You can follow this detox / cleanse protocol any time of the year; it would be especially useful after periods of "unclean" eating and drinking or extensive travel where you're exposed to a wide variety of toxins in food and environment.

Things to bear in mind

This program is not designed for weight-loss. However, you may experience some weight loss, likely caused by decreased water retention as well as increased fat burning as inflammation drops and your body settles into a stable balance.

This is a 3-week plan, and for best results, try to adhere to the plan as best as possible. No matter what companies claim, there is no "quick-fix", you cannot "detox" the body with a 3-5 day "cleanse".

Planning ahead is essential: it's extremely hard to avoid toxin exposures when eating out. Even the best restaurants are prone to toxin contamination in food, utensils, packaging, etc. So plan your week in advance, purchase products and prepare meals.

This plan will also give you a sense of what a generally healthy diet looks like and I hope it inspires you to maintain similar habits going forward.

Toxins are generally fat soluble, so the more bodyfat you have, the more toxins you will store.

What and why "detox"?

Your body has multiple filters, just like the water filters in your home. When "impure" water goes through the filter, it leaves these impurities behind. Over time, as more and more water flows through, these impurities accumulate to the point where they clog up the filter... so you take the filter out, clean it, and put it back. But in order to do that, you have to turn the water off: you can't remove the filter and clean it with the water still running right?

Your body functions in the same way. In fact, it has multiple filters. The difference is that you don't need to remove them and clean them: the beauty of the human body is that these filters are "self-cleaning" and even "self-repairing". But just like the water filters, you have to "switch off the water" for the filters to self-clean and self-repair. 

But of course, you can't completely "shut off the water" in your body: you still need nutrients to live and function. So it becomes a question of "getting the purest possible water" to continue functioning well while allowing the filters to self-clean and self-repair.

So let's go over these "filters" briefly

In summary: your liver, kidneys, and the digestive system: stomach, small intestine, and colon (large intestine).

The Liver

The biggest filter of all! Its job is to stop potentially damaging molecules from roaming freely around your body and causing havoc. These include primarily:

  • Metals
  • Alcohol-derived molecules
  • Chemicals from pharmaceuticals
  • Inflammatory molecules
  • Fructose

The Kidneys

They also play a massively critical role: they are actively involved in regulating your acid/alkaline balance, cleaning your blood from excess minerals as well as urea and uric acid (from protein metabolism).

The Digestive System 

Your skin it what stops toxins from your environment from entering your bloodstream. In the same manner, the wall of your digestive system stops toxins from whatever you inject from entering your bloodstream too! I won't get too technical about it, but you need to remember two things:

  • Between 70-80% of your immune system resides in your digestive system: if your digestive system is stressed, your immune system will be suppressed, leaving you exposed to viruses, bacteria, and other hazardous microbes.
  • One of the biggest causes for autoimmune diseases (including hormonal problems) and inflammation in general is something called: "intestinal permeability". This is a condition where inflammation in the gut causes the cells in the wall of the intestines to separate, allowing all sorts of molecules to make their way into the bloodstream (i.e. the filter is "torn"). This is also one of the biggest factors behind Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

A couple of more things

The Pancreas: while technically not a filter, your pancreas suffers high levels of pressure due to the modern lifestyle: excess consumption of carbohydrates requires frequent spikes in insulin production, while high levels of emotional stress cause a rise in blood glucose levels, which in turn also require the pancreas to secrete insulin.

Stress levels: physical, mental and emotional stress lead to a cascade of hormones, many of which have numerous side-effects, including inflammation, insulin resistance, and adrenal fatigue. Your liver also had the job of metabolism excess hormones in the blood.

A whole-body detox should take into account ways to reduce stress on the pancreas and the hormonal system as well.

Ok enough babbling: The Detox Plan!

