A primary obstacle to optimal body composition and fat loss is toxicity in the body. People get fat because of malnutrition, stress, and toxins. Dr. Bob Rakowski’s lectures have reinforced that because nutrition is poor, people are left deficient in critical nutrients that can help manage stress and eliminate toxins. These pollutants build up in the body, degrade lean tissue, and make us fat.
The functional medicine community, led by the work of Dr. Jeffrey Bland, has researched the benefits of nutritional cleanses, also masked under the name detox programs, as a solution to this overwhelming toxic load that confounds our body comp goals. The problem with those programs is that most people are too toxic and malnourished to even go on a cleanse. Their best intentions will be stalled by lack of support for the entire physiological detoxification process, and they will quickly feel horrible.
This article will tell you what to consider before starting a detoxification protocol. I highlight six pitfalls that you need to avoid if you want to have success with a nutritional cleanse. Don’t make these common errors that will halt your progress. Pitfall #1: You Start Taking Detox Supplements and You Feel Worse
If you start taking detox or “cleansing” supplements and begin to feel worse, this means that the pollutants in your body are overwhelming the liver. Detoxification of pollutants includes three phases, of which passage through the liver is the first. If you eat processed foods that contain lots of additives, eat nonorganic meat and vegetables, or live in a large urban area like New York, London, or Toronto, your body will have accumulated too many toxins for it to eliminate them all at once. Even one supplement may make you feel badly at first as your tissues release toxins.
Be aware that due to different genomic profiles, many people detoxify poorly and have lower levels of internal antioxidants that are necessary for elimination of toxins. For example, an antioxidant that is produced inside the body called glutathione is very effective at improving detoxification, but some families are genetically disposed to have gene irregularities that result in lower glutathione. These families tend to have greater incidence of disease and mental problems like schizophrenia or autism.
Additionally, people who have lived in countries with very poor pollution control, such as the former Soviet Bloc tend to have accumulated high levels of toxins in their cells. For example, people I have worked with clients from Bulgaria, Hungary, and other former Soviet Bloc countries who have difficulty with detoxification because of the immense toxic load they carry. The new availability of quality nutrition ramps up hepatic detoxification too fast, manifesting as skin eruptions, gastric distress, nausea, fatigue, etc.
The solution is to ensure you are not ingesting pollutants in food from chemical additives, animal antibiotics, or pesticides, and then take a week off of supplements. Then, start with ONE, yes ONE supplement at one capsule a day for five days. Add a new supplement, at one capsule every five days. Take your time, stay hydrated, and get adequate rest.
Pitfall #2: Your Gut Is Unhealthy
If the only thing you are regular about is being constipated, you know your gut is unhealthy and detoxification will be severely impaired. Toxins have to actually be eliminated from the body, they don’t just magically disappear from your tissue when you do a cleanse. You must aid detoxification by supporting the kidneys and the gut. If toxins break free in the large intestine, they will go back into circulation and are not removed from the body—a very bad situation.
There are three solutions to improve gut health and ensure elimination: 1) Assess your HCL levels
If you have low stomach acid, or hydrochloric acid (HCL), you probably are not digesting your food properly. Low HCL means you will have problems with your gut and detoxification, but you also won’t be absorbing essential nutrients from food and supplements, which can lead to severe nutrient deficiencies. Adequate stomach acid is necessary for the absorption of calcium, vitamins B9 and 12, magnesium, zinc, iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E., beta carotene, and the breakdown of protein.
Low HCL is surprisingly common and very often untreated. Many people think gastric stress is normal. It is not. To test and fix your stomach acid levels, read my article, HCL The Most Important Supplement Ever? 2) Take A Probiotic
Everyone should take a probiotic at the end of meals to increase the rate of survival of microbiota in the GI tract. A big reason that the detoxification process is halted is inflammation in the gut, which can be caused by unhealthy bacteria. A probiotic will help fight pathogenic bacteria and aid elimination of toxins, while minimizing inflammation.
