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 Detoxification Programs: General Detoxification and Cleansing 

A deeper level of the detox diet is one made up exclusively of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, either raw and cooked, and whole grains, both cooked and sprouted; however, no breads or baked goods, animal foods and dairy products, alcohol, or nuts are used. This diet keeps fiber and water intake up and helps colon detoxification. Most people can handle this well and make the shift from their regular diet with a few days transition. Some people do well on a brown rice fast (a more macrobiotic plan), usually for a week or two, eating three to four bowls of rice daily along with liquids such as teas.

The next level of detoxification involves a diet consisting solely of fruits and vegetables, all cleansing foods. The green vegetables, especially the chlorophyllic and high-nutrient leafy greens, are very cleansing and supportive for purification of the gastrointestinal tract and the whole body. Ann Wigmore and her staff at the Hippocrates, or Optimum, Health Institute guides people in a wheatgrass and sprout cleansing program that is a wonderfully rejuvenating experience for many.

A raw foods diet is fulfilling for many people, very high in energy and nutrition. It contains lots of sprouted greens from seeds and grains such as wheat, buckwheat, sunflower, alfalfa, and clover; sprouted beans; soaked or sprouted raw nuts; and fresh fruits and vegetables. Cooking food is not allowed with this diet; eating foods raw maintains the highest concentrations of vitamins, minerals and important enzymes, and allows them to find their way into our body and cells. Many people feel that this is the best of diets; it can be health supportive over quite some time if it is balanced properly. Special seed cheeses and yogurt can be found in the recipe section of Chapter 14.

Other specialized detox diets include macrobiotics and diets that treat certain problems, such as a yeast overgrowth or allergies. Treating these problems properly, as discussed in the Allergies and Yeast Syndrome programs in Chapter 17, allows the body to reduce its irritating reactions and to heal.

Beyond the fruit-and-vegetable diet are the liquid cleanses or fasts. Juices, vegetable broths, and teas can be used to purify our body and life. Miso, a paste of fermented soybean, can be used during fasting. It provides many nutrients and supports colon function and the intestinal bacteria, which help detoxification. Spirulina, an algae powder, can also be helpful to many fasters when added to juices. It provides protein to meet body needs and may aid those who experience some fatigue with fasting. Consuming fresh, diluted juices from various fruits and vegetables is safe and helpful for many conditions described in this section. Fasting experts believe that it actually works better than a straight water fast, as it helps to eliminate wastes and old or dead cells while restoring and building new tissue with the easily accessible nutrients from the juices. Water fasting is more intense, often resulting in more sickness and less energy, than fasting with juices. Paavo Airola, one of the pioneers of fasting in America, states in How to Get Well and other books that "systematic undereating and periodic fasting are the two most important health and longevity factors." Dr. Airola lists fruit and vegetable juices that cleanse and help in the healing of specific organs (see more in the Fasting program).

A key to proper treatment at the proper time is to work with detoxification individually. It does take a sensitive person or a sensitive practitioner to find the right path. Detoxification experiences can range from subtle to intense. We have to look at a personís general health, physiological balance, energy level, and current life activities in order to set up the right program. There are a lot of possibilities. If unsure, start with your basic diet and move along the changes toward juice fasting and see how you feel. Take a couple of days for each step, and, if you feel fine, move to the next level, as described.

  • Basic diet
  • Eliminate toxins daily from more congesting to less (see chart on page 910); for example, drugs, sugar, fried foods, meats, dairy, etc. Take one to seven days.
  • Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes
  • Raw foods
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Fruit and vegetable juices
  • Specific juices, Master Cleanser, apple, carrot-greens, etc. (See Fasting program)
  • Water

When I set up a detox/cleansing program, I evaluate each individual with a history, physical exam, biochemistry tests, dietary analysis, mineral levels, and any other specific tests indicated to determine their status. Looking at the patientís current state of health, symptoms, and disease as an outcome of their diet, lifestyle, and inherent/familial patterns, and then considering their health goals, we create the plan together. As is true with any healing process, the plan must be followed, reevaluated, and fine- tuned to make it work to its best potential.

If people are deficient in nutrients and/or energy, they may need a higher-nutrient, higher-protein building diet to improve their health rather than a cleanse. Fatigue, mineral deficiencies, and low organ functions may call for this more supportive diet. However, even in these circumstances, short cleanses, such as three days, can help eliminate old debris and prepare the body to build with healthier blocks.

Our individual detox programs can change, as our needs often vary with time. My own personal program has changed over the decades. Initially, fasts were very powerful for me, transformative and healing. Now I usually notice very little effect, as I feel much cleaner most of the time. If I do get congested with different foods, with travel, or when under other stresses, a few days of juices or just light eating will make a big difference. I ate a low-protein, high-complex-carbohydrate, vegetarian diet for a number of years. Now a mild detox for me consists of more strengthening protein-vegetable meals. Fresh fish with lots of vegetables satisfies and energizes me more now than in the past. The higher-starch meals led me to overeat more to feel nourished. This new diet has let me reduce calories and weight and feel stronger and healthier. And this too, I am sure, will change in time. Yes, detoxification is an individual affair, and many personal aspects are involved in devising a complete plan.

