I have a lot of patients asking me about detoxes and cleanses and other ways to purify the body through extreme measures, like the Master Cleanse, juice fasts and meal replacement shakes. Chinese medicine strongly opposes these kinds of eating habits because they harm the digestion.
Most of these cleanses and detoxes involve a large portion of raw foods. Chinese medicine sees raw foods (and cold ones too) as making the digestion work overtime, eventually exhausting it. So, maybe you’ll succeed in forcing your body to rapidly detox, but you’ll also leave your digestion debilitated, struggling to digest real food when you reintroduce it. This may manifest as fatigue, diarrhea, and break-outs/rashes when you go off the cleanse. To make matters worse, a lot of cleanses include harsh medicinals that stimulate strong bowel movements, which may change your body’s ability to have a normal bowel movement. Addition of herbs for parasites when there is not official evidence of parasites will further weaken the digestion.
I have heard plenty of people say, Oh, I did a cleanse and I was fine. (I’ve heard from an equal number of people who made themselves sick.) Maybe your digestion was strong to begin with. Maybe you could eat absolutely anything. But repeated cleanses and detoxes will eventually dampen and put out that digestive fire.
Our bodies have the ability to detox. They don’t always need extra assistance or stimulation. But they do need a little incentive. One way to incentivize the body to detox naturally is to remove all of the offending toxins and toxic burdens. Removing toxins from your home and, by extension, you will allow your body to do its job. Your body can’t detox if every day you keep adding more and more burdens to it.
So, what do you suggest, Dylan? I’m feeling sluggish and off my game, and I want to get clean!
I suggest getting clean. Here’s my 4 part plan:
- Detox your home: get a serious water filter in your kitchen like a Multipure or Berkey filter to remove chlorine and other chemicals, spores, and heavy metals from your drinking and cooking water. Get a great stainless steel or glass water bottle, and carry that water everywhere. Get shower filters to remove chlorine from your bathing water. Finish whatever cleaning products you have in your house, and then replace them with green cleaning products, like those made by Seventh Generation or Ecover. Go fragrance free whenever possible. Also, green your laundry detergent and fabric softener. Adding dryer balls and reusable dry sheets makes a big difference. Add at least one plant that is known to clean the air to each non-bathroom room of your home. A quick Google search will give you a list of these plants.
- Detox your body care products: Use only organic, natural soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, makeup and toothpaste. Many ingredients in our body care products have been banned in other countries for being carcinogenic, endocrine disruptors or otherwise harmful, yet we’re still slathering them all over ourselves. Check with the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database to see how safe your products are. Stick to products rated 3 or lower.
Common ingredients to avoid are:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
- Petroleum derivatives, like petrolatum and mineral oil
- The preservatives BHA and BHT
- Coal tar dyes (p-phenylenediamine and colors listed as “CI” followed by a five digit number)
- Synthetic colors (with names starting with FD&C or D&C) (There is overlap here with the above category)
- Ethanolamine Compounds like DEA, MEA and TEA
- Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine and quarternium-15)
- Polyethylene glycol (PEG)
- Siloxanes (anything ending in “-siloxane” or “-methicone”)
- Toluene (listed as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene)
- Propylene glycol
- Chemical sunscreens (benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate and ethoxycinnmate)
- This one won’t be on the list, but it’s in there from adding ethylene oxide to ameliorate other chemicals: Ethoxylated surfactants and 1,4-dioxane
- Paraphenylenediamine (PPD)
- Certain kinds of Fragrance (a way to sneak in phthalates)
- Detox your diet: Eat organic. Always. Whenever possible, eat local. There are greenmarkets/farmer’s market all over now, so access isn’t as restricted as it used to be. In New York City, the greenmarkets accept SNAP. Eat only meat and poultry raised on pasture. Meat may sometimes be called 100% grass-fed, but grass-finished meat doesn’t count. Eat some beef liver every week. Eggs should also be from hens raised on pasture, not free-roaming or cage-free, but “on pasture.” Dairy products should come from cows raised on pasture, too. You’ll notice the difference in flavor immediately. Eat only wild caught fish. Stick to salmon, cod, sardines and other fish “certified to eat” by the Marine Stewardship Council. When selecting vegetables and fruits, eat the rainbow. Make sure you have at least two different colored organic vegetables and one optional fruit at lunch or dinner. Always eat fruits and vegetables in their entirety, not juiced. The fiber that gets removed during juicing will support detoxing by physically cleansing the colon. Soak your grains for 6 hours or overnight before cooking to disable anti-nutrients, like phytic acid. Discard the soaking water and use fresh water for cooking. Avoid all processed foods, trans fats and sugars. Structure your meals to support healthy blood sugar levels and sleep-wake cycle. Never, ever skip breakfast. Breakfast should be a protein-dominant with a healthy fat, like pastured butter or avocado, a very small portion of carbohydrate and unlimited vegetables. Skip the coffee. (I don’t mind a caffeinated beverage with lunch, just not in the morning. Lunch should be vegetable and protein-dominant. Again a very small portion of carbohydrate is OK. Eat cooked vegetables instead of raw ones. Try a lightly sauteed salad… it sounds crazy, but it’s delicious. Dinner should have a generous portion of a soaked whole grain with a small portion of protein and unlimited vegetables. This protein in the morning, carbs in the evening diet structure supports your body in producing energy in the morning and making you sleepy in the evening. The protein plus fat breakfast will help stabilize your blood sugar and avoid an afternoon slump.
- Consider adding a Super-powered supplement: My favorite, super-powered supplements are: Cod liver oil, probiotics, Vitamin D3/K2 combination, and adaptogens that benefit the adrenals, like rhodiola, ashwaganda and tulsi.
Following these steps will allow your body to detox while also building it up again.