Detox

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I am about to turn a corner in my life. A sharp corner. This isn't a story about eating organic food, or even local food. This is a story about not eating any food at all.

Besides eating to survive, I have been getting more deeply involved in food and eating for about 20 years. It all began when I was 16 years old and my mom got a job, which meant that I had to learn to cook. After a while I began to enjoy cooking, and then I started throwing dinner parties and collecting cookbooks. A few years later I became a restaurant critic for a newspaper. Slowly I began to search for better and better food, sourcing my ingredients in a way very similar to today's "locavore". I wasn’t even considering the environment or my own health – only my own taste buds and the hope and belief that my food would taste better if humans, not machines, were not only making my food, but they enjoyed making it. I felt that my food would taste even better if I actually knew, or had met, the people making my food. Of course the ultimate situation would be if I was making the food myself, and I've done plenty of that.

Lately, I have been eating a lot of organic and local foods, mostly grown by myself, my friends, and acquaintances. I got to thinking that if I am going to eat foods that will not contain any strange and/or processed chemicals then perhaps I should rid my body of the chemicals and other substances that have building up inside my body for the last three and a half decades.

My Very Special Ladyfriend and I have now decided to try out one of these 'cleanses' or 'fasts' or 'detox' programs that I have heard about. I spent a couple of days trawling the internet for sites and blogs about fasting and cleansing, and I also talked to everyone I knew that had ever undergone a cleanse, including more than one health professional. We finally decided on a modified version of what is known as the "lemonade diet" or the "master cleanse." We would spend the next ten days eating no food, but drinking water mixed with fresh-squeezed organic lemon juice, organic maple syrup, and cayenne pepper.

So, being of sound mind and almost sound body, my Very Special Ladyfriend and I will attempt to cleanse our bodies. I ate a lot of fast food in my youth, and I want it out of me, forever. Don't worry, I'm not crazy. At least I don't think I'm crazy – I already have a group lunch planned in a couple of weeks at Schwartz's, a Montreal legend where they smoke their own briskets on site. Maybe I am crazy. I can already taste the smoked meat, French fries, dill pickle and black cherry soda.

psylsaml.jpgBesides drinking THE DRINK, we may start some of our days with psyllium husks, which are basically supposed to expand in our stomachs and literally scrape out things that have been there for a long, long time. Some of the things I have read and some of the photos I have seen have been pretty gross, so I won't go into them here.

We will probably end some of our days with a laxative tea, taken before bedtime. I will make my own blend from senna leaves, peppermint leaves, chamomile, and a few other herbs that are in most popular laxative teas. I checked the ingredient lists from websites and from the actual containers in the stores. We will not only save money but we will know exactly what we are putting into our bodies. I will even use mint leaves that I grew myself this past summer – they've been patiently waiting on my spice shelf and will finally be used.

In case you're wondering, we have read about enemas, colonics and saline flushes. I think the first two are a little much for us right now, but we are considering the flushes. They involve drinking water with uniodized sea salt, which apparently will run through our systems pretty fast and wash out a lot of the things that the psyllium husk blend has scraped from our insides.

On to the DETOX.

DAY 1:

10am: Had a Florida grapefruit for breakfast. Obviously it was not local, but I don't feel guilty as my father was in Florida last week and brought them back with him, so no extra fuel was wasted – he was flying anyway. I hope the rest of them don't go rotten by the time I am eating again.

I forgot to take my salad on the road with me, which I had made the night before, so I stopped by a prepared food place and bought a small container of roasted root vegetables, of which I only ate half.

I only drank 3 glasses of water today – definitely not enough. My Very Special Ladyfriend has already made a grid on our kitchen board to keep track of how many glasses of THE DRINK we consume each day, so we will do our best to drink enough.

11pm: My Very Special Ladyfriend says "I'm hungry" and I also feel a little hungry, but it's completely manageable. We sleep.