Colon cleansing is one of the most important parts of detoxification. Much toxicity comes out of the large intestine, and sluggish functioning of this organ can rapidly produce general toxicity. During a detox program, most people will work on some level with their colon. There are entire programs for colon detoxification available, such as Dr. Robert Grayís Colon Cleansing program, which includes a book and special supplements, found mainly in health food stores. A series of colonic water irrigations, best performed by a trained professional can be the focal point of a detox program, usually along with some cleansing diet and fiber supplements for toning and cleaning the colon. During a basic dietary detox program, other, more subtle colon stimuli are usually used to enhance colon action. These may include herbal or pharmaceutical laxatives, fiber and colon detox supplements, such as psyllium seed husks alone or mixed with other agents, for example, aloe vera powder, betonite clay, and acidophilus culture. Enemas using water, herbs, or even diluted coffee (stimulates liver cleansing) may also be used.

To improve elimination through the skin, regular exercise is important to stimulate sweating. Exercise also improves our general metabolism and helps overall with detoxification. Regular aerobic exercise is a key to maintaining a nontoxic body, especially when we are a little abusive of various substances. On the other hand, exercise increases the production of toxins in the body, so it must be accompanied by adequate fluids, antioxidants, vitamin and mineral replenishment, and other detoxifying principles already discussed. (Also, see the earlier Athletes program in Chapter 16.)

Regular bathing is essential to cleanse the skin of the toxins it has released and to open the pores to eliminate more. Saunas and sweats are commonly used to help purify the body through enhanced skin elimination. Dry brushing the skin with an appropriate skin brush before bathing is usually suggested, especially during detox programs, to cleanse the skin of old cells and invigorate it. Massage therapy, especially lymphatic and even deeper massage, is very useful in supporting our detox program. It stimulates elimination and body functions and promotes relaxation. Clearing tensions, worries, and other mental messes also makes for a more complete detoxification.

Resting, relaxation, and recharging are important to this rejuvenation process. During detox, we may need more rest, quiet time, and sleep, although more commonly we have more energy and function better on less sleep. Relaxation exercises help our body rebalance as our mind and attitudes stop interfering with our natural homeostasis. Practicing yoga combines quiet, yet powerful exercises with breathing awareness and regulation, allowing increased flexibility and relaxation. It may be appropriate for many to help balance more active and/or more contractive exercise programs, especially during detox and transition times.

Certain supplements may be used during most of these detoxification programs. However, general supplementation is less important in this detoxification program than in many of the other programs presented in this book or in the specific detox plans for drugs, alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, when higher amounts of nutrients can ease the withdrawal transitions. For straight juice cleansing or water fasts, I usually do not recommend any supplements; however, I may suggest a couple of nutrients or herbs to stimulate the detox process. Potassium, extra fiber with olive oil to clear toxins from the colon, sodium alginate from seaweeds to bind heavy metals, and apple cider vinegar in water (1 tablespoon of vinegar in 8 ounces hot water) to help reduce mucus are among these. For people beginning to detoxify with transition diets, I often suggest a specialized nutrient program to help neutralize toxins and support elimination. With weight loss, toxins stored in the fat will need to be mobilized and cleared. More water, fiber, and antioxidants can help handle this.

The supplement program used for general detoxification is outlined in the table at the end of this section. It includes a low-dosage multiple vitamin/mineral to fulfill the basic requirements during the transitional diet. The B vitamins, particularly niacin, are important, as are minerals such as zinc, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. The antioxidant nutrients are also important. These include basic levels of beta-carotene, vitamin A and zinc, and vitamin E and selenium, with special focus on vitamin C, probably our main detox vitamin. Some authorities believe that higher amounts of vitamin A (50,000 IUs), vitamin C (8-12 grams), and vitamin E (1,000-1,200 IUs) are helpful in detoxification.

The liver is our most important detox organ because of its many metabolic fuctions. Certain authorities suggest liver-supportive nutrients and even a liver glandular during general detoxification. The liver needs water and glycogen (glucose storage) as glucuronic acid for many of its detoxification functions. A higher starch or carbohydrate diet with lower levels of protein and fats is helpful. This plan correlates with most of the previous detox diets I have suggested, from juices to brown rice and vegetables. The B vitamins, especially B3 and B6, vitamins A and C, zinc, calcium, vitamin E and selenium, and L-cysteine are all also needed to support liver detoxification.

Several amino acids are helpful in detoxification, particularly the sulfur-containing ones, cysteine and methionine. L-cysteine supplies sulfhydryl groups which help to prevent oxidation and to bind heavy metals, especially mercury (vitamin C and selenium also help with this). Cysteine is the precursor of glutathione, our most important detoxifier, and thus helps to counter many chemicals and carcinogens. Glutathione is part of detoxification enzymes, specifically glutathione peroxidase and reductase, which work to prevent peroxidation of lipids and to decrease many toxins, such as smoke, radiation, auto exhaust, chemicals and drugs, and many other carcinogens.

(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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