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Thirty years ago, I was introduced to the concept that most common Western diseases were largely the result of less-than-perfect nutrition. Although I was skeptical to begin with, after two months on a diet packed with fresh fruit and vegetables and supported by nutritional supplements, I saw the evidence for myself: I looked well, felt great, and had more vitality and mental clarity than ever before.
This experience was the beginning of a lifelong journey that resulted in my founding the Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION) in 1984, with the help and support of two-time Nobel laureate Dr. Linus Pauling. ION, an independent nonprofit educational charity, is now one of the leading schools in Europe for training nutritional therapists. Its purpose is to educate the public and health professionals about the importance of optimum nutrition through its own publications, educational courses, and community outreach programs. ION also advises people on nutritional therapy and offers treatment where necessary.
Over the years, I have traveled all over the world lecturing on nutrition, as well as writing twenty-two books explaining how the food we eat and the liquids we drink have a direct effect on our health. During that time, it has been an honor to work with many great pioneers of what Linus Pauling called orthomolecular medicine, which simply translates as “giving the body the right molecules.” He believed that optimum nutrition is the medicine of tomorrow, and he was right.
Since the foundation of ION, great advances have been made, with new research being published almost daily, proving the inextricable linking of health, disease, and nutrition. What those of us at the cutting edge of this new science have proven, day after day, in our clinics and with our research, is now finally being heralded by many as “the truth,” as an abundance of research studies report on the restorative power of nutrients. For many years, nutritional therapists have been treating people who are unwell—whether vertically ill (upright but not feeling great) or horizontally ill (debilitated). These people have often consulted the therapists as a last resort, and we have seen clients restored to health and well-being beyond their wildest dreams.
You, too, can have optimum health—and there’s no better way to kick-start it than with my 9-Day Liver Detox! Many of us recognize that some foods and drinks instantly make us feel good, and we may also know that there are other foods whose beneficial effects we feel the day after—perhaps making us feel more energized or refreshed. So we may already have an idea of what good nutrition does for us. Although many people have the mistaken idea that nutritionists are born virtuous and healthy, the truth is that most of us, just like you, have discovered optimum nutrition as the only sustainable solution for our own health problems or to create the feeling of well-being.
Why a liver detox?
This detox program concentrates on the liver, so you may be wondering why the liver is such an important organ in the body. In fact, the liver is the greatest multitasking organ, and as a result its function—or dysfunction—has an incredibly important impact on our health. Following are the liver’s main functions.
Breaking down and eliminating toxins. The liver is the organ of detoxification. When it is not working properly, toxins from both inside and outside the body remain in the system and can cause your immune system to treat them as if they were invading organisms. This can lead to many health problems, including inflammation, increased likelihood of infections, and food allergies and sensitivities.
Breaking down and eliminating excess hormones. When this function is not working optimally, all kinds of hormonal imbalances can occur, promoting health problems from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) to acne.
Balancing blood sugar. When our blood sugar levels are high (for example, just after consuming sugary foods and drinks), the hormone insulin triggers the liver to store the excess as glycogen. When blood sugar levels fall, the liver releases glycogen to be turned into glucose. If the liver fails in this task, the result is chronic fatigue, sugar cravings, weight gain, and, ultimately, diabetes.
Producing bile. This vital substance helps digestion by breaking down fat and removing excess cholesterol. Without it, cholesterol levels rise and many digestive disorders can result, including bloating, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), nausea, food allergies, and the malabsorption of nutrients, especially the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Storing nutrients. The liver stores many essential vitamins and minerals, including iron, copper, and vitamins A, B12, D, E, and K.
In fact, just about any allergic, inflammatory, or metabolic disorder may involve or create impaired liver function, increasing inflammation in the body and resulting in eczema, asthma, chronic fatigue, chronic infections, inflammatory bowel disorders, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis, to name but a few, which in turn affect liver function.