DAY 2:

8:00am: I wake up and feel a weird tightness in my belly, probably from not eating as much food as I'm used to the day before. I was about to type "not eating as much food as I should have the day before" but realize that on an average day I probably eat enough to feed a whole family in some countries.

10:00am: We make our first batch of THE DRINK. We made enough to fill 2 1-liter bottles, which is about 3 glasses each. The recipe we have used is:

  • 1 glass of water (about 12 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons organic maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/10 teaspoon cayenne pepper

drink.jpgWe have multiplied the recipe so we don't have to make it fresh by the glass, but we didn't make too much because I've read that it tastes best when fresh. Here is what the larger recipe looks like:

  • 5 glasses of water
  • 10 tablespoons organic maple syrup
  • 10 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

I have read that people with slower metabolisms may not need to ingest as much maple syrup, so I will mix my own blend using half the amount of maple syrup and see which I prefer, because it seems like there is a lot of maple syrup and not enough Challah French toast. Or pancakes. My Very Special Ladyfriend has a pretty fast metabolism and is worried about being too hungry, so she will stick to the original formula. I am a little scared for her –she may get violent with me, and I want to avoid that. I tried to picture the two of us throwing things at each other and falling down because we are so weak from not eating. What will the neighbours say . . .

I drank my first glassful of THE DRINK and it tastes like maple syrup lemonade with a very spicy kick at the end! The inside of my mouth feels like the exclamation point at the end of that last sentence. I immediately considered using less cayenne the next time, but the spiciness faded with each sip. I can deal with it.

3:00pm: I thought I had bought a lot of lemons, but it looks like we will run out of organic lemons tomorrow. Organic lemons are expensive and the supply in these parts is dwindling, due to the frost in California. My friend Stevie, owner of Teva Health Food, tells me that they may not get any organic lemons next week. I guess we could do this cleanse with ordinary lemons – we're not actually eating the rind. I wish I were as lucky as Dairy Queen, who can steal borrow Meyer lemons and other citrus from her neighbours. Maybe she can send some my way . . .

I have now had 4 glasses of THE DRINK and I feel fine. My energy level doesn’t seem to be low, and I am not hungry. I hear the worst part is the second and third days, so I am mentally preparing myself. Who knows what's to come? Cramps? Hallucinations? Blindness? Will I run to the corner store (which we call "Depanneurs" here in Quebec) and gorge on peanut butter cups and samosas?

9:48pm: I definitely feel a little weird, but not weak or hungry. I have decided that there is a little too much cayenne in THE DRINK and will ease off on the heat for tomorrow, if I actually manage to get out of the house to buy more lemons.

DAY 3:

9:00am: We each drank a cup of senna/mint/chamomile tea before bed last night. We woke up in the morning with no stomach cramps to speak of and not any special need to "eliminate". I am pretty sure we didn't use enough senna leaves in the tea because we heard so many horror stories from other people about what the tea will do to you.

About an hour after waking up we drank some water with psyllium husks, and then we waited. And then we waited some more. I think tonight we will increase the amount of senna in our tea, and also eat more psyllium husks tomorrow.

1:33pm: We both feel fine, and I feel pretty energetic. I am off to hunt down some more lemons!

Stay tuned for my next post, which will be next Wednesday, February 14, where I will publish a summary of my detox journal.

11 Responsesto “Detox”

  1. Niki says:

    Hi there. I've heard of this fast before. From what I understand it's very effective and safe. I've known a couple of guys who've done month long fasts and the ick factor is quite high in their stories. What do you know about doing this fast in a shorter version? I'd like to do it, too, but I commute via bike and wonder about getting too exhausted. I was thinking a long weekend might be doable.

  2. Clare Dedlock says:

    IMPORTANT! The maple syrup should be Grade B, NOT Grade A. Grade B maple syrup is less refined and retains much of the nutrients and amino acids, etc.