As I mentioned earlier, this is a 3-week plan. For every week, you will have 4 pillars to focus on:

  • Diet-related things to avoid
  • Environment-related things to avoid
  • Diet-related things to include
  • Environment-related things to include

Ok maybe a couple of points before we start:

  • The success of your detox will depend on how much you can avoid toxins. In fact, I would say that 90% of detoxing is about elimination
  • You need to eat sufficient calories: if you don't, your body will go into "famine" mode, which means stress, hormones, and fat storage - that's one of the main reasons "juice detoxes" fail
  • You need to eat real food: if you stick to juices only, your digestive enzymes will downregulate, causing major problems down the road
  • You need to eat enough fat and protein: they are crucial for muscle preservation, hormonal balance, and nervous system health
  • An excellent way to help your body along in detoxing is intermittent fasting. Do one 24-hour fast (drinking water only) once a week during the detox period

Week 1

Diet-related things to avoid (completely)

  • Wheat: highly inflammatory, major cause of intestinal permeability (even in absence of digestive discomfort)
  • Sugar: one of the most inflammatory compounds. Major pancreatic stressor. Acts as food for bad bacterial in digestive system leading to their proliferation
  • Corn: highly inflammatory, causing intestinal permeability. One of the highest concentrations of pesticides. Most commonly genetically modified crop
  • Fructose (except low fructose fruits such as berries, kiwifruit): requires liver to work overtime to metabolize it into Triglycerides, which themselves are highly inflammatory molecules
  • Soy: major hormone disruptor. One of the most commonly genetically modified crops
  • Dairy: normally I'm a fan of organic good quality dairy, but for the purposes of the detox, avoid in Week 1
  • Eggs: normally I'm a fan of organic free-range eggs, but they do cause some intestinal permeability even in people who tolerate them. Avoid in Week 1
  • Predatory Fish: e.g. Tuna, Cod, Grouper: high concentration of metals, especially Mercury. Avoid at all costs to allow liver to complete metal detox
  • Meat & Chicken: avoid to reduce urea production and reduce blood acidity - ok once a week and only organic grass-fed (meat) and free-range (chicken)
  • Fruit Juices: very high in sugar
  • Sodium: stresses kidneys - ok to moderately use unprocessed sea-salt (it has a more balanced mineral profile / less sodium)
  • Commercial sports products: e.g. protein powder common in nutrition shops: high risk of metal (mercury, lead) contamination
  • Artificial Sweeteners: with the exception of natural Stevia - promote bacterial overgrowth and potentially insulin resistance
  • Nuts (raw and roasted): nuts are generally irritating to the digestive system
  • Peanuts: they are actually legumes and not nuts - they are inflammatory and often genetically modified and with high pesticide concentration
  • All foods fried in vegetable oil: vegetable oils (sunflower, soybean, etc.) are notoriously highly in highly inflammatory Omega 6
  • Alcohol: obvious one - give your liver a break!
  • Pharmaceuticals: same - your liver has to work overtime to metabolize all those chemicals, avoid to the extent possible (check with your doc)
  • MSG Foods: common in Chinese food and many processed meats. MSG mimics your neurotransmitters and stresses your liver and kidneys
  • Pesticide-prone foods: for obvious reasons. Click here to know which vegetables have the highest pesticide concentration

Environment-related things to avoid

  • High levels of physical stress: Crossfit, HIT, etc. High intensity efforts lead to glucose release and hormonal requirements - minimize until detox complete
  • Flying: flying exposes you to toxic mold and airborne and surface (seats, trays, armrest) microbes
  • Air Conditioning: notorious for toxic mold, especially in hot/humid climates
  • Commercial soaps, shampoos, detergents and fabric softeners: contain chemicals proven to be hormone disruptors - they leak through your skin into your blood. There are natural alternatives commonly sold at shops and online

Diet-related things to include

  • Organic wild non-predatory fish: low concentration of metals, rich in healthy fats and Omega 3 (anti-inflammatory)
  • Dark leafy greens: rich in antioxidants (Vitamin C in particular) as well as minerals
  • Coconut oil: highly anti-bacterial
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: rich i antioxidants, which your liver needs to chelate metals
  • Cilantro & Parsley: provide a number of nutrients to support liver detox
  • Cilantro and high dose garlic: both are highly anti-microbial. Consume ad libitum
  • Activated Charcoal: 2 capsules before bed - helps liver by binding to toxins and excreting them in stool
  • Chlorella: once a day with a glass of water: supports liver detox
  • Bone Broth: ad libitum - contains collagen, a major component needed to heal & repair the walls of your digestive system
  • Digestive Enzymes: 30min before every meal - helps trigger own production of enzymes and reduces stress on digestive system
  • Colostrum: recommended dosage - helps heal stomach lining
  • Oil of Oregano: 10 drops 3 times a day - kills off "bad bacteria" residing in your digestive system
  • Probiotics: 10 billion split over 3 servings and taken on an empty stomach (not with oil of oregano or digestive enzymes) - repopulate digestive system with "good bacteria"
  • Magnesium: 1g before bed - helps with morning bowel movement (also helps with relaxation and sleep)
  • Sodium Bicarbonate: 2 servings per day - helps alkalize blood

