The buzz about detoxifying teas, cold-pressed juices and other trendy products that promise to flush out toxins can truly be deafening. In an attempt to find the perfect plan for a pre-summer detox, DuJour turned to Dr. Richard Firshein of the Firshein Center for Integrative Medicine in New York City. He often recommends detoxes to his patients because of the many benefits of fasting, and says, “When you have all of those allergens and sensitivities, and you have all of these toxins and you eliminate them, you give the liver a chance to recover, and that’s the basic foundational principle of a detox.”
Despite universal benefits, there’s actually no universal way to detox. Each of Dr. Firshein’s patients receives an individualized plan of action based on extensive evaluation. “We use a lot of sophisticated testing—DNA testing, we look at toxins, there are biomes which look at gut flora, allergies, vitamin levels, levels of free radical activity, and with that information we’re able to put together a plan,” he explained. While no two patients—and therefore no two detoxes—are exactly alike, Dr. Firshein outlined some important basic rules to know before embarking on a detox.
Patients typically will ingest one third of the calories they normally would, and Dr. Firshein cautions that patients taking in under 1200 calories per day be medically supervised.
“I use a gluten free, rice-based protein drink that has a number of detoxifying nutrients in it,” says Dr. Firshein. Foods often added on top of this include vegetable or bone broth, a serving of mustard seeds, a yogurt, or even four ounces of steamed salmon with asparagus or broccoli in some cases.
Juice may be seen as the quintessential component of cleansing, but it doesn’t always make an appearance in Dr. Firshein’s plan. Sometimes he will add a green juice to the mix if a patient is sick and needs more nutrition than the typical detox provides, but he always proceeds with caution. “You want to be careful because a lot of commercial juices contain a lot of sugar,” he says. “You want to check the labels, make sure that they’re not getting more than seven or eight grams of sugar per serving. That’s still on the high end—about a teaspoon of sugar—but to make it palatable some people really need a little bit.” To put things in perspective, the popular BluePrint cleanse contains juices with up to 51 grams of sugar in a serving.
Detoxing vs. cleansing
These words are not interchangeable to Dr. Firshein. A detox is the process described above, cutting calories and eating only certain foods for a number of days in order to eliminate toxins. “In the cleanse I add in some things that really clean out the gut to clean out the colon, and that’s why we have things like flax seed, magnesium preparations, or natural supplements like cascara and senna. That really just clears out the gut because for a lot of people they’re toxic not just because of the things they eat and consume, but also because of the gut bacteria,” says Dr. Firshein.
When to detox
“I think a reasonable approach would be every two months,” says Dr. Firshein. “I think that if someone wanted to do it quarterly or twice a year, they’re still going to get enormous benefits from it. It will help them reset the way that their body is functioning and give them the optional nutrition.” It sounds difficult to cut calories so often, but the benefits can make the sacrifice worth it. “People go through a detox and then they suddenly realize—you know that epiphany—that they’re feeling so much better, they have so much more energy, they feel more vital, they think more clearly,” says Dr. Firshein.