Beyoncé, Gwyneth, Oprah… what celebrity hasn't popularized a get-it-done-now detox plan? Lose a little weight, gain energy, lighten your toxic load— sounds great. But are restrictive detox regimens really the answer? While getting it done fast—by next week at the latest—may sound appealing, such programs may be little more than a new generation of crash diets. There are other, gentler ways to detox your system.
“In a perfect environment, the body could possibly take care of things,” says Brenda Watson, CNC, a digestive-health expert in Dunedin, Florida, and author of The Detox Strategy (Free Press, 2008). But as industrial compounds, pollutants, and other chemicals from the environment and foods build up, the body has trouble getting rid of all of them.
The resulting contamination, or “body burden,” has been linked to cancer and reproductive problems, among other health issues. “One exposure too many can push you over the edge to sickness,” says Walter Crinnion, ND, a professor at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona, who specializes in environmental medicine. “So it's best to take measures before you get there.”
The good news is that you don't have to do an intensive detox. Gentle everyday strategies that minimize your front-end exposure to toxins and support your liver—the body's primary cleansing organ—can be just as effective as predetermined, time-specific diets, says Crinnion. The following measures can help anyone feel lighter, think more clearly, and have more energy within a couple of weeks to a month.
To create a mildly detoxifying menu, start by avoiding the foods and substances that you tend to overconsume, says Elson Haas, MD, director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin in San Rafael, California, and author of The New Detox Diet (Celestial Arts, 2004). This might mean eliminating the “big five”: sugar, wheat, dairy, caffeine, and alcohol. Then emphasize alkaline choices in your diet, including fresh fruits and vegetables (particularly greens) and alkaline grains like millet and quinoa. Try the following detox recipes.
Breakfast: Creamy Millet with Apples and Honey