Because the liver struggles valiantly on, working hard, it can be some time before serious symptoms of dysfunction appear. However, you may find that you are feeling tired and sluggish—this is a possible sign that your liver may benefit from a detox. You can check whether a detox would be beneficial for you by completing my questionnaire on page 12.
Are liver detoxes safe?
In the old days of total fasts, where you drank only water, naturopaths used to talk about the “healing crisis,” when you felt worse before you felt better. But often this was really just a crisis! For safety, our bodies store toxins in our adipose tissue (fat stores). When we lose weight rapidly, those toxins are released, and the liver—as an organ of detoxification—has to deal with them. The idea of a liver detox is to support and take the load off the organ by providing the nutrients it needs—not to give it even more work to do!
My 9-Day Liver Detox is built on nothing but sound nutritional principles. It aims to support your liver’s ability to do its job detoxing your body by removing antinutrients—in other words, toxins—from the diet and replacing them with the very nutrients it needs for optimum efficiency. You will not be starving yourself at any point; our 9-Day Menu Plan is carefully crafted, consisting of tasty, nutritious, and filling recipes so that you will never go hungry. Instead, you will be taking in a large quantity of the nutrients that are directly beneficial to your liver and which will actively support its detoxification function. It can then do its job of safely removing toxins from your fat stores and processing them appropriately without any ill effects.
Of course, if you are addicted to caffeine and go cold turkey while you follow the detox, you may feel worse for a couple of days, but soon you’ll have more energy than ever before. You may get temporary withdrawal symptoms when you stop eating foods that you are intolerant to, but taking the recommended supplements really helps to minimize them. What you will be including in your diet will support not only your liver but the rest of your body, including your brain.
What benefits will you experience?
If you follow the steps in my 9-Day Liver Detox carefully, you should enjoy:
• Increased energy and vitality
• Clearer skin
• Freedom from digestive complaints
• Regular bowel movements
• Fresh breath
• Clearer sinuses
• Fewer infections
• Brighter eyes
• A sharper mind
You may even want to stay on the plan longer, for even more noticeable benefits.
Practicing what we preach
Fiona McDonald Joyce, who has provided all the wonderful recipes for this book, is a qualified ION nutritional therapist and cooking consultant. Her specialty is making what’s good for you taste great. In advance of her wedding and while she was devising these recipes, she followed my 9-Day Liver Detox herself to solve some skin problems. She is happy to report great results—she looked absolutely radiant on her wedding day!
I am passionate about the healing power of my 9-Day Liver Detox, and it was exactly what I needed recently, having just completed a grueling lecture tour abroad, followed by a house move combined with some overindulgence over Easter. Within just two days, I felt completely recharged and back to tip-top health. It’s amazing how good you can feel in such a short space of time.
Throughout this book, you will read many more firsthand experiences of what it is like to cut out favorite foods and the importance of having appetizing recipes when you are craving “off-limits” foods. You’ll discover many recipes that are appetizing, interesting, and positively packed with nutrients that will become staples in your repertoire long after the nine days, making my 9-Day Liver Detox a highly doable and enjoyable experience.
The detox program will give you foods that boost your liver’s ability to detoxify, plus liver-friendly supplements, so that you will start to feel better almost immediately. One skeptical journalist, Zoe Strimpel from the Daily Telegraph, “test-drove” the detox only, without the supplements, for just one day and said, “I must admit, I felt clearheaded and wholesome.”
Let’s face it—change is difficult. But the fear is usually of leaving the known—of breaking your unconscious food habits and doing something different. Once you start eating new foods that taste great and fill you up, it is remarkably easy. Here’s how the book is arranged:
• Chapters 1, 2, and 3 explain exactly how your liver detoxifies, the five habits to break and the five habits to make, and the reasons behind them, to make your detox successful.
• Chapter 4, Test Your Detox Potential—Before and After, helps you identify, and quantify, your need to detox, with both questionnaires and a simple urine test that measures your detox potential.
• Chapter 5, Start Detoxing Now! tells you exactly what you need to do.
