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Healthy Detox

Body+Soul, Volume 8

At the outset of my unhealthy-food detox, I fell somewhere between neutral and skeptical of the idea. My curiosity had nonetheless led me to Sea Change Healing Center, a holistic health and healing facility in New York City. As I began to experience the ways in which dietary sacrifice can actually pay off, I became a shockingly quick convert. Within the first week, I developed paranormal energy reserves, the likes of which I hadn't seen since kindergarten. I would spring out of bed at the crack of dawn with more vigor and exhilaration than I knew what to do with. More than anything, I felt indescribably healthy.

Detox Basics
Cleansing offers possibilities for better health -- if you find the right plan. Some programs recommend strict fasting (too drastic for many people) or rely on a single nutritional source, such as grapefruit, that may not be compatible with your unique constitution. Sea Change has used the basic tenets of sound nutrition to modify its 21-day plan into a week-long trial for Body+Soul readers that includes a food chart. This plan involves neither fasting nor calorie restrictions. Eating three full meals a day plus hunger-dictated snacks, you trade less-healthy choices for whole foods that satisfy in a more sustaining way. Before beginning this or any other program, take stock of your overall health. Never start a detox program while pregnant. If you have any chronic or serious health condition, cleanse only under a doctor's supervision; even if you don't have a health condition, consulting a doctor is a good idea. You may uncover underlying disease processes as you detox.

When you start your program, make a commitment to self-observation. Detox experiences differ, even for those who do it habitually. Also keep in mind that while some mild physical and emotional discomfort is normal, feeling really ill is not. If you experience the latter, you should quit and see a doctor right away. Final thoughts to bear in mind: The Body+Soul plan emphasizes well-being rather than weight loss, although you may find you lose some weight. Slow down and give food your full attention. Eliminate TV and other distractions that encourage mindless eating. And think about the origins of what's on your plate. By fully appreciating the food that sustains you, you'll stay nutritionally grounded long after the plan is done.

Detox Don'ts (and Dos)
What's the core idea behind the Body+Soul detox plan? Making a shift away from allergenic, inflammatory, or just plain unhealthy foods. We've targeted those that contain artificial additives, hormones, saturated fats, or allergy-promoting substances and put organic, nonallergenic, whole foods in their place. Use this list to stay on track.

Avoid: Meat
(beef, pork, and lamb) and all types of poultry
Why? It can contain added hormones and antibiotics
Choose: Ocean game fish such as halibut and salmon, which contain high levels of healthy omega-3 fatty acids

Avoid: Potentially Allergenic Protein Sources
(dairy products, eggs, soy products)
Why? Aside from causing allergies in some people, dairy and eggs often contain antibiotics; dairy can cause mild-to-severe digestive distress
Choose: Raw, unsalted nuts and nut butters (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, and walnuts); raw, unsalted seeds (flax, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower); beans and peas (adzuki, chickpea, kidney, lentil, navy, and pinto); and sprouts (lentil, mung, and pea)

Avoid: Partially Hydrogenated Oils and Saturated Fats
Why? They pose health risks
Choose: Healthy oils such as organic olive and sesame oils

Avoid: Carbonated Water
(in the form of seltzer or in soda)
Why? It can cause bloating, unnecessarily stressing the body during cleansing
Choose: Fresh, filtered water, which helps the body flush out toxins

Avoid: Common Allergenic Grains
(corn, wheat, and white flour and derived products such as breads, cereals, and crackers)
Why? They're overprocessed; potential allergenic reactions include headache, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome
Choose: Unrefined, fiber-rich, nonallergenic grains (amaranth, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, brown and wild rice) in whole form rather than in breads and pastas

Avoid: Citrus Fruits
(grapefruit, lemon, orange, tangerine, and lime)
Why? They can be allergenic
Choose: All other fruits in natural, whole, organic form (rather than juiced or dried)

Avoid: Nightshade Vegetables
(eggplants, peppers, white/yellow potatoes, tomatoes)
Why? They're potentially allergenic for some people
Choose: Antioxidant-rich leafy greens (bok choy, collard greens, dandelion, kale, mustard greens, romaine, and spinach) and other colorful vegetables (carrot, pumpkin, yam, and yellow squash)

Avoid: Condiments
(bouillon, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, soy sauce, and tamari)
Why? They're highly processed; many contain refined sugars and additives
Choose: Flavorful herbs that enhance digestion, such as basil, bay leaf, cinnamon, cumin, fennel, garlic, ginger, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and sage

