Detoxification can have positive effects on many health challenges, such as allergies, weight gain, digestion, and any sort of inflammatory situation. Unfortunately, there is a lot of snake oil out there claiming detoxification.
The number one myth of detoxification is “mucoid plaque” in the colon or large intestine. This is a myth perpetrated because of what people pass from their bowels doing a colon cleanse; but it is in fact an artifact of the clay and psyllium fiber that is a big component of these cleanses.
Keep in mind that clay is a proven topical detoxifier, so having clay pass through your intestines could have a positive benefit regardless of the lack of mucoid plaque. More on this later.
Many of the benefits of detoxification come from severe reduction of caloric intake, giving the body a break from the task of processing all these calories, allowing it to use those enzymatic resources to “clean house” so to speak.
Unscientific Detoxification Methods:
The ultimate detoxification using the caloric restriction idea is the water fast. It’s most famous promoter was Arnold Ehret, who conducted public water fasts as long as 49 days, and claimed many benefits including strength and endurance. He once rode his bicycle 800 miles from Algiers to Tunis to prove his point. I am not a fan of water fasting for more than a day or two. I have noticed that it’s proponents tend to look prematurely aged, with early white and grey hair, which to me indicates mineral deficiency.
Another approach to detoxification is juice fasting. I am not a fan of fruit and carrot juice fasting because removing all the fiber from your fruit increases the rate at which the sugars enter the bloodstream, and you miss out on fiber’s many proven health benefits. Definitely a bad idea if you have blood sugar or insulin issues. Dr. Joe Mercola recommends using a masticating juicer that maintains the fiber content on green vegetables (not fruits) and eating the resulting puree. This makes a lot more sense to me.
A healthier variation of the fruit juice fast is to only eat fruit for a period of time, this way you get the whole food benefits. The downside to this approach is that you maintain your carbohydrate intake relatively high while drastically reducing your protein intake. I have noticed that many people using this approach are overweight. If you are fasting, you should reduced your carbohydrate intake, not maintain it. Still, there is some value to this approach.
An exception to the no-juice rule would be cereal grass juices, such as wheat grass, barley, and kamut grass juices. Alfalfa juice would fall in this category as well. Cereal grasses are extremely nourishing, and worth consuming, but only in juice form with all the fiber removed. Grasses have a fiber structure akin to barbed razor blades which are extremely irritating to us non-ruminants. Make sure that any cereal grass supplement that you does not contain any whole grass with it’s razor-like fiber. Since ground up grass is about a twentieth the cost of the juice, many formulators like to add this as a cost reduction strategy. The taste, texture, and odor do not compare to 100% juice.
The most common approach to detoxification is to “colon cleanse” which usually involves an approach to remove the mythical “mucoid plaque” we spoke of earlier. I have seen some benefits from this approach, usually with people who are quite toxic. These people would improve with just about any approach where they make a serious reduction in their caloric intake. The major downside to the colon cleanse approach comes when the formulators look to add anti-parasitic ingredients and they sell this to someone with Crohns disease or ulcerative colitis, and all of a sudden this person is passing bloody stools and bleeding from their rectum. Not to mention the fact that these formulations are based on a myth.
The Master Cleanse
Another popular unscientific method of detoxification is the so-called “Master Cleanse.” The Master Cleanse advocates drinking a sugary mixture of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, sea salt and water for days on end. The lack of protein in this formula means that you body will run out of multiple substrates needed for metabolic detoxification pathways. This is very counter-productive, so when you hear of master cleanse adherents brag about their headaches and runny noses, you will now know that these symptoms are a result of the toxicity due to lack of nutrients in this snake-oil approach.
Detoxification Depends on Nutrients
All of the above approaches suffer from a major flaw: Not enough nourishment! You need protein to maintain your muscle mass and keep detoxification pathways flowing in the liver, as well as vitamins and minerals to maintain all sorts of body processes including detoxification.
A Better Approach to Detoxification
I use scientific methodologies using clinically proven medical foods, supplements, and dietary interventions which have been proven in human clinical trials. In particular, I have great clinical tools to use with any sort of inflammatory condition, including intestinal inflammation and irritation conditions that are poorly addressed by allopathic medicine and the more traditional detoxification interventions described above.
Medical Food Cleanses
The cleanses I recommend typically use a medical food that average 160 calories per serving, including healthy fats, slow carbohydrates, and about 16 grams of protein. Getting protein into your body while you are on a cleansing fast minimizes muscle loss, prevents hunger, keeps your metabolism cooking, and improves detoxification. Most people don’t know that the body needs more protein when you are reducing calories, as carbohydrate and fat “spare” protein.
Accelerated Weight Loss
A neat benefit of cleansing is that you reducing body-fat and what I call “fluff”. Fluff is water and carbohydrate that is held by the body when it is in a toxic state. When you lose the “fluff”, you lose more weight faster than you could by losing fat alone.
Don’t get me wrong, detoxification fasting is the very best way to strip fat off your body quickly that there is. In fact, people who are extremely fit and lean will often see those stubborn pockets of body-fat melt away. I believe this is because many stored toxins are fat-soluble. If your body doesn’t have the resources to access, conjugate and excrete the toxins, then it needs those pockets of fat for “toxin storage”.
Supplying the nutrients that your system needs to deal with the toxins, while restricting the calories to promote the whole body cleansing process, and maintaining or increasing protein intake is a winning combination.
Typical Detoxification Recommendations
Typically I recommend a calming, cleansing medical food that uses hypoallergenic rice protein and rice carbohydrate. Depending on your history of exposure to heavy metals, and other factors, I may recommend a green food supplement for your detoxification cleanse. Again, I like to stick to products that have been proven to detoxify particular chemicals or heavy metals in multiple human clinical trials. The green food that I recommend the most has been proven in literally hundreds of clinical trials with real people.