I have often said that detox is the missing link in western nutrition and I have written extensively on this topic both in my books, such as The Detox Diet, and here in TotalHealth Magazine as in my January 2018 article on Seasonal Detox and my October 2017 article, Toxins Too Close for Comfort, on the hidden dangers
in some of our personal care and home cleaning products—an
often overlooked area of concern.
Toxins might be defined as chemicals and metals that get
into our bodies from the air, food, water, even what we wear
and we put on our bodies. These are not natural or needed by
our body, so removal or avoidance of such substances is the
simplest version of detox. However, this important therapeutic
method has a number of different approaches, goals and
potential healing outcomes so I want to explore it a little more
deeply, which begins with my thoughts about the real causes of
Cell Health Compromised by Deficiency and Toxicity
Optimal Cellular function is at the core of our health and so
a primary cause for most disease is cellular dysfunction, which
arises from two main sources: Deficiency—not getting all (or
enough of) the nutrients our body needs, and Toxicity—intake
of and exposure to toxins that affect enzymes and cell function.
Our cells require literally thousands of molecules that
are part of the foods we eat and the beverages we drink.
When bodies do not receive adequate supplies of high quality
essential nutrients, the cells become deficient, which impairs
function and can cause a decline in the health of tissues, organs
and ultimately our entire body. This is why good nutrition is a
cornerstone of great health.
We must also address Toxicity—the exposures of our
cells to environmental factors such as mercury or lead, smog,
cigarette smoke and damaging chemicals (e.g. pesticides,
preservatives, cleaning agents and myriad consumer products)
that come into our bodies from multiple sources. In addition,
our cells create their own toxic chemicals, some of which
are called oxidants or free radicals. Our cells have developed
ways to remove these elements, but we need to provide them
with appropriate antioxidants (vitamins C, A, E, and more) to
facilitate the process of detoxification, which brings us back to
essential nutrients. (See below.)
So at the most basic level the detox process is about avoiding
toxins or working to remove them, but in addition to the
more obvious environmental toxins we also need to address
intoxicants. Alcohol and tobacco are probably the first things
that come to mind, but many other common substances alter
our physical, emotional and mental state and can have negative
health consequences in the long term if over indulged. Caffeine
is in this category, but so is sugar and processed sweetening agents like corn syrup, or artificial ones like aspartame, which the "food" industry seems to put in countless products.
Therefore, another type of detox is clearing from any
substance habits or abuses, even addictions for some, which are
a serious type of imbalanced relationship to one's true nurturing
needs. This process encourages you to take a break, which may
be temporary or lifelong, from such common habits as the daily
intake of what I call the SNACCs—Sugar (as refined sugar and
corn syrup), Nicotine, Alcohol, Caffeine and Chemicals, both
in foods and our environment. To me, this is often the first
step in health liberation, freeing ourselves from the emotional
dependence on certain items to stimulate or sedate us. Related
to this, I am launching my online course called Regain Your
Natural Energy: Breaking the Stimulation-Sedation Cycle. This
offers a guided one-week break from caffeine, alcohol and sugar
and help rediscovering quality sleep and natural, high-level
Food Reactions—The Sensitive Seven
All of these various methods are essentially forms of cleansing.
The second level of the detox or purification process is identifying
and addressing food reactions, which typically occur from the
foods we eat most often and those most commonly available in
our society. I call these the Sensitive Seven—Wheat, Cow's milk,
Sugar, Eggs, Corn, Soy, and Peanuts. My book on this topic, The
False Fat Diet, is about the many ways we react to foods and the
great variety of health conditions caused by these reactions. I
call it False Fat because many of us carry a surprising amount
of extra "weight" that is actually bloating and swelling caused
by our body's reaction to certain foods. Once we identify and
eliminate these foods we can lose that weight in addition to
feeling better overall. By following the healing dietary and
supplement programs of specific avoidance and careful reintroduction
of particular foods (an elimination diet) you can
help uncover your specific reactions and individual needs. This
personalization of our nutritional program is one key to optimal
Food reactions are generated through multiple systems in our
body—digestive, immune, biochemical, and hormonal—
causing bloating and swelling in the body and gut as mentioned,
plus many other possible problems. These reactions caused by
an allergic or depleted system also make us more sensitive to
environmental toxins. Food reactions are surprisingly common
and often result from digestive dysfunction as well as inherent
allergy and over-consumption (regular/habitual use) of the
particular foods. They can also change over time, so you can
develop a new reaction or cease to react to a certain food.
There are many factors that cause the breakdown in optimal
function of the gastrointestinal tract. Overeating, too many different foods at once, incomplete chewing, drinking too much while eating which dilutes the digestive juices, and chronic stress, all of which weaken our ability to digest foods
Furthermore, many people have an imbalance of intestinal
flora, because they have killed off their healthy bacteria from an
overuse of antibiotics, which is common in modern medicine.