Environment-related things to include

  • Aerobic non-stressful physical activity: 3-4 times - long walks, VERY easy jogs, Yoga
  • Massage / Triggerpoint Therapy: once - ensure that you consume large quantities of water right afterwards - such treatments cause release of toxins from break-up of scar tissue and you need to assist your kidneys in flushing those toxins with adequate hydration
  • Sauna: once - your skin can also help rid your body of toxins
  • Aromatherapy: helps relax and rebalance hormones - but use natural essential oils only
  • Air purifiers

 

Week 2

Diet-related things to avoid

Continue as with Week 1, but you can add back:

  • Dairy: organic greek yogurt, 2 servings - unprocessed hard cheese, 1 serving 
  • Nuts: raw only, 2 servings
  • Alcohol: 1-2 glasses of wine (or 1 serving of harder alcohol) - no cocktails

Environment-related things to avoid

Same as Week 1

Diet-related things to add

Same as Week 1 with the following changes:

  • Activated Charcoal: reduce to 1 capsule before bed
  • Digestive Enzymes: 30min before your 2 largest meals only
  • Oil of Oregano: reduce dosage to 5 drops 3x daily
  • Sodium Bicarbonate: reduce dosage to once per day

Environment-related things to add

Same as Week 1

 

Week 3

Diet-related things to avoid

Continue as with Week 2, but you can add back:

  • Eggs: no more than 3 eggs, organic and free-range only
  • Dairy: 1 additional serving of hard unprocessed cheese
  • Meat / Chicken: 1 additional portion, unprocessed, organic - try to eat organ meats (much more nutrient dense)
  • Nuts: no change
  • Alcohol: no change

Environment-related things to avoid

Same as Week 1-2

Diet-related things to add

Same as Week 2 with the following changes:

  • Activated Charcoal: no change
  • Digestive Enzymes: 30min before your largest meal only
  • Oil of Oregano: reduce dosage to 5 drops 2x daily (morning and evening)
  • Colostrum: you can stop it
  • Chlorella: you can stop it 
  • Sodium Bicarbonate: you can stop it

Environment-related things to add

Same as Week 2 with the following change:

  • 1 single high-intensity training session to prepare you to get back to your normal routine

FAQs

What about juice detoxes?

  • They present a number of problems:
  • They don't provide sufficient calories - your body goes into "famine" mode, cannibalizing your own muscles and resulting in metabolic problems
  • They don't provide sufficient protein or fat for adequate muscle preservation and hormonal / neural function
  • They leave you constantly hungry and craving
  • They wreck havoc on your hormones
  • They are often high in sugar (natural from fruits/honey or artificial), which causes bacterial overgrowth, rise in triglycerides and pancreatic stress
  • They may lead to short-term "quick" weight loss, but at the expensve of long-term health and body composition

Ok so what about "green" juices?

  • They are generally alkalizing, especially those containing ginger, kale, cilantro, so feel free to include them in moderation
  • They are not meal replacements and do not provide adequate protein (even when combined with nut milks)

Do I get enough water from vegetables?

  • No. While vegetables do contain water, your hydration requirements increase substantially when you're "detoxing" to flush out all the toxins. You'll need to drink at least 3-4L per day

I was told that I should do a colon cleanse because it can hold up to 5kg of waste!

  • This whole story started with the hypothesis that a bad diet causes the build-up of "mucoid plaque" in your colon and that the only way to get rid of it is through special supplements and colon cleansing. There is no scientific evidence of any of that.

Do I need to eat raw all the time? 

  • No. Cooking food actually releases more nutrients and make them easier to absorb, as long as you're not overlooking or leaching nutrients (through boiling)
  • In fact, some vegetables causes digestive irritation when raw (e.g. spinach)

I'm suffering from constipation, should I take more fiber?

  • Sometimes a detox may cause some constipation. Taking more fiber will just irritate your digestive system causing inflammation
  • Better alternatives would include: increase your magnesium intake and try using Psyllium Husk Powder, which helps with bowel movement

Please feel free to respond with any questions / concerns.

Thanks to:

  • Dr. Andrea Maxim

  • Chris Kresser

  • Ben Greenfield

  • Sean Croxton

  • Christa Orecchio