For each of the last 31 years I have offered a New Year’s Detox program at my clinic, the Preventive Medical Center of Marin, in San Rafael, California. I not only teach the 21-day course based on my book The Detox Diet, but I participate in it myself because this isn’t simply a health concept for me but a core lifestyle component—an intrinsic part of my own yearly health program.
My personal experience with the healing benefits of detoxification dates back more than 40 years – to 1975 when I did my first juice cleanse. Having been trained in the Western medical system, this experience was a real transformation and renewal for me on many levels—not only physically, but also emotionally, mentally and even spiritually.
Since that time, various detox and rejuvenation practices have been key components of my therapeutic toolkit, both for me personally and for thousands of my patients. In fact I consider cleansing/fasting/detoxification, which are different degrees of the same process of reduced toxin intake and enhanced toxin elimination, to be the missing link in Western nutrition and a key to the health and vitality of our society.
These ideas and practices have a long history and they are still relevant and useful today. However they are often dismissed or ignored by the conventional medical establishment, so I am always interested to discover new research that supports this ancient healing wisdom. A study recently completed at Harvard sheds new light on the basic biology of the declining ability of cells to process energy over time, which leads to aging and its associated diseases. The study (see the link at the end of this post) explores how periods of dietary restriction, like detox and fasting, might actually promote healthy aging. Understanding what is happening at the cellular level has enormous potential – as one of the authors of the study says, “our findings open up new avenues in the search for therapeutic strategies that will reduce our likelihood of developing age-related diseases as we get older.”
The Seasonal Approach
In addition to offering detox guidance and group support in January, I present similar programs each Spring (a 7-10-day juice cleanse) and Autumn (a detox program to get ready for the holidays). This seasonal approach is important because I have found that different styles of detox are more effective at different times of the year. The 21-day plan I offer in the winter is ideal for cooler weather as it is based on a foundation of cooked (warm) food. I have posted a simple Daily Menu Plan for the New Year’s/Winter detox here.
Juice, liquids and fruits on the other hand are better in warmer weather. You can mix and match these guidelines, presented in detail in The Detox Diet, to suit your local climate and make a seasonal plan that works best with your own schedule and needs.
My guide for this approach is the model of the year’s seasons and elements found in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which has been a part of my healing philosophy and practice since my first book, Staying Healthy with the Seasons. Of particular interest is the significance given to the periods of transition between the seasons/elements known as the “Doyo.” These begin 10 days before each equinox and solstice and extend ten days after them and the precise dates vary from year to year—so those given in the accompanying chart are approximate. Each Doyo is a good time to detoxify the body and adjust to the new season, perhaps with a short 3-day fast. Of course, I usually pass on any detox around the Winter Solstice transition (Dec 10 – Jan 1) because of the Christmas and New Year celebrations. All the more reason to pick things up in January!
With this natural, seasonal dietary approach, you are aligning yourself with the energy of Nature, which is after all, the source of all health and healing. I hope you will make some of these suggestions a part of your vital New Year.