lemons on cutting boards with herbs

An oldie but goodie from 2005 by Debra

In the old days, people used to fast at the change of the seasons to rid themselves of internal pollutants that feed into everything from Candida, fatigue, allergies and damaged immune systems. Fasting is one of the oldest therapeutic methods known to man or woman.

Because it takes energy to process what we eat, when we don’t eat, or when we eat lightly, the body has energy left over to detox, to rid itself of junk we have inside that may be causing little and not-so-little problems. The body can concentrate on fighting illness instead. Fasting gives our most overworked organ, the liver, the chance to rest and do its job better.

I like to think that fasting can do for our bodies and for our liver what an oil change can do for our cars.

Do I like fasting? No. I really, really, really like eating. I need to chew. But fasting works, according to Linda Rector Page, an author of books on diet and healing, because the body is smart and digests “substances and tissue that are damaged, diseased or unneeded such as tumors, excess fat deposits and congestive wastes.” She recommends fasting 3-7 days.

Instead of fasting, I prefer a modified fast that I call a detox diet. I’ll give you my version in a little bit… But first back to the liver.

The health of the whole body is largely determined by the health of the liver. The liver protects us, filters and rids the bloodstream of toxins and metabolic wastes. Today, the liver has a harder job than ever before because we eat more calories, fats, sugars and drink more alcohol. And we are exposed to increasing amounts of environmental toxins which the liver has to handle as well.

Okay. So we want to help our liver, we want to detox, but fasting is hard because we can’t necessarily find time to slow down and relax through the process. Most of us work or have a family. We might hesitate, too, because detoxing can cause things like headaches as our body stirs up toxins that have been lying dormant in tissues. We might not look forward to a healing crisis.

So here’s a simple detox that won’t do you in. Should you use organic ingredients? Yes, because you don’t want pesticides or herbicides or any kind of poison in your food! Try this detox for about five days — a day less or a day more is fine:

  • For breakfast: Start your day with the juice of ½ lemon, or 1 Tbsp of raw apple cider vinegar, in water with 100 mg (a Tbsp of my favorite brand, DeSouza’s) liquid chlorophyll. Have as much of one kind of fruit as you want – four apples or three bananas or two mangoes. In other words, don’t mix the apples and mangoes. You get the idea!
  • During the day (mid-morning or mid-afternoon, or whenever your energy flags): sip a cup or two of a liquid from simmering veggies like greens, onions or yams. [Put veggies in a big pot and cover with water so the level is a good 4-5” above them. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover pot, and simmer everything for about an hour.] Or drink fresh vegetable juice that is home made, or have a glass of organic apple juice.
  • For lunch: Enjoy a big bowl of steamed brown rice or quinoa with steamed vegetables. Dress them with the juice of a lemon and a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive or flaxseed oil. Optional, but recommended: Sprinkle on seaweed and brewer’s yeast (a rich source of the B vitamins). Accompany with an immune-boosting soup made by simmering vegetables with things like burdock, ginger and garlic.
  • For dinner:  Repeat the above meal. Mix and match vegetables. I like carrots, chard, kale and steamed cauliflower. I like raw dandelion leaves and arugula. All the greens are good liver tonics (dandelion is especially terrific – do you have any in your lawn yet? – if you do and they are unsprayed, well, then just go outside with scissors….).
  • Some people need soluble fiber supplements like psyllium or flax seed powder to help them go to the bathroom.  [In 2014, I can say that another fiber that works great is glucomannan, or more particularly a product called PGX by Natural Factors.]
  • Before bed:  Put the juice from ½ lemon, or 1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar, in a mug of water. Feel free to add a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup.
  • With each meal: Sip a good detox tea and take a capsule of milk thistle (silymarin), which contains some of the most potent liver-cleansing substances. Milk thistle enhances liver function and inhibits factors that cause liver damage. Also helpful are digestive enzymes, vitamin C and probiotics to help re-establish the micro-organism balance in the intestines (again, check out this month’s newsletter recipe).  Sip green, ginger, pau d’arco or said detox teas during the day.
  • Read our handout about the supplement called NAC, which has been shown to not only “cut your cold or flu by about half, raise the antioxidant status of your liver and lungs, protect your kidneys from chemical injury but which supports detoxification of everything from mercury to acetaminophen to alcohol, and protect your eyes from degenerative damage.”  This from Adam’s article in our March 2010 newsletter.

Of course, make sure you get into bed early each night. Take a walk each day. Swing your arms!

A detox of this sort should be fine if you have a sugar metabolism problem, but check with a qualified health care practitioner if you are pregnant, nursing or debilitated.

What I like about this modified fast is that it allows me to chew and crunch, keeps my energy up, is easy on the digestion and does the job. The trick is, however, not to start eating two pints of ice cream for dinner as soon as you’re done! And don’t break the detox with a big bowl of pasta… Eat lightly for a few days. For snacks, try miso soup and/or a hard-boiled egg or cup of yogurt in between meals.

Will you lose weight on this detox? Most people do. It reminds me a little of NY Times food writer Mark Bittman who has spoken about the changes he made to his diet. He had gained a lot of weight, his joints hurt and his heart was not ready for primetime. He decided to eat only plants until 6:00 p.m., then allow “treats” after that. He defined “plants” as all fruits and veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. “Treats” were anything to do with non-plant foods (i.e. dairy, poultry, meat and fish). He didn’t consider sugar a plant, nor did he consider white flour or refined products as plants. Mark Bittman lost weight big-time. His health improved dramatically. But weight loss is a whole other topic for another time…