Demystifying Detox

By Jarrod Denson / January 9, 2013

A peaceful spot to reflect and purify the senses at the Rosewood Mayakoba Spa in Riviera Maya, Mexico

Humans are at the top of the food chain and most likely to be exposed to a buildup of toxic substances in the food supply, and beyond. Add all the chemicals in cosmetics, noise pollution, water shortages and a seriously shrinking ozone layer and you quickly realize there is no escaping this toxic load, or what many researchers now refer to as “pollution in people.” The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates more than 80 percent of all illnesses have environmental and lifestyle causes at the root, which could be helped by de-stressing regularly, purifying the blood and detoxifying the skin and other cleansing organs on a consistent basis. And, as we get older, we produce less melatonin and other therapeutic hormones that help the detox process, says Dr. James Forsythe, author of Anti-Aging Cures (Vanguard Press 2012). “Unhealthy food practices emerge as the primary cause of poor digestive and detox health,” he says. To cleanse, it’s vital to “eliminate or greatly reduce unhealthy foods from your diet, starting with sugars, alcohol, caffeine and all animal products.”

While several strategies we found do work by simply “sweating them out,” others decontaminate deeper into the muscles and digestive organs, especially the liver. Most experts agree:

If you want to initiate a detox, you should drink more (green juices), eat less and exercise until you perspire. Also, investigate digestive enzyme supplements, a fiber supplement and a daily multi-vitamin. Make sure to discuss any cleanse or detox with your general practitioner.

Clear your skin.

A weight loss tool popular in the Far East and infrequently seen in the United States, weekly sessions in an Infrared Jade Sauna—which heats you up from your internal core temperature—helps most healthy adults purge up to 600 calories in 30 minutes per session. “Using the ancient healing power of jade stone, combined with high-tech infrared rays, Jade Saunas are private, temperature-controlled and based on your comfort zone,” says Joseph Harounian, owner of Firm Body Evolution (FBE) gym and spa in West Hollywood, California. You slip into one of eight personal pods wearing a tank top and shorts, recline on a stone bed and close the lid for time away from the chaos of urban grit. One of FBE’s team members peeks in every few minutes to place cool compresses on your forehead, dim the lights and check on music selection. Your pores expel free radicals and contaminants (food additives, caffeine, excess sodium, etc.) for hours following one treatment, $50 a la carte;

Clean up your food supply and eliminate sugar.

Granted, slowly weaning off of unhealthy staples including dairy, meat and sugar is not exactly easy. “The hardest part in the beginning of a detox is keeping your cravings in check,” says Kris Carr, author of Crazy Sexy Diet (Hay House 2011) and Crazy, Sexy Kitchen (2012). Here are her tips for cleaning up your diet and sidestepping sugar and caffeine cravings as you detox:

  • Sip hot herbal or green tea all day to keep your mouth busy and intake more antioxidants. Stick to filtered water.
  • Nosh on rice cakes with nut butters, baked sweet potatoes, crudité and spicy dips. Don’t skip meals or starve yourself.
  • Start your day with a shot of willpower in a glass: Mix leafy greens (think kale and spinach) with sweeter produce such as carrots and green apples. Drink one for breakfast and another prior to your 3 p.m. afternoon slump.
  • Eat whole, organic seasonal vegetables every chance you get.

And aim for two organic fruits for snacks each day.

Sweat out cellular waste and exercise intensely.

Skin, your largest organ, is an organ of excretion, so it makes sense that high-energy cardiovascular exercise—where you perspire more than usual (spinning class, boot camps and hot yoga)—can purify your bloodstream by shuttling toxins out of your body via the skin. Although the American College of Sports Medicine suggests all healthy adults get 30 to 60 minutes of exercise most days of the week, about two-thirds of Americans don’t get half of that. Detox moral of the story? Move intensely enough to sweat through your clothes and work up to a breathless pant several days per week. At that sweaty point, you’re eliminating the main chemicals (stimulants, food additives, cosmetic chemicals, over-the-counter medicine) that your system is bombarded with daily.

Jump on the healthy bacteria bandwagon.

About two-thirds of any detox occurs in the digestive system, experts say, so cleansing the colon and liver is paramount. Most foods lack the viability or quantity to optimize healthy bacteria colonies in the colon, so supplementing with a daily probiotic (with “live, active cultures”) is an excellent idea. “There are 100 trillion microorganisms in the colon that preserve and protect the fragile, internal ecosystem responsible for nourishing the gut and maintaining whole body wellness,” says Steven Lamm, M.D., professor of internal medicine at New York University in Manhattan. “Prebiotics and probiotics are essential ‘firewalls’ in the gut that protect against toxins in the environment and the foods we eat. Prebiotics are the foot soldiers that feed the healthy bacteria in the colon. They’re found in foods like Jerusalem artichoke, chicory and other nutrient sources rich in FOS (fructooligosaccharides). Probiotics are the actual bacteria that we ingest to help promote a healthy internal ecosystem. Typical probiotic foods are yogurt, kefir and fermented miso and sauerkraut.”

According to Dr. Lamm, author of No Guts, No Glory (Basic Health 2012), digestive enzymes are just as important for digestion and overall health as probiotics. “Most people don’t know what enzymes do and how powerful they are. Where probiotics can take weeks to have an effect, enzymes bring immediate results,” Dr. Lamm says. “You’re only as healthy as the nutrients you absorb, and there’s a relative enzyme deficiency in most people, especially as we age.”

Purify your senses and detox negative emotions.

At the Sense Spa at Rosewood Mayakoba, in a rainforest on the Riviera Maya in southeast Mexico, sits the Temezcal, an indigenous Mayan sauna made of rough clay bricks and heated from the inside with volcanic rocks. Across Mexico and South America, the temple-like sweat lodge is an indigenous rite of passage, which signifies a circle of fire, an offering of worship, a sage cleansing and chants to the universe. Every 60-minute purifying aromatherapy steam is guided by a temazcalero (a medicine man or shaman) and conducted largely in the dark, says Emmanuel Arroyo, spa director of Rosewood Mayakoba. “It’s a very purifying and meditative experience.”


Check out the Ultimate Spa Detox here.