A Cleansing Experience: First-Hand Experience in Detoxification Programs
There are 3 basic types of detox programs.
The first is a simple oligo-antigentic diet that can be followed for 2-4 weeks to eliminate food allergens. No products are needed for this approach (except maybe a large bag of brown rice). After a brief hiatus from all potentially harmful foods, individual foods are reintroduced one at a time and symptoms are observed. If old symptoms return or if new symptoms appear, the food is removed and another item is reintroduced next.
The second type of detox is the type you find in most health food stores and websites. These usually involve therapeutic fasting and the use of laxative or cathartic herbs. These programs are more of a bowel cleanse, and while they may be useful for people with sluggish digestion they do very little to detoxify the liver.
The third type is the kind offered by professional nutraceutical companies. Most involve the elimination of common food allergens for 1-4 weeks. During this time, fortified rice protein powder is often used to maintain nutritional adequacy. In addition, supplements containing a mixture of nutrients and herbs are taken to protect the liver and stimulate the up-regulation of detoxification pathways. Often a colourful patient guide is provided to help detoxifiers learn to choose and prepare healthy food from a limited palette.
My personal experience has mostly been with the third type. The advantage this detox is that it capitalizes on the decreased toxic burden afforded by the food eliminations to liberate stored toxins from fat and remove them from the body. The same reintroduction process is used to determine food allergies; however even if patients don’t comply with the reintroduction schedule, they still receive substantial benefit from the detox. The major drawback is that they can vary in price. A one-week detox of this kind can cost around 50 dollars, whereas a four week detox can run up in to the 400 to 500 dollar range.
The first few days of my detox were challenging. I was surprised at how hungry I felt – especially for carbohydrates. My glycemic control has never been great but this experience really brought to light how poor it had become. The powdered drinks were not the best tasting and difficult to mix but I managed to get used to them and almost began to like them. The other thing I notice has how thirsty I became.
I usually drink about 2 L a day, but during the first few days of the detox I was drinking up to 6 L of water and my mouth was still dry! Over the next few days my glycemic control stabilized and I was surprised at how much energy I had. I hadn't used any stimulants and I felt great. I even had trouble sleeping one night and had no fatigue for the next few days. Physically, I started having headaches every night, where I had never had headaches before. I was sure they were dehydration headaches but I just couldn’t drink enough to keep them away. My girlfriend also noticed that I had acne for the first time in some time.
After the first week my belly was flatter, I had no gas or bloating, and I had lost 5 pounds! My sinus congestion that I had for many years was clear. By the second week I felt better in general. I had no more headaches or breakouts and my stamina, energy and mood had noticeably improved. I am continuing now through the third week. It is becoming more difficult to comply especially with the carbohydrate restrictions and with getting enough water. The changes have become less drastic though it is unclear whether it is due to a plateau effect or my decreasing compliance.
All-in-all I am glad that I chose to undertake this experiment. Personally, I have gained some undeniable health benefits; and professionally, I have gained true insight into what my patients can expect to experience when I recommend a detox program.