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HomeHealthThe Case for Detoxification

The Case for Detoxification

My guided detox program this fall wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Ten days of eating organic vegetables, fruits, healthy gluten-free grains, lean meat, fish and vegan proteins kept me sated and strong. While it was not a huge change from what I regularly eat, it was enough of a shift to help me lose a few pounds and feel the positive effects from following a strict ‘clean’ diet.

Detoxing, cleansing, intermittent fasting and juice cleanses are all the rage. Josh Axe, a doctor of natural medicine, who, when looking back at the trends that have taken off in 2018, said intermittent fasting may be the most accessible and beneficial one of all. “It turns out skipping breakfast might actually not be such a bad thing. The secret is getting your body into a fasted state long enough to give it a break from digestion and to reset.”

Because I lead an active lifestyle and I know I don’t do well when I fast, I chose a detox program that was guided. I wanted access not only to others who were following the same protocol as me, but I also wanted access to professionals who could answer questions about what I was feeling during the 10 days.

At first I resisted instructions to add protein shakes to my menu daily. I also thought having to eat mostly self-prepared fresh, locally grown or organic meat and vegetables would be too time consuming. But, when I released resistance to the structure and accepted the possibility of success, it became fun.

“Why Detoxify?
Detoxing your body is very important and very necessary,” said Mary Phelps, a certified integrative nutritionist at Lavender Retreat on Capitol Hill who helped me choose foods to re-integrate into eating regularly after detoxing. “Both the environment in which we live and our current food supply contain toxins that we need to release from our bodies so our immune systems can function optimally.”

Some nutritionists feel that we don’t need to detox. Aren’t our body’s organs already designed to ‘detox’ us, provided they are functioning properly? Yes, our bodies are an efficient detoxing machine – our skin, our intestines, our airways, our liver and kidneys all work to filter detrimental substances from our body. However, because we live in a city, we add pesticides and other chemicals to our foods, eat processed and genetically modified foods and take a myriad of pharmaceuticals, we are stressing our organs in ways that humans did not do in the past. Our immune system doesn’t work perfectly. We get colds, headaches, allergies, aches and pains and diseases because our immune system wasn’t working optimally.

According to Dr. Elson Haas, we detoxify/cleanse for health, vitality and rejuvenation – to clear symptoms, treat disease and prevent future problems. I did my detoxification for three reasons: to cleanse my organs, to make an adjustment to my eating habits and to strengthen my immune system as I head into the winter months. Dr. Haas said, “It’s like a vacation for our body and digestive tract.”

Who Should Detox?
“Almost everyone needs to detox and rest their body from time to time,” said Mary. “A kid in college who eats junk as well as an 80-year-old who has been taking 10 medications for many years can benefit from detoxing.”

Who doesn’t brush their teeth, take a shower, clean their house or wash their car? I like to think of detoxification as clearing the sludge out of my inner workings just as I change the oil in my car.

The method you choose for cleansing should be unique to you. “It has to be done properly,” said Mary. “It depends on a person’s medical history.” I chose a 10-day not the 28-day program because after reviewing my medical history we determined that best suited my needs. “Someone who has a chronic autoimmune disease may choose the 28-day program because he/she will have more time for the gut to heal,” she said.

Mary also recommends a guided program, especially for first-timers. She explains, “When toxins are released, especially from the liver, they can cause side effects. It’s important to help you interpret your symptoms.” For example, during the first three days of my detox I had gastrointestinal discomfort. When I discussed it with the naturopathic doctor at Lavender Retreat, we determined the cause. Detoxing can also cause headaches, fatigue, congestion or even backaches.

The New Year is a natural time to incorporate ways to improve your health. One way is to try a detoxification program. Our bodies detox while we sleep every night – when it doesn’t have to digest, it can rest. That is why we were taught not to have a big meal before bed. Detoxification is a way to help prevent illness which is so much easier to do than to heal from disease.

Mary Phelps can be contacted through her website: www.MaryPhelpsnutrition.com. You may also contact her through Lavender Retreat at: 202-450-2329.

Dr. Josh Axe’s website is: www.draxe.com.

For more information on detoxing check out: The Detox Diet: The How-to and When-to Guide for Cleansing the Body by Elson M. Haas, M.D.; Lifestyle Detox by Katie Wells; and 10-Day Detox Diet by Mark Hyman, MD. You may also check out Dr. Hyman’s website at: www.drhyman.com.


Pattie Cinelli is a health/fitness professional who offers information about subjects on the leading edge of health and fitness thought. She has been writing her column for more than 25 years and welcomes column suggestions and fitness questions. Pattie can provide lectures, private sessions and group classes to your church, home or office. She is also producing a podcast. You can contact Pattie at: fitmiss44@aol.com.

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