Detoxification for Dummies

If you ever decide to do a 21-day detox or cleanse, I have some advice for you.

My first pearl of wisdom: Don’t do it!

Imagine, three weeks with no coffee, soda, sugar, and wheat. Three weeks without protein that walked about on two or four legs. No prepared or packaged foods—no more handy Clif or Balance bars to keep away late-afternoon crankiness. No more wintergreen Life Savers. No fruits on the dirty dozen list (an apple a day is bad for you when covered in pesticides). No more peanut M&Ms, because peanuts are allergenic and carry traces of mold and chocolate is most certainly on the off-limits list.

Imagine taking contrast showers in the middle of winter, alternating from cold to lukewarm and back to cold again three times, because it’s good for your skin. Or not eating after 6:00 or 7:00 pm at night because the liver does its most important work a few hours after you go to sleep, and you need a good 12-hour fast to help it detoxify the 500 chemicals you are exposed to a day.

I found my family got a little annoyed with the not eating after 6:00 pm thing, because it meant we had to eat separately for three weeks.

All that said, you may decide to do one of these crazy things anyway. Perhaps, like me, you have some chronic medical issue like hives or other inflammation that perplexes you and the entire spectrum of Western and naturopathic medicine. The last time I did a detox two years ago, my hives cut down to about 25 percent of what they used to be. And, I am sure that if I had really done it completely and religiously, and had I not had those two glasses of wine at the winetasting or that one cupcake at the office birthday party during those 21 days, I might have no hives at all today.

Seriously, I was pretty good last time, other than that one cupcake and the winetasting. And I felt great at the end. I saw significant improvement in my hives and that was enough for me to believe in the benefits of detoxing.

So, I’m tackling it again. Today is day four. I’m doing the detox with a group and my naturopathic doctor, and daily we commiserate by email with fun ideas for recipes: sweet dumpling squash with quinoa, a coffee replacement made with maca and caco powders (no idea what those are), and easy breakfast ideas that usually involve brown rice. Yum!

Because it’s winter and frigid out, my doctor actually recommended sitting in front of the pellet stove and then running around outside the house three times, and then back to the stove, and so on. I haven’t tried that yet. It is only 12 degrees outside. Although I did help haul in 40-pound bags of Green Clean wood pellets from the driveway to the basement this morning. That should count.

Overall, this detox isn’t bad. This time is much easier than the last. My secret? Here’s the last piece of advice I have for you: coordinate the timing of the detox with the first day you experience a full-blown cold.

I could tell Monday morning I was getting a cold by that weird tight feeling in the back of my nose. Tuesday I had a bit of a scratchy throat. Wednesday, I could not breathe. I felt so crappy I didn’t even care if I ate. I felt like I was going to die. Wednesday was day one of the detox.

When you’re sick like that, you can’t even think. You don’t want coffee, or even cupcakes. Plus, you have such a massive headache from the cold that you don’t know whether it is a detox headache or a cold headache. All you want to do is drink tea and liquids. Non-dairy soups are no longer bland but now amaze your palate. Your daily almond milk protein shake with the special liver boosting powder tastes really good to your throat because you blend it with ice and it chills going down. You feel so sick that you will do anything to get better.

Of course, you aren’t really supposed to take cold medicine if you are on a detox. But a few times this week, I slipped. I had to be able to breathe in order to work. So Sudafed was my new friend, once or twice. But I also drank a ton of water and at least a keg of tea. So I am feeling better already, and my cold is on its way out. I already feel lighter somehow. (Maybe that’s just because I keep having to blow my nose.)

Anyway, I do feel fortunate to have found the path of least resistance for this process: Detox AND decongest at the same time.

It’s a winning combo.