    Also try adding Bentonite powder every now and again. Maybe treat yourself to some cooked whole grains like wheatberries or groats to help fill your stomach and clean out your innards.

  3. Skye says:

    This is very interesting. I would love to do something like this myself since I recently became a vegetarian and I feel like I have tons of "bad" stuff in me from before. Can't wait to hear how it goes!

  4. Omniwhore says:

    Just so you all know, there are some people (including me) who think this diet is dangerous...

  5. Richard says:

    I'm starting the diet tomorrow (9th Feb). Given all the positive AND negative press the diet has received, I've decided to give it a shot myself.

    Thanks for the info - kinda helpful in getting myself prepared for 10 days of lemon, syrup and cayenne pepper!

    I'll be recording my results day by day on my website (http://lemondetoxchallenge.blogspot.com) including weight loss, general wellbeing, skin tone, attitude etc.

    I'm a little hesitant to do this but hey, in the name of good journalism I'll give it a shot.

  6. brad says:

    Not only potentially dangerous, these detox diets are also ineffective in terms of removing toxins from your body, at least according to scientists. The body has systems in place to rapidly remove toxins from your body and they do a very effective job, thank you very much. The article that OmniWhore linked to touches on that, as do many recent articles on the subject (including a good one in the NY TImes a month or two ago). But I recognize that many people value folk wisdom over science, and that alternative health specialists believe in the value of detoxification, so it really depends on your mindset. I fasted once on vegetable broth and felt the "faster's high," but I suspect it's generic and probably a side effect of the process of metabolizing fat and protein rather than any sort of "cleansing," but that's just my bias. It could also be an evolutionary phenomenon: a hunter-gatherer who felt energized and alert after fasting would be more likely to find food (and thus survive) than one who got progressively weaker.

  7. DairyQueen says:

    I once tried this lemonade fast for five days with no adverse effects. I skipped the salt water because that did sound a little unhealthy and icky, but I did drink the senna tea. I wasn't expecting to rid myself of long-ago toxins, as I had read those various skeptical things people have linked to above; I just wanted to reset my tastebuds and eating patterns.

    I had been gorging on sweets and overly rich foods, and I felt like I was starting to eat compulsively, forgetting to savor. I basically needed a "hard reboot" of my appetite, in geek terms. By not eating at all for five days, I realized just how much time I spend thinking about food and planning for meals, plus cooking and eating them -- I was bored to death, frankly, without all that fun stuff to do. And when I stopped the fast, and started eating fruit and fresh vegetables, they tasted AMAZING. I didn't need all the cookies and cakes and cream sauces I'd been inhaling. So for that, at least, the fast was very useful both mentally and gustatorily.

    Personally, I think two weeks would be way too long, but not in health terms, just BOREDOM.

  8. Omniwhore says:

    Here's the NY times article that Brad mentioned.

  9. Nosher of the North says:

    Niki,
    I'd avoid it if you are biking to work every day, or find another way to get to work during the fast. I work at home a lot, so i have arranged my shcedule around the detox.

    Clare Dedlock,
    Don't woory, we're using amber syrup, which is darker than clear and medium.

    Everyone else,
    We are aware of the possible dangers of what we are doing, and if we feel weak or sick we will cease the detox immediately. I am still feeling fine, just a little weak if I take a long walk. So far it has been a very rewarding experience, both physically and spiritually, but I have a few more days to go . . .

  10. Rory O'More says:

    I gagged on Clare Dedlock's suggestion "Try adding bentonite-" to the lemon and syrup brew! Bentonite is commonly found under the name "KITTY LITTER". Even for that purpose it becomes a smelly, gluey mess with which I shall not insult my cats except in times of financial embarrass- ment. Eating it seems analagous to drinking out of the toilet.

  11. dingdong says:

    I was wondering what are the special qualities of THE DRINK? Is it simply to make yourself feel full, or do the ingredients have many nutritional qualities?