Seven lessons I learned from a detox diet
There are all sorts of detox and cleansing diets out there. My detox was customized for me by a nutrition consultant. It required the elimination all sugar, alcohol, caffeine, gluten, eggs, soy, and dairy. I was directed to drink 8 glasses of water each day, consume 8 servings of vegetables, limit fruit to 2 or 3 servings, replace two meals each day with special meal replacement shake formulated by professional nutritionists, take a handful of detox supplements twice a day, avoid non-organic foods where I could, and be sure to eat adequate protein. I was encouraged to start the day by drinking the juice of half a lemon in a cup of warm water, drink at least one cup of homemade vegetable broth, and use a soft, dry brush all over my body before my shower every morning. I also drank toasted dandelion root tea – purported to support liver function - once or twice a day.
This regime was designed to address my primary motivation for the detox; finding out what foods might be contributing to my chronic drippy nose and achy sinuses. I was tired of taking antihistamines almost daily and pretty sure they put a burden on my liver. After completing the four week diet in April, I spent a few more weeks gradually reintroducing foods. Now, a couple months post-detox, I feel ready to reflect on what I learned from the experience.
The diet was not unpleasant, although I did suffer from headaches for five days after weaning myself from black tea. I was never hungry and my energy level was normal. If I wanted, I could even eat out once a day. The diet does require some discipline and planning. But, while I did not manage perfect compliance, there were no serious lapses.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Caffeine disturbs my sleep. After years of sleep interrupted by hot flashes and restlessness I had given up on ever sleeping through the night again. I wasn’t terribly concerned about it because I was convinced I was still getting enough rest. Also, because I was drinking only one or two cups of tea a day I didn’t think caffeine could be a problem. But, as soon as I got all the caffeine out of my system I started to sleep better—much better. Some nights I put my head on the pillow and awake the next morning with no recollection of waking during the night.
2. Gluten, eggs, and soy are not a problem. With all the headlines about gluten sensitivity, it is nice to know I can eat wheat without a worry, especially because I love to make my own sourdough bread and pizza. I am also free to take advantage of eggs and soy as great sources of protein.
3. I can do with a lot less sugar. Until I made a point of eliminating processed sugars from my diet, I had no idea how much I was consuming. I craved sugar for about a week and then the craving just went away. Now I choose more nutritious foods when I need a quick snack and no longer experience an afternoon slump.
4. I can do with a lot more vegetables. I thought my diet was pretty good. I love vegetables, but it turns out I wasn’t eating nearly the quantity I could. Consuming 8 servings of vegetables each day was a huge challenge. I had to plan to have plenty of fresh vegetables in the house and get creative finding quick, easy ways to incorporate them into my meals. I now keep washed and cut-up vegetables in my refrigerator so I can throw a cup or more into whatever I heat for lunch, snack on them during the day, and augment the green salads I’ve taken to eating for dinner two or three times a week.
5. Alcohol is toxic. (Yeah, I know this shouldn’t have come as a surprise!) I waited several weeks to reintroduce alcohol. After drinking even a small amount of wine I wake up with puffiness around my eyes and a headache. Although I do have an occasional glass of beer or shot of Irish whiskey, I try not to drink more than once a week. Awareness of the consequences helps me stop with one.
6. Life without sinus pain makes it worth living without cheese. It’s easy to give up ice cream, pizza, and, yes, even crème brulee in exchange for no more sinus headaches. I like to cook, so I’ve experimented with substituting coconut milk and almond milk with some success. I’ve even found a vegan mac & “cheez” that simulates that creamy, cheesy texture we all need once in a while. I still get some nasal congestion, but my allergy symptoms are much better. I’ve taken only a few antihistamines since starting the detox diet, and then only when visiting a friend with cats. And, my husband is thrilled that I no longer wake him up with my loud snoring.
7. Dry skin brushing feels great and makes my skin glow. Following the advice of my nutrition advisor, I bought a brush and watched an instructive YouTube video to learn the technique for dry skin brushing. The first time I tried it I was hooked. It’s a great way to wake up your body and remove dead skin cells, leaving skin soft and smooth. It also diminishes the appearance of dimpled skin, or cellulite, on the thighs. I can’t tell if brushing actually helps my skin remove toxins, but that would just be another benefit.
I’ve made some permanent changes based on what I learned from my detox experience. I no longer drink caffeinated tea or coffee. I limit my sugar intake and try to eat only small amounts of whole grains and complex carbohydrates. When I indulge in sweets, I savor every morsel and find I am satisfied with less. I avoid butter, milk, cream, and cheese. I build meals around vegetables, and sometimes include two vegetables instead of adding pasta, rice, or potatoes to a menu. I drink alcohol infrequently and in small quantities.
I feel great, have plenty of energy and sleep better than I have in years. I haven’t had a sinus headache for months. I have probably lost a few pounds, although I never weigh myself so it’s just a guess. My clothes fit better and my stomach is definitely flatter than before. Although it’s called a detox “diet” I never felt I was “dieting” in the sense of deprivation. Approached in a mindful way, with knowledgeable guidance, this was a gift to my body—an investment in my health and wellbeing. I earned immediate benefits and expect to continue reaping rewards.
© Laurie Leiber June 19, 2012
 Anasuya Basil is a California State certified Nutrition Consultant.
 The meal replacement shake was rice protein powder with additional herbs and nutrients that support the liver such as milk thistle and celandine, and the amino acids used by the liver to break down toxins such as glycine, methionine and glutathione. Even mixed with plain water, the powder produced a very palatable, filling shake. Both the shakes and supplements were created by a company with a clinical team of health practitioners, doctors and nutritionists.