I believe the slogan for the twenty-first century should be "No Diet Without Detox!" Whether we live in the heart of Manhattan, the suburbs of a Southern city, or the wilds of Wyoming, we're being exposed to poisons in our air, food, water, and homes. How can these poisons in our organs, bloodstream, and fat cells not affect our health?
Some of the toxins to which we're regularly exposed include chlorinated water (which kills lactobacilli, or friendly bacteria, in the digestive system), gasoline, heavy metals (including cadmium, lead, and mercury), herbicides and insecticides, hexachlorobenzene (used in dyes and wood preservatives, as well as on wheat fungus), industrial petrochemicals (a source of xenoestrogens), nitrates in cured meats and water, perchlorate (rocket fuel that leaks into our water supply), and phthalates from plastics. Virtually all of the 80,000 industrial chemicals, additives, and preservatives currently in use were invented in the last 75 years.
While few studies exist on the dangers of environmental toxins, cancer rates have risen from 20 to 50 percent since 1970, and the number of asthma sufferers has grown by 75 percent since 1980. Isn't it just common sense to suppose that this new incidence of disease may be related to environmental pollution?
Let's look at one group of toxins-xenoestrogens-whose use has skyrocketed since World War II. These chemicals mimic the effects of the hormone estrogen in the body, where they induce, block, or otherwise scramble our hormonal signals, either deliberately (as in weight-inducing animal feeds) or as accidental effects when they break down in insecticides. Either way xenoestrogens contribute to a relatively new condition known as estrogen dominance-one symptom of which is a tendency to gain weight.
A female hormone vital to menstruation and pregnancy, estrogen helps stimulate cell growth, signaling women to build up uterine tissue every month and helping our ovaries to instruct one egg each month to mature. Also found to a lesser degree in men, this hormone promotes cell growth, healing, and other vital functions.
The trouble is that excess estrogen can create deficiencies in B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc, while creating a hormone imbalance that's detrimental to health. In women estrogen overload can cause breast tenderness, cervical dysplasia (often an early sign of cervical cancer), irregular menstrual periods, PMS, polycystic ovaries (another cancer risk), and uterine fibroids and cancer. For both sexes, estrogen dominance can lead to allergies, autoimmune disorders, bone loss and osteoporosis, decreased sex drive, depression, dry eyes, fatigue, hair loss, headache, hypoglycemia, infertility, insomnia, irritability, memory loss, mood swings, and thyroid dysfunction. A further downside of this life-giving hormone is unrestrained cell growth, eventually leading to cancer.
If you're overweight, consider that estrogen dominance can cause fat gain, especially around the abdomen, hips, and thighs, as well as water retention and bloating, a sluggish metabolism, and numerous nutritional imbalances. Every time you're exposed to plastic, industrial waste, nonorganic meat, pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables, car exhaust, and much of the furniture, paneling, and carpeting in your home and office, you're setting yourself up for estrogen dominance-and weight gain.
Paula Baillie-Hamilton, MD, PhD, has published an extensive study of numerous synthetic chemicals pervading our environment: "I discovered that these chemicals appear to be making us fat. . . . Time and again, when I learned about a different group of pesticides or environmental pollutants, I would soon discover that they too could cause weight gain." Between 1930 and 2000, the number of synthetic chemicals in use soared-and so did the number of overweight adults in the United States.
Detox for Weight Loss
Detoxification is crucial to losing weight, because toxins are stored in our body fat. Melting that fat away dumps toxins into our bloodstream-unless we flush them out. Supporting the liver and colon, organs critical in the effort to rid our bodies of fattening chemicals, can be an enormous advantage.
One of the liver's most important functions, and the one most crucial to weight loss, is breaking down everything that enters your body-from the healthiest bite of organic food to the poisonous pesticides that linger on conventional produce. It's the liver's job to distinguish between the nutrients you need to absorb and the toxins that must be filtered out of your bloodstream. To do this, your liver engages in a number of detox processes.