Other irritating bacteria may flourish, or fermenting types of
yeast organisms, or even parasites will take up residence within
our intestines. These cause an irritation of the membranes,
and this affects our proper absorption of nutrients, causing
abnormal absorption of larger molecules, often referred to
as "leaky gut" syndrome. Allowing 'toxins' to enter the blood
stream can affect our brain function, mood, and energy level,
and cause secondary immune and biochemical reactions to
Note: Testing is available for both food reactivity and intestinal
flora from various labs usually ordered by naturally-oriented
physicians as well as some chiropractors, naturopaths and
acupuncturists who have studied nutritional medicine,
gastrointestinal ecology and function. Most conventional
medical doctors haven't had the training in this area of health
knowledge to be able to help in these more subtle and preventive
The Elimination Diet
Allowing these reactions to quiet and clear can help those
suffering from them to feel much better rather quickly. This
means following an elimination diet, avoiding our habit foods,
or commonly eaten foods, as well as the most reactive ones
like the Sensitive Seven. As part of this article I have provided
a simple elimination diet plan from my book, Staying Healthy with the Seasons.
After two or three weeks of removing foods you can then
reintroduce them by eating one of the restricted foods at a
time, giving it a while to check your experience of any untoward
effects. Usually I have my patients watch three different time
periods for these food reactions, since many responses can be
- First, watch immediately and over the first hour after eating the food.
- Second, pay attention later in the day, several hours up to six hours later.
- Third, observe how you are when you wake up the next morning.
Do you feel a little foggy or like you have a hangover? If you
had any reaction to the food or substance, if you feel worse
(fatigue, irritability, itchy skin, digestive upset, and mood or
energy changes are some possible reactions) or have any of
the symptoms you had previously experienced, you are likely
reactive to that food.
How Do You Begin This Process?
First, make an honest self-assessment.
- What are you dependent on?
- What do you mostly not want to give up?
- Where's the most resistance? (that's often the culprit in not feeling optimal.)
- How ready are you to take a break from your habits/abuses?
Once you've made your decision, set up a plan and write it
down, stating what you will do, for how long, and what you wish
to achieve. Use a program you know or can read about clearly,
as in The Detox Diet. It helps to find someone you know and
trust who has done it before and talk to them. It's also great if
you can find a friend or family member to do it with you, to help
each other get through any hard times, and to have someone
with whom you can share your success.
As I have noted each time I have written about detox, this
isn't just something I offer my patients, but a fundamental part
of my personal health plan. I know it has helped me to stay
youthful and healthy, and definitely younger than my actual
years. I hope it will provide the same benefits for you.
Essential Nutrients For Avoiding Deficiency
Proteins and amino acids, carbohydrates, fats and essential oils
Vitamins: A, C, D, E, K, B1, B6, B3, B12,
CoQ10, Lipoic acid (Most must come from our diet, and a few the body makes, like CoQ10 and lipoic.)
Minerals: all must come from diet and
include calcium, magnesium, potassium,
sodium, zinc, copper, iron, manganese, selenium,
iodine, traces of boron and others. And
our soil must contain these minerals to be in
our food, and much soil is depleted.
Phytonutrients: hundreds of plant substances,
such as flavonoids and carotenoids,
which give our fruits, vegetables, herbs and
basically all foods their color, aroma, and
add to their flavor.
Antioxidants: these nutrients protect us
from "free radicals," the unstable molecules
that can cause inflammation and damage;
these nutrients include Vitamins A (and betacarotene),
C, D, and E plus some B vitamins;
minerals zinc and selenium, with protective
activity also from iron and magnesium;
coenzyme Q10 and alpha lipoic acid; and
amino acid L-cysteine, which helps support
Elimination Diet To Test For Food Reactions
Use this as a guideline. The number of days this process actually takes you will depend on how you set up your
schedule and which foods you are currently consuming.
Make your own plan and write it down.
Keep a daily journal to track your reactions to foods as you let them go and then add them back to your diet.
For the days when you are adding foods back into your diet, test at least three different foods each day, and
give yourself 3–4 hours to experience each one's effects. It is best if you eat one food at a time during these
days so you can be clear about your reaction. However, if you need to include the previous day(s) foods, you
may, but still do your testing.
Consume a moderate amount of any food you try. For example, eat 3 whole carrots, 4 oz. sunflower seeds,
a bowl of brown rice, 4 oz. of cheese or a glass of milk at their appropriate times. And have a good time.
Day 1 Eat your normal diet.
Day 2 Eliminate all chemicals from diet e.g., food additives, drugs (non-prescription), as well as alcohol, caffeine, nicotine (tobacco).
Day 3 Eliminate all processed foods—refined sugar, white enriched flour and any products containing them
(check food labels).
Day 4 Eliminate meat, poultry and fish products.
Day 5 Eliminate dairy foods—all cow and goat milk based products plus eggs.
Day 6 Eliminate nuts and beans.
Day 7 Eliminate seeds.
Day 8, 9, 10 Eliminate grains, eating only fruits and vegetables. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables in raw, steamed, or juiced forms.
Day 11, 12 Fruit and vegetable juice or broth only. No concentrates or cans—juices should be fresh or bottled, naturally squeezed.
Day 13, 14 Water only—spring or well—not tap water. These may be rest days.
Day 15 Add back fruit and vegetable juices.
Day 16 Fruit—one kind at a time (3–4 hours between kinds), one large or two small fruits.
Day 17 Add vegetables
Day 18 Add grains
Day 19 Add seeds
Day 20 Add nuts and beans
Day 21 Add dairy foods as listed above
Day 22, 23, 24 Add meat, only one kind per day and only if desired—you are now more sensitive.
Day 25 Add any processed foods—only if desired—hopefully you won't want to
Day 26 Add any chemicals or drugs—only if desired—hopefully you won't need to
Congratulations! How do you feel?
From my book Staying Healthy with the Seasons