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Our bodies work daily to neutralize and eliminate toxins through the gastrointestinal tract, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph and skin. But it’s the liver and gastrointestinal tract that perform the most important detoxification functions in the body. In fact, many illnesses are related to problems of the digestive and liver detoxification systems and their influence on other bodily functions, such as immune, nervous and hormonal functions. That’s why natural and integrative medicine practitioners from all over the world focus so much on digestive and liver health. It’s also why following a detox program to enhance liver and digestive detoxification—like this DIY New Year’s Detox utilizing the Elimination Diet and a liver detox tea—can help your body to remove toxins, rejuvenate, and heal. You don’t need expensive bottles of supplements, cleansing kits, or page after page of complicated instructions to detoxify. Just follow these simple instructions and you’re on your way to improved health!
The Detox Program Elimination Diet
As part of your detox program, the Elimination Diet will help you clear your body of foods and chemicals you may be allergic or sensitive to, and, at the same time, it will work along with your liver detox tea (discussed in part 2) to improve your body’s ability to handle and dispose of these substances. The Elimination Diet is the most commonly recommended eating plan to accompany detoxification protocols. It is not a calorie-restricted diet, nor is it low-fat, high-protein, vegetarian or vegan (unless you want it to be).
It is called an “Elimination Diet” because you remove certain foods, and food categories, from your diet for a period of time. The main rationale behind the Elimination Diet is that these modifications allow your body’s detoxification machinery, which may be overburdened or compromised, to recover and begin to function efficiently again. The dietary changes help the body eliminate or “clear” various toxins that may have accumulated due to environmental exposure, foods, beverages, drugs, alcohol, or cigarette smoking.
What to Expect When Following the Elimination Diet
Naturopathic and integrative medicine practitioners from around the world attest to the benefits of elimination diets. The initial physical response to the elimination diet is highly variable from one individual to the next. This is because of each individual’s unique physiological, mental, and biochemical make-up, the degree of exposure to and the type of toxin(s), and other lifestyle factors. Most often, individuals on the elimination diet report increased energy, mental alertness, decrease in muscle or joint pain, and a general sense of improved well-being.
However, some people report some initial reactions to the diet, especially in the first week, as their bodies “withdraw” from foods eaten on a daily basis and adjust to a different dietary program. Symptoms you may experience in the first week or so can include changes in sleep patterns, lightheadedness, headaches, joint or muscle stiffness and changes in gastrointestinal function. Also, your body may crave some foods it is used to consuming. (Read here for help with food cravings.) If you experience such symptoms, keep in mind that they rarely last for more than a few days. Persevere. Most people feel much better over the next couple of weeks.
What to Eat on the Elimination Diet
The Elimination Diet outlined here is based on the one recommended by the Institute for Functional Medicine and versions very similar to it are utilized by many naturopathic doctors and integrative physicians. It is typically followed for two to three weeks, following by a food reintroduction period, but you can choose to follow it for less time and still benefit.
During your chosen detox period, do not eat any of the following foods in any form: dairy, eggs, soy, corn, gluten-containing grains, sugar (including honey, maple syrup, evaporated cane juice), alcohol, or caffeine. For meats, use only fresh or water-packed fish, wild game, and organic free-range chicken, turkey lamb, and duck (no pork, beef/veal, sausage, cold cuts, canned meats, frankfurters, shellfish). If you are a vegetarian, eliminate the meats and fish and consume more beans and rice, quinoa, amaranth, teff, millet, and buckwheat. For oils, use only cold pressed olive, nut, or seed oils or virgin coconut oil. All fruits are allowed, but make sure they are whole fruits or diluted juices (frozen fruits are fine). All legumes are allowed except soybeans; all nuts and seeds except peanuts; all vegetables except corn. For condiments you may use vinegar, salt, pepper, and all spices, but you may not use ketchup, relish, chutney, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, teriyaki, and other condiments.
Select fresh foods whenever you can. If possible, choose organically grown fruits and vegetables to eliminate pesticide and chemical residue consumption. Remember to drink at least 2 quarts of plain, filtered water each day along with your Liver Detox Tea, discussed in part 2 of this article.
How to Properly End the Elimination Diet
At the end of your detox, don’t binge on all the foods you’ve been avoiding. You’ll be sorry. Instead, try to re-introduce them slowly. Ideally, you would introduce one new food group every other day in order to gauge your body’s reaction. If you notice symptoms when re-introducing a certain food you likely have a sensitivity or allergy to it and would be better off avoiding it, at least for three months.
In addition to the information provided here, you can find many elimination diet menus, recipes, snack suggestions and other information on the internet and in bookstores.
Remember, you can keep it simple and still benefit greatly just from removing common allergens and chemicals from your diet for a short time. Next, in part 2, you’ll learn about some easy, inexpensive, ready-made liver detox teas that will support your liver’s detoxification systems during the Elimination Diet.
This article was originally published in 2014. It is regularly updated.