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Q: I need to detox my body and “reboot” because my eating and commitment to exercise have gotten a bit sloppy. I’m excited about things getting more “normal” with Covid starting to fade, and I want to look and feel my best. How do I start?
A: There’s a two-week reboot program that I’ve used for decades, and I keep coming back to it because it helps me stay trim, get real about foods that don’t work, and “go inside” quietly and kindly for a spell. Don’t plan to go on this regimen if you have adventure travel or gourmet food experiences on the near horizon. Set yourself up so you can take a little down time.
This is a three-part program I learned from Dr. Steven Bailey of Portland, Ore. He’s no longer in practice, but was a guiding light to many naturopathic physicians over the years. He also wrote The Fasting Diet, a marvelous book that’s still available. Here are the basics of his detox plan:
1. Flush Out the Bad
The first part of the cleanse is 3 days of “bulking” to scrub out the colon. Start each day with a “liver flush.” Mix 3 Tbs. of extra virgin olive oil with the juice of 1 lemon, the juice of 1 orange, and 2 crushed cloves of garlic. Shake well or blenderize, and chug it down first thing in the morning—before you drink anything else, including water. Then rest for 15–20 minutes, ideally on your right side to promote blood flow through the liver.
Follow this with the first of three daily fiber supplements. Psyllium husk or ground acacia seeds work well. Mix 1 tsp. of fiber in 2–4 ounces water with a gentle herbal laxative (or 250 mg magnesium, ideally several different magnesium chelates), and drink it down, followed by one or two 8-ounce glasses of water. A half hour later have a mixed-fruit breakfast.
Repeat the fiber drink before lunch and dinner, both of which should consist solely of vegetables—raw, steamed, or baked. (A small amount of non-dairy salad dressing is also allowed.) If you need a snack during the day, you can have 3 Tbs. of sunflower seeds in addition to your meals.
During this phase, any vegetable except avocado is permitted, along with pretty much any fruit other than high-glycemic tropicals such as mango, pineapple, and papaya. So experiment for variety. Watercress, endive, jicama, and the whole range of sprouts are among my favorites.
2. Start Juicing
After three days of “bulking” (and hopefully lots of pooping), it’s time to start a five-day juice-only cleanse. This consists of about a quart of freshly squeezed fruit juices for breakfast, and a quart of vegetable juice for lunch and dinner. Drink plenty of water in between meals, and try to get extra sleep.
The veggie juice recipe should be heavy on carrot, beet, and especially celery. You can also juice cucumber, cabbage, ginger, garlic, and parsley. Plan ahead—you’ll need a good amount of produce on hand.
This also isn’t the time to ramp up your summer triathlon training. Try to get in a little exercise each day, of course, but choose walks and stretching or light swimming and rebounding. Nothing too strenuous. Otherwise, stay as quiet as possible during this low-calorie phase. Read, journal, think good thoughts. Be kind to yourself. You will be surprised at how not-hungry you are.
Finally, it’s crucial to take a home enema each day during the five juice-only days. (If you’re lucky enough to have a colon hydrotherapist on your healthcare team, that’s also a great option.) Home enemas can use warm water only, or you can add Epsom salts (¼ cup), baking soda (¼ cup), or a few capsules of high-quality probiotic to a 1-quart enema bag of water.
3. Slowly Reintroduce Foods
The third and most important part of this cleanse program involves slowly reintroducing foods to your diet over the next six days (or longer, if you have the time). Please plan this phase out, stick to your plan, and above all, keep it slow and simple.
On the first day after your juice fast, mix up the liver flush drink from Step 1 to get your digestive organs primed for food. After a half-hour, you can have your first meal, which would ideally be fruit alone. Lunch and dinner will be non-starchy vegetables, so this day will be similar to the bulking days at the beginning of the program, just without the fiber drinks. On subsequent days, you can start to reintroduce more foods back into your diet in this order:
- Fruits and non-starchy veggies
- Starchy vegetables such as squash or yams
- Cereals, grains, and seeds
- Legumes and fats
- Proteins such as nuts and meats
This is a really good time to be alert to food sensitivities. Pay attention and journal your plan—list what you’re eating and how you feel. If you note any unpleasant changes in skin, bowel function, or mood as you reintroduce certain foods, you may just want to remove them from your diet altogether going forward.
Making Changes That Last
After your cleanse, keep in mind these basics of daily detox for sustained healthy living:
- Sweat it out: Keep moving! If you can’t exercise, use a sauna to make you sweat.
- Make smart food choices: Avoid processed and “fast” foods. Instead, go “slow” with your foods and choose whole, organic, and plenty of plant-based options. Prioritize the time it takes to make healthy food.
- Clean it up: Make sure that you’re having a formed-but-not-hard bowel movement at least once daily. Work with an ND near you if you need help figuring out optimal bowel habits. Your tube is the most immunologically active part of your body, and your good health depends on it working properly.
Find a licensed naturopathic doctor for a virtual (telemedicine) or in-person consultation at naturemed.org/find-an-nd.