This is the time of year, after overindulgence during the holidays, where many of us start the new year with resolutions to lose those extra “cookie” pounds, get back in shape and adopt an altogether healthier lifestyle. The media already nudges us by promoting “new“ supplements and super foods that will perform miraculous changes in how we feel and look. However, amidst all the advertisements and suggestions, how do we know what is the right protocol to follow? 

First, we have to understand that detoxification is what our body does naturally and continuously – without our assistance!  Yet these days, we are exposed to so many more environmental toxins than our grandparents were, that providing a little extra support is almost necessary to achieve and maintain optimum health and wellbeing. There is no need, though, to take drastic measures – on the contrary – these may actually leave you feeling worse in the long run.

The following 6-12 week detoxification protocol is designed to help you better understand how detoxification works, which organs are involved and how we can avoid/reduce exposure to environmental toxins in the future. It is gentle yet effective and will help you feel and look your best.

While the occasional “deep cleanse” is great and can get you started on making other lifestyle changes, the body needs our support daily. Therefore, eliminating or reducing exposure to toxins, eating a predominantly organic diet with emphasis on plants, regular exercise and restorative sleep are all important to achieve and maintain overall health and wellbeing. 

Equally important, but often neglected, is mental and emotional detoxification because chronic stress, depression, anger and grief can overburden the body with chemicals that ultimately have to be processed through the liver as well! 

So, while you work on cleansing your body, don’t forget to cleanse your mind and soul. Very often we focus too much on what we eat and not enough on what is eating us!

This plan is not, however, meant for pregnant or nursing women; discuss supplement use with your primary care provider if you are on medications or have medical conditions. 

Lets get cleansing: 

Week 1 and 2: Start Reducing Exposure to Toxins

The first two weeks are less about what you eat, and which supplements you take, and more about cleaning out your pantry, your kitchen, your office and your vanity to get rid of products that only add to the toxicity in our body. These are found not just in food, but also in cleaning- and cosmetic products, medications, carpets and bedding. Xeno-estrogens are hormones that exist in our environment (plastics, pesticides, etc.) and when they end up in our body, disrupt our own hormone functions. This may affect sex hormones, thyroid- and stress hormones and can lead to imbalances and disease. It can also make it difficult to lose weight – especially that belly fat!

So instead of focusing on restrictive diets, or spending money on expensive detox products, this plan begins by identifying unhealthy foods, products and habits. During the initial two weeks I want you to become aware of how much processed food you consume and reduce/stop the intake of MSG, artificial sweetener, products containing food coloring, etc.). Take a closer look at household cleaners, and cosmetic products which can be very toxic.

(The Environmental Working Group) is a great resource and provides information on those products and foods that are harmful to our environment and health and help you make healthier choices.

Week 3:  Optimize Dietary and Elimination Support

The goal during this week is to provide the body, especially the organs involved in detoxification processes, with nutritional support. This includes increasing your daily fruit and vegetable intake to 8-10 servings per day. Since fruits are loaded with sugar (and it does not matter that it is “natural”) the ideal ratio between vegetables and fruits should be 3:1 – so for every serving of fruit, you should have 3 servings of vegetables. Best fruit options due to the lower sugar content are berries, kiwis and grapefruit. A glass of room temperature water with half a lemon first thing in the morning, will eliminate mucus, bring the body in an alkaline state and get you going…yes going! Adding 35 grams of fiber during the day (if tolerated) can further support elimination. 

Week4:  Support Your Gut Microbiome

There has been a lot of talk about the “gut” lately! We now know that aside from its role in digestive function, it is directly connected to our brain, mood assisting in mood regulation, and it makes up 70% percent of our immune system.  So, keeping the gut healthy is an important step in overall health and wellbeing.  

Therefore, balancing the gut microbiome our focus this week and the easy way to do this is with food. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, plain kefir and yoghurt are all good options to provide good bacteria (pro-biotics) and feed the body’s own bacteria with pre-biotics.  

You can find more information on healing the gut with diet, reversing candida overgrowth and restore healthy gut bacteria in Donna Gates’ book Body Ecology”.

Week 5: More Focus on the Gut and Digestion 

This week we provide additional gut support by adding 150-400mg magnesium (citrate) at bedtime. This will not only relax muscles and improve sleep, but it will also affect colon peristalsis and functions as a mild laxative.

Always be sure to stay well hydrated throughout the whole cleansing period……and beyond! 

Adding bitter herbs, such as dandelion and gentian to your diet, stimulates liver and gallbladder function. Bitter herbs get the bile flowing which is needed for proper fat digestion. Bile is also important in the detoxification processes since it binds to fat soluble toxins and eliminates them via the colon. Bitters, true to their name, are tough to swallow, and best taken in tincture form.

Week 6: Herbs and Supplements that Support Cleansing

The liver is the main organ of detoxification and therefore needs extra attention. Liver detoxification takes place in two phases, each of them requires different nutrients to make this process efficient and optimal.  (This is why you actually have to “eat” during a detox).

To support liver function:

Continue to use the bitters before bigger meals. 

Support the liver with milk thistle which supports both phases of the detoxification process, protects liver cells from damage and increases glutathione – an antioxidant and natural detoxifier. The proper dose is 200mg milk thistle 3 times a day. 

Add N-Acytl cysteine (NAC), an important amino acid and the precursor for glutathione.

Add curcumin to your diet! Next to its anti-inflammatory properties, it also binds heavy metals.

You can safely stay on this protocol for an additional six weeks if you feel you need to. 

Supportive and recommended treatments during this protocol are massage, cupping and acupuncture since they focus on releasing toxins and balancing the body so it can work its magic!