This article was previously published as an e-newsletter by Dr. Paul Gannon. It is shared here with thanks to Dr. Paul Gannon.
This past weekend my husband got us started on some new diet geared to get our abs flatter.
As I have been seeing more traffic on the beltway with each passing year, I thought I would give it a try. The obvious aspect of it is more exercise and cardio in particular. To my chagrin though, it included calorie counting! 1800 per day. “Really?” I thought, “How am I going to do this counting?” FYI, I never have people count calories, so I took it on in order to try it out for once in my life. I lasted one day. By day two I was over it and just estimated that my breakfast was 300 calories, or lunch was 600, etc. It was useful exercise while it lasted. I am now even more committed than ever to not have patients count calories.
This got me wondering. As I lose say five to ten pounds in the next month, toxins are going to be getting released from my fat and muscle tissue, and actually out of my body. And even if I go right back to my current weight, this little fluctuation of pounds off and back on, will be a nice little toxin decrease for my body.
I am on day five now. And it did not take me long to figure out that I was doing one of my liver cleanses. No alcohol, no added sweetener to anything, saying no to chocolate, having a granny smith apple or berries for dessert, and my only caffeine coming from green tea.
Maybe you have wondered about doing a ‘liver cleanse’ or ‘detox’ yourself? Spring and autumn are the traditional times for doing such things. Walk into any health food store or go on-line and before you know it you will be inundated with advice and products, with a wide range of quality. I will not get into the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to product lines, as quality and efficacy are all over the place. For now, I am just going to talk about foods and eating so that you can do a cleanse of sorts yourself and perhaps drop a few pounds in the process.
Many falsely believe that cleansing or detoxing means they have to fast. Since your body needs increased nutrition when cleansing, fasting can actually starve your body of the essential nutrients your liver needs. This can ultimately cause more toxic build-up in your system.
Have you ever heard someone complain about how awful they feel while doing a fast? This is why. Fasting for a day is great and not a bad thing really. But fasting for longer, say three days or more can slow down or even stop the constant motion of the intestines known as peristalsis. Peristalsis is crucial for elimination and getting rid of trillions of intestinal bacteria everyday. When this removal is compromised by less than daily bowel movements, auto-toxicity occurs, which is the absorption of toxins into your bloodstream from bacteria and yeasts that grow in your intestines. You will not feel good when this occurs!
These toxins absorbed from the intestines can actually be measured by a test called the ‘organic acid’ test. It measures known metabolites from many different species of intestinal bacteria and yeasts, both good ones and bad ones.
Fasting will also slow your metabolism, so is not good if you desire weight loss. It will fool your body into thinking that you are starving and cause calorie burning to be held back as a result.
Eating for Cleansing and/or Losing Weight
If you change your diet and see pounds come off, know that in those pounds are toxins that the liver will need to package up for shipment out of the body. To put it mildly, the liver is a chemical factory, utilizing so many nutrients for toxin metabolism and removal that you would be bored reading them all. The liver is heavily dependent on B vitamins, sulphur, amino acids and other nutritional compounds that you probably have never heard of like calcium-d-glucurate. That said, know that you must consume excellent nutrition anytime you are pushing your liver to process and get rid of toxins.
Some toxins are from current daily exposure to things around us (mercury in our air, plastics in our water), and from our own bodies, like bad bacteria in the intestines, or old hormones. Other toxins can be from life-long exposure and can be stored in our fat and muscle tissue, like toxic heavy metals and bad things from food. I could go on, but why? We all know we have toxin exposure, so be it, we have to live! We can’t live in a bubble to protect ourselves (nor would we want to, as it would be made of plastic).
Instead spend your time thinking about something that makes you happy, not something negative that you can’t do anything about. I guess that would be step one, a mind detox!
Fruit & Veggie Essentials
Obviously lots of vegetables are essential. Most veggies are lower in sugar than most fruits, and can have more nutrients. This is not to say that fruits are out of the question, but definitely keep those very sweet ones to a minimum if you want to shed a few pounds. Concentrate on the most nutrient packed fruits, like deep colored berries and fresh lemon or lime, which are traditional ‘liver foods’.
Forgo desserts and have an apple instead.
Veggies help to offset acids formed in the body and are loaded with nutrients needed for detoxing. (Click here to see a list of ‘free’ foods that you can eat as much as you want).
Of utmost importance when losing pounds and thinking about your liver is asparagus, artichokes, carrots, beets, radishes, and everything green, like broccoli, collards, kale, brussel sprouts, cabbage, green beans, peas, spinach, arugula, and on and on!
However you get your veggies in: steamed, sautéed, al dente or fully ‘cooked’, veggies are crucial when looking to pack more nutrients into your diet. Do put raw veggies into your mix also. You do not need to become a raw foodie, but snacking on things like raw sugar snap peas, celery, carrots and broccoli will all go far for your health as these have enzymes that help digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
The Need for Protein
What you may not realize is how important protein is when embarking on a cleanse. The detox pathways of the liver are very dependent on amino acids. Protein is ultimately broken down into its constituent amino acids in the gastrointestinal tract. Many of my patients are surprised to find that I do not suggest eliminating meat and animal products while trying to lose weight or cleansing. I believe that eating about three ounces of meat or fish is great while cleansing, as long as it is offset by green veggies.
You can cleanse without meat, and in fact I strongly do recommend it if you are so inclined. The decrease in animal products will help greatly with acid/alkaline balance. But do be adamant about seeking out vegetarian proteins like beans, peas, and legumes many times a day.
If going vegan—no animal products at all, be sure to keep an eye on your intake of sweet fruits, grains, and sweet veggies like carrots and beets. These carbs can add up fast.
Fats and Oils
Lastly, don’t hold back on the fat! A fat-free meal will leave you feeling less satiated and put you at risk for developing gall stones.
If you eat eggs, eat them. For most people, the cholesterol eaten has very little affect on cholesterol levels.
Snack on nuts, seeds and nut butters.
Use olive oil, especially if the rest of your meal is very lean.
So don’t have any meal as fat-free as you need your fats to help vitamins and minerals to be absorbed.
Good luck and have fun with it, whatever you do!
Dr. Paul Gannon has been leading detoxification programs for groups and individuals for over seven years. His experience working with hundreds of people in this field has lead him to develop the most comprehensive and effective cleanse program available today. Dr. Gannon earned his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, which is recognized worldwide as the leader in education and scientific study for naturopathic medicine. Besides offering phone consultations to accommodate your busy lifestyle, Dr. Gannon has offices in Miami Beach and Aspen. Visit his website here.