• Chapter 6, Your 9-Day Liver Detox Recipes, gives you exact daily menus and recipes so that you can follow the detox to the letter if you wish, or adapt it as you like according to your tastes.
• Chapter 7, Your Liver Detox for Life, explains how to reintroduce foods after the nine-day program, and how to learn what suits you in the process, and then to incorporate my detox principles into your daily life.
Overall, I expect you to enjoy the experience and love the results when you reach the end. It does take courage and commitment to say no to prepared foods and to the millions of other temptations, even for a week, but as you progress on the detox you will feel so many benefits that they will spur you on to continue. I wish you well, and as the old Chinese proverb says, “Perseverance furthers.”
Some people say that all you need to do to detox your body is to drink water and cut back on alcohol, so is detoxifying a myth and detox diets just a fad? In this chapter I will explain how toxins can build up in your body and create health problems, and how detoxing using supplements to assist the process can return you to a feeling of good health.
In this book, you will learn that your body expends as much effort detoxifying toxins as it does building new cells, but that your ability to detoxify is finite. Each of us is unique, both in which toxins we react to and in our ability to clear them from our body. When your body is detoxifying efficiently, the immediate effect is that you feel better, but efficient detoxification also has the potential to extend your healthy life, so understanding how detoxification works is an essential step toward improving your overall health. There are two sides to detoxifying: the first is to reduce the toxins your body is exposed to, and the second is to improve your body’s ability to detoxify. There are three main areas in your body where this takes place: your digestive tract, your liver, and your immune system—and this means that your whole body is involved in the process.
My 9-Day Liver Detox is not like one of the trendy detox diets that you may have tried or read about. All of its principles are based on scientific fact (and for those who want to check them, I’ve not only listed all the references to the studies in the book but you can also visit patrickholford.com to find new information as it is published). This is science—not science fiction.
The reason why detox diets are so popular is that many people—probably including yourself—are well aware that they feel under par after a period of excess; this might be after too much sugar, caffeine, alcohol, fried food, overeating, active or secondhand smoke, exposure to pollution, or drugs. But you may also feel that your body has been affected by certain environments—perhaps moldy places or places that involve chemical exposure, for example—or after you have eaten certain foods. These are all examples of substances the body has to work hard to detoxify. Exactly how the body does this is the key to understanding how to boost your detox potential and feel better faster.
Our health now
Most of us are “vertically ill”—that is, we are upright but don’t feel great. In this state, the balance between our intake of toxins and our ability to detoxify is not at its best. Some of us become “horizontally ill” and keel over when our intake of toxins exceeds our body’s capacity to detoxify. Excess alcohol is an example of such a situation. When the liver’s capacity to detoxify the alcohol you are consuming is exceeded, your brain becomes intoxicated and you become unable to stay conscious. Another example is the painkiller acetaminophen. When your liver is unable to detoxify that drug any longer, you’ll collapse, and provided you make it to the hospital in time, you’ll be pumped full of a detoxifying nutrient called glutathione to increase your liver’s detoxing potential—and your liver will be back on track. Many old people die when their liver’s ever-decreasing ability to detoxify is overloaded.
Right now, you are probably somewhere between the extremes of optimal and minimal detox potential. If you have the time and money, you can actually test your liver’s ability to detoxify (more on this in chapter 4). For now, though, you can get an instant impression of your detox potential by completing the questionnaire below, which lists the symptoms associated with a reduced detox potential. Score yourself now and then retake the questionnaire and compare the score after completing my 9-Day Liver Detox.
QUESTIONNAIRE check your detox potential
Complete this questionnaire to discover whether you need to improve your detoxification potential:
1. Do you often suffer from headaches or migraine?
2. Do you sometimes have watery or itchy eyes, or swollen, red, or sticky eyelids?
3. Do you have dark circles under your eyes?
4. Do you sometimes have itchy ears, earache, ear infections, drainage from the ears, or ringing in the ears?
From the Trade Paperback edition.