3) Use a Fiber Protocol
People rarely get adequate dietary fiber, and food intolerances to specific fibers develop rather rapidly. If your body becomes intolerant to a certain fiber, it makes the fiber useless since it will cause inflammation and impede detoxification. The solution is to rotate the fiber you take and begin the protocol gradually. This is very important and you can probably guess why.
Most people get best results by starting with 2 grams of fiber in water at the two extremes of the day: Morning upon awakening, and right before retiring at night. Fiber blends that will encourage effective detoxification include chia and flax seed, fibers of carrot, beet, and citrus, cranberry seed, apple pectin, and psyllium. Pitfall #3: You Feel the Discomfort of Bloating
If you feel bloated regularly, you are probably eating food you are intolerant of. A food intolerance is when your body is unable to process certain foods due to insufficient levels of a specific enzyme. Common food intolerances include gluten, eggs, corn, dairy, lactose, nuts, fructose, and soy.
Many people also find that a food intolerance is complex and better results may come if they eliminate multiple foods such as lactose and dairy—meaning even dairy with the lactose removed. The solution is to identify the foods that trip you up and eliminate them. Varying the foods you eat frequently should also help tremendously. Pitfall #4: Cravings Are Your Middle Name
In order for a nutritional cleanse to be effective, you must have adequate nutrition in addition to supplementation. This means no processed foods, no chemical additives, no sugar, and no foods that you are intolerant of, among other things. If you are worried that your nutritional cleanse will be hampered by food cravings that you don’t know if you can manage, these need to be addressed first. The good news is they can.
Sugar or simple carb cravings such as bread or bakery foods indicate that you are not managing your blood sugar well and are deficient in protein and “smart” fats. The solution is to increase high-quality protein and healthy fat intake. You need to eliminate all high-glycemic carbs that cause a large, quick spike in blood sugar and substitute them with protein, fat, and low glycemic carbs. Consider the Poliquin Meat and Nut Breakfast
or a favorite that I learned from Jonny Bowden to kill carb cravings: Sautée nuts (Almonds, walnuts, cashews, whatever you prefer) in butter—very tasty!
Pitfall #5: Your Vitamin D Levels are Low
Vitamin D is extremely important for detoxification, and if your levels are low, all cleansing efforts will be for naught and you may cause more problems than if you did not cleanse. To detoxify efficiently, you need to have optimal vitamin D because every single cell in the body requires vitamin D to function.
Since every cell in the body has a vitamin D receptor, it plays a lot of different roles in health. For example, vitamin D upregulates or “turns on” anti-inflammatory biomarkers that help support detoxification. Plus, more than 60 anti-cancer genes are dependent on vitamin D meaning if you don’t have enough D, these genes won’t be active and your risk of developing cancerous cells will increase profoundly
Pitfall #6: Your Magnesium Levels are Inadequate
If you have low magnesium, all detoxification efforts will be in vain for the following three reasons:
• Magnesium is involved in 300 essential biochemical reactions, many of which have to do with the removal of toxins from the body. Plus, magnesium enables the body to metabolize and use vitamin D.
• Magnesium is necessary for the detoxification of chemical estrogens from the body, which if not eliminated swiftly, will make you fatter and can cause cancer. Magnesium is used for a phase of estrogen detox called methylation, and if your magnesium is low, estrogen will be turned into highly reactive compounds that damage DNA and cause cancer.
• Magnesium is essential for the detoxification of the stress hormone cortisol. Aside from helping eliminate cortisol, magnesium calms the sympathetic nervous system, which can allow for less cortisol to be released. If it’s not released, it doesn’t need to be detoxified.
Once you lay the dietary groundwork to avoid all the above pitfalls, give yourself at least another six months before you attempt your first nutritional cleanse. People who take lots of medications and live in urban settings may need to wait as long as two years.