeping a daily journal are all useful during this vital process and are crucial to any successful undertaking.

Why Detoxify?
We detoxify/cleanse for many reasons, mainly to do with health, vitality, and rejuvenation--to clear symptoms, treat disease, and prevent further problems. A cleansing program is ideal for helping us to reevaluate our lives, to make changes, or to clear abuses or addictions. It takes us through our withdrawal and reduces cravings fairly rapidly, and if we are ready, we can begin a new life without the addictive habits or drugs.

I cleanse because it makes me feel more productive, creative, and open to subtle and spiritual energies. Many people detox/cleanse--or, more commonly, fast on water or juices--for spiritual renewal and to feel more alive, awake, and aware. Christ, Paramahansa Yogananda, and many other religious figures and teachers have advocated fasting for health and for spiritual attunement. It really does help move our energies from our lower centers of digestion and elimination up into our heart, mind, and consciousness centers. Fasting will be discussed more in a later program.

Detoxification can be helpful for weight loss, though it is not a primary reduction plan; I think it is more important as a transition. However, anyone eating 4,000 calories a day of a fatty, sweet, and poorly balanced diet who begins to eat 2,000-2,500 calories of more wholesome foods will definitely experience detoxification, weight loss, and improved health.

We also cleanse/detoxify to rest our overloaded organs of digestion and our liver, gallbladder, and kidneys and allow them to catch up on past work. Most often our energy is increased and more steady. There are many reasons why we may want to cleanse.

Prevent disease To be more:
Reduce symptoms Organized
Treat disease Creative
Cleanse body Motivated
Rest organs Productive
Purification Relaxed
Rejuvenation Energetic
Weight loss Clear
Clear skin Conscious
Slow aging Inwardly attuned
Improve flexibility Spiritual
Improve fertility Environmentally attuned
Enhance the senses Relationship focused

How Do We Detoxify / Cleanse?
I have touched on ways to detoxify throughout this section; the remainder is a discussion of general and specific diet plans, other activities, and supplements, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs, to aid us in this healing process.

There are many levels to this part of the program. The first is to eat a nontoxic diet. If we do this regularly, we have less need for cleansing. If we have not been eating this way, we should detoxify first and then make permanent changes.

  • Eat organic foods whenever possible.
  • Drink filtered water.
  • Rotate foods, especially common allergens, such as milk products, eggs, wheat, and yeast foods.
  • Practice food combining.
  • Eat a natural, seasonal cuisine.
  • Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and, for omnivarians, some low-fat dairy products, and fresh fish (not shellfish) and organic poultry.
  • Cook in iron, stainless steel, glass, or porcelain.
  • Avoid or minimize red meats, cured meats, organ meats, refined foods, canned foods, sugar, salt, saturated fats, coffee, alcohol, and nicotine.

Another aspect of the nontoxic diet is avoiding drugs--over-the-counter, prescription, and recreational types--and substituting natural remedies, such as nutrients, herbs, and homeopathic medicines, all of which have fewer side effects. Other natural therapies, such as acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic may help in treating some problems so that we will not need drugs for them. Avoiding or minimizing exposure to chemicals at home and work is also important. This lessens our total toxic load. Substituting natural cleansers, cosmetics, and clothes is helpful. There are many suggestions for these areas of life in Chapter 11.

The effects of the detoxification diet may vary. Even mild changes from our current plan may produce some responses, while more dramatic dietary shifts will produce a profound cleansing. Shifting from the most congesting foods to the least--eating more fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and legumes and less baked goods, sweets, refined foods, fried foods and fatty foods--will help most of us detoxify somewhat and bring us into better balance, with more vitalized cells, organs, and body.

Maintaining the same diet but adding certain supplements can also stimulate detoxification. Fiber, vitamin C, other antioxidants, chlorophyll, and glutathione, mainly as amino acid L-cysteine, will all help (see the end program following this discussion). Herbs such as garlic, red clover, echinacea, or cayenne may also induce some detoxification. Saunas, sweats, and niacin therapy have been used to cleanse the body. Simply increasing liquids and decreasing fats will shift the balance strongly toward improved elimination and less toxin buildup. Increased consumption of filtered water, herb teas, fruits, and vegetables and reducing fats, especially most fried food, red meats, and milk products will also help detoxification. This is a more structured, basic diet, but for most average Westerners, it will be a major shift to a cleaner diet. A vege- tarian diet would also be a healthful step toward detoxification for those with some congestive problems. In general, moving from an acid-generating diet to a more alkaline one, as discussed in earlier sections in Chapters 10 and 12, will aid the process of detoxification. Acid-forming foods, such as meats, milk products, breads and baked goods, and especially the refined sugar and carbohydrate products, will increase body acidity and lead to more mucus production and congestion to attempt to balance the body chemistry, whereas the more alkaline, wholesome vegetarian foods enhance cleansing and clarity in the body. The right balance of acid and alkaline foods for each of us is, of course, the key.

(Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition ISBN: 1587611791)
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 About The Author
Elson Haas MDElson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
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