Avoid: Refined and Artificial Sugar and Corn Syrup
(found in sodas, alcohol, desserts, and sugar-free gum and diet drinks)
Why? Both refined and artificial sugars pose health risks when used in excess
Choose: Unrefined sugars (honey, maple syrup, and rice syrup) in modest quantities

Seven-Day Detox Plan
Day 1: Clean Up
Before you embark on this seven-day plan, read our general guidelines ("Detox Basics," above) to identify any contraindications that may apply. You'll also learn how best to approach the plan so you maximize its benefits. On Day 1, you'll begin swapping nutritionally problematic foods for healthier ones. See "Detox Don'ts (and Dos)," above, for an overview. Don't be surprised if you feel moody or headachy as a result, especially if you normally drink caffeine. This response will likely lessen in the coming days.
-Start drinking eight glasses of filtered water and walking for at least 20 minutes daily.
-Eliminate caffeine.
-Eliminate alcoholic drinks.
-Eliminate soda and all other carbonated beverages.
-Get protein from wild salmon, halibut, nuts (raw and unsalted), beans, and peas, as well as sprouts like lentil and mung.
-Eliminate meat and poultry.
-Replace refined sugars and artificial sweeteners with sparing doses of honey, maple syrup, and brown rice syrup.
-Eliminate all processed foods made with white flour.
-Start a food journal. Track mealtimes, the foods you consume, and how you feel.

Day 2: Boost Nutrients
Now that you've eliminated the main nutritional offenders, it's time to fine-tune your diet. Today you'll choose those vegetables that lend extra nutrient support as you detox. You may be experiencing general malaise. Drink more water and add small servings of nuts to keep your energy up.
-Go 100 percent organic.
-Vary your vegetables. Eat plenty of colorful veggies, including dark leafy greens.
-Eliminate nightshade vegetables: eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers.
-Enjoy fruit, but avoid all types of citrus and dried fruit.
-Eat fresh foods; eliminate canned and packaged foods.
-Avoid condiments. Season your meals with flavorful herbs and spices instead.

Day 3: Ditch Dairy
Today's task can prove surprisingly difficult (unless you're a vegan). But because dairy products -- and soy-can cause allergies, eliminating them will give your body a break.
-Remove all dairy.
-Eliminate eggs.
-Eliminate soy. Replace soy milk with almond or rice milk.
-Practice healthy snacking, which will benefit you nutritionally and emotionally, as you make your way through the plan. Try apple slices with a dollop of almond nut butter; cabbage leaves filled with raw vegetables; or carrot sticks and frozen grapes.
-Add seeds (such as sunflower or pumpkin) to your diet. As with nuts, opt for raw and unsalted.

Day 4: Good Grains
You're now ready to make the final dietary shift, eliminating potentially allergenic grains. With your nutritional changes complete, focus on visualizing the cleansing process that's under way.
-Eliminate any potentially allergenic grain, including all wheat-derived products, such as bread and crackers. Try amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, oats, and wild rice instead.
-Cut out corn and its derivatives (such as tortilla chips and corn breads). Instead of corn oil, cook with olive oil and use sesame and flax oils for flavor.

Day 5: Slow Down
The next two days emphasize good self-care. When you detox, your energy levels may wane as your body uses energy to eliminate toxins. You may also be feeling cranky or antsy, so take this day to focus inward.
-Counter any symptoms of comfort-food withdrawal with creative snacks. Try "baklava oatmeal," made with rolled oats, honey, and pistachios, and other invented treats.
-Practice non-food ways to satisfy yourself, such as yoga or tai chi, but avoid fast-paced aerobic activity.

Day 6: Pamper Yourself
Indulge yourself today. Enjoy your favorite home-spa treatments, or try one of these ideas.
-Take a warm shower and apply your favorite salt or sugar scrub to your entire body in circular motions.
-Get a massage.
-Give yourself a steam facial. Cover your head with a towel and lean over a bowl of boiled, herb-infused water (try chamomile or eucalyptus).

Day 7: Take Stock
Now that you've reached the final day, how do you feel? Eager to make the transition back to your regular diet? Ready for more cleansing? Either way, note the mind/body boost you feel and consider making detox part of your regular program for health.
-If you're ready to resume your normal diet, start with the foods you suspect may negatively affect your system (such as dairy or refined carbs). Eat one group at a time for a few days to see how it affects you. Then permanently remove any problem foods from your diet.
-If you'd like to continue beyond the seven days, consult with a reputable program such as Sea Change (seachangehealing.com; 212-889-7300).

Text by Abbie Kozolchyk