I Tried This Celeb-Favorite Cleanse & It Changed My Approach To Detox Forever
I'm not a huge fan of detoxing in the traditional sense—I much prefer to eat a largely vegetable diet that allows room for occasional happy hours or late-night cookie-baking sessions (food for the soul, if you will). At the beginning of summer, though, I often feel sluggish, bloated, and simply not optimal.
I turned to mindbodygreen's What to Eat to Feel Your Best class which features Frank Lipman, M.D., a best-selling author and one of the country's top integrative doctors. He not only has a client list that includes Michelle Williams, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and mbg's own CEO, Jason Wachob, he also has a refreshing take on the concept of detoxing that appealed to my skeptical proclivities. Lipman believes that we should be constantly in a minor state of detox, to support our body's own systems in dealing with the less-than-savory elements of modern life. According to him, this means, "decreasing the amount of toxins that we put into our bodies and removing the foods that could trigger inflammation while at the same time supporting our body's natural detoxification systems with the nutrients it needs."
I followed the program outlined in his section of What to Eat to Feel Your Best (where he shares the screen with other top wellness leaders like Taz Bhatia and Kelly LeVeque), and these were a few of the main take-aways:
1. We all need to detox—and it should happen more than once a year.
According to Lipman, our bodies developed to deal with relatively low levels of toxins. In recent years, however, the amount we're exposed to in the air, food, and water supply has gotten exponentially greater, overtaxing our systems. "As a result, the toxins accumulate in our bodies preventing our systems from operating at optimum strength and efficiency," Lipman says. Contrary to a traditional concept of a once annual "cleanse," Lipman believes that detoxing is a perpetual process.
"It's as if you have a party one night and there's a mess in the morning, and then, you decide not to clean it up," he says. "Then, you have a party again the next night, and you don't clean up again in the morning. And then, you have another party, and so on." By cleansing regularly, your body's systems—and your living room—never get out of hand. While my body's heavy feeling at the beginning of the summer was a good impetus to jump-start my detox level, Lipman's advice was a good reminder that this shouldn't be the only time I live this type of lifestyle.
2. The first step of detox: Removing the bad stuff.
According to Lipman, when he sees a patient, the first question he asks himself is: What needs to be removed to make this person's body function better? Or what obstacles are hindering optimal function for this person? "I recommend removing certain foods that are going to trigger inflammation in the body, things like sugar, grains, factory-farmed meats, and genetically modified organisms," Lipman explains. "You also need to remove irritants, like alcohol and coffee. Finally, you need to remove the bad bacteria or the overgrowth of yeast or the parasites in your gut because they cause toxicity. These all need to be removed to decrease the toxic load on your system."
I already steer clear of caffeine (I find it stokes my anxiety), factory-farmed meats, and GMOs, but cutting out alcohol was a struggle, and removing sugar felt damned near impossible. Still, I made it a priority, eschewing everything but a limited amount of fruit (hey, it's stone fruit season!). I felt a bit tired for the first few days, but near the week mark, I was overtaken by a surge of energy. After two weeks of no drinking and no sugar, I felt like a new person: My anxiety had subsided considerably, I was sleeping like a baby, and my skin looked like I'd gotten a $500 facial.
3. The second step of detox: Adding in the good stuff.
Lipman's second point of focus is adding healing elements back in. For him, this starts in the gut. "You may need digestive aids like hydrochloric acid or digestive enzymes," Lipman explains. "You may need probiotics, which will help balance the microbiome. You may need fiber to scrub the gut and to feed the good bacteria. And you may even need yoga twists because that can squeeze the gut but also help the liver." I tend to take supplements daily, but I upped my dose and added in some digestive enzymes. I started putting steamed cauliflower in my smoothies for extra fiber and did a twist-heavy home yoga practice. I found myself less bloated, more regular (with higher-quality elimination, if you know what I mean), and feeling more buoyant in my body.
4. Pack your plate with greens.
While the list of foods Lipman recommends avoiding is long (after about two weeks, the no-gluten or grains element was beginning to get me, as visions of pasta danced in my head), he's also an advocate for one of my favorite things: eating. He doesn't recommend extended fasting as part of a healthy detox and prefers for patients instead to pack their plates with an abundance of green vegetables (including sea vegetables), nuts, wild meats and wild-caught fish, and high-quality fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, grass-fed butter (insert praise hands emoji 🙌), and ghee, lard, and tallow. "Fat helps you feel satiated and energized," Lipman explains. "It keeps you grounded." I certainly found this to be the case—it's hard to feel deprived when you're full! One of my favorite "treats" became organic apple slices sautéed in a generous amount of grass-fed butter with a bit of cinnamon and cardamom sprinkled over the top. It felt hearty, decadent, and, after several weeks off sugar, was more than enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.
5. Supplement as necessary.
Lipman believes there are a few supplements that make a real difference in ongoing detoxification. He recommends glutathione, which he calls "one of the most powerful antioxidants our bodies produce." He explains: "It regulates multiple metabolic processes and is crucial for proper mitochondrial function and energy production. It's also thought to play an important role in reducing free radicals, clearing heavy metals, and supporting immune function." He also recommends a few that clear heavy metals from the body, help support your liver, and support gut health (for the full list, check out his segment in the mindbodygreen What to Eat to Feel Your Best class). I added in the glutathione, and while most of the health benefits are seen over a longer period of time, I feel good knowing that I'm protecting my body.
6. It's not a detox—it's a lifestyle.
While I finished my technical detox several weeks ago, I've (mostly) maintained the lifestyle since then. Sure, I now sip wine when I go out with friends, and that might have been me slurping up a plate of (ancient grain pasta, pastured bacon, and egg) carbonara the other night, my biggest take-away is that our food choices are self-perpetuating. When we eat crap, we crave crap. When we eat to nourish our bodies, we crave more nourishing foods—and, of course, the feeling that running on true nourishment provides.
Want to learn more from Frank about how to detox effectively? Check out mindbodygreen's What to Eat to Feel Your Best class.
Liz Moody is an author, blogger and recipe developer living in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated with a creative writing and psychology degree from The University of California, Berkeley. Moody has written two cookbooks: Healthier Together: Recipes for Two—Nourish Your Body, Nourish Your Relationships and Glow Pops: Super-Easy Superfood Recipes to Help You Look and Feel Your Best. She also hosts the Healthier Together Podcast, where she chats with notable chefs, nutritionists, and best-selling authors about their paths to success. Her work has been featured in Vogue, Glamour, Food & Wine & Women’s Health.