While the liver works like a filter (removing gunk and sludge), the colon is your body's plumbing system. But if this organ is clogged and toxic (as many colons are in our toxic world), you're likely to encounter health problems, as well as weight issues. When toxicity is the problem, fiber (or roughage) is the solution. Fiber functions much like a garbage truck, carrying away toxic waste and restoring your system to health. Unfortunately, most Americans consume far too little fiber: on average 12 grams daily, down from the 30 to 40 grams our grandparents ate.
To prepare your body for internal cleansing, consume foods that will support your liver and colon. Eat the following daily for a week before you detox:
Also drink half your body weight in ounces of filtered, pure water. Water is best taken at room temperature between meals, though you can drink up to half a glass (4 oz) with meals. More can dilute hydrochloric acid, necessary for proper digestion.
A one-day fast is all your body needs for detox, if you've prepared yourself properly. Drink filtered water and diluted, unsweetened cranberry juice (seasoned with freshly squeezed citrus and spices), alternating one with the other every hour of your fast. During this day, consume 8 glasses of juices plus 72 oz of water. Begin and finish your day-long fast with psyllium husk powder or ground/milled flaxseed mixed in water or juice.
Most people on my Fast Track Detox Diet find this day extremely positive. "Only when I had gaps in sipping did I notice a slight want for food. I noticed a slight increase in my energy level, and by the end of the day, the swelling in my ankles had disappeared," says one 50-year-old woman who lost five pounds on this program.
While many participants report increased energy, mental clarity, and well-being, some do experience other symptoms including headaches, fatigue, irritability, foggy thinking, and mild depression. The explanation is simple: Having stored toxins in our fat, we pay a price for getting rid of them. Realize that these symptoms are an indication that both the fast and detox process are working and that you'll soon feel even better than you did before.
Closely following my diet plan for a week before detox may prevent any symptoms during your fast. You can take nutritional supplements the week before and after your fast, but please skip them while fasting. Your body will have a hard time digesting even the finest supplements on an empty stomach, and they might make you feel nauseous.
On fast day, indulge in conscious breathing for five minutes at a time (it'll help combat any hunger pains), or engage in longer sessions for a consciousness-raising experience. Also meditate, write in your journal, schedule a massage, draw or paint, and take a long soak in the tub. Engage only in light exercise (either a 20-minute walk or 10 minutes on a rebounder).
Focus on your feelings to get in touch with your "true" hunger. Flower Remedies can offer valuable support while you face and cope with difficult feelings that may arise. I've come to call them "psychotherapy in a bottle."
Seal in results
After fasting, seal in the result with the following regimen for the next three days:
"I didn't know I'd feel so much better," says one Fast Tracker, "just from that one day without food." Others report losing three, four, even five pounds in one day. "Now my favorite black pants are loose in the waist and the hips. I've never had results like this before," says a participant.
"I always knew that the environment was important, but I never really got how much it was affecting me. . . . Now I feel so terrific, I can't imagine going back to the way I was before," notes another.
To keep your body clean after your fast, buy organic foods whenever you can. The extra cost is absolutely justified by the benefits to your health, beauty, and ability to stay slim.
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is the author of The Fast Track Detox Diet, as well as more than 20 other titles on nutrition and natural health including the New York Times bestselling Fat Flush Plan.
The cleansing of the colon using copious amounts of water was a common procedure in the era 1930-1950s. The first instance was recorded in 1500 B.C., in the Ebers Papyrus, a medical instruction book. In the fourth and fifth centuries B.C., colon hydrotherapy was used to treat fever, and Galen in the second century A.D.
Do you ever wonder why some people are always on the go yet still full of energy, need only a few hours of sleep, and rarely have a cold or the flu? The answer may be body chemistry.
Your skin is your largest organ, stretching over the entire surface of your body. It is responsible for eliminating waste through sweat every day. Dry skin brushing is considered a valuable part of detoxification efforts, since brushing the skin stimulates so many detoxification processes.