The Detox Prescription: Supercharge Your Health, Strip Away Pounds, and Eliminate the Toxins Within

The Detox Prescription: Supercharge Your Health, Strip Away Pounds, and Eliminate the Toxins Within

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781609615352
Publisher: Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale
Publication date: 12/24/2013
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

WOODSON MERRELL, MD, is chairman of the Department of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center and an assistant clinical professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. The cofounder of the Continuum Center for Health and Healing in NYC, he maintains a private practice on Manhattan's Upper East Side and lives in New York City.

MARY BETH AUGUSTINE, RD, CDN, is an integrative and functional nutrition expert on the faculty of the Continuum Center for Health and Healing. She lives in Westchester, New York.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

What's the Problem?

Isee them every day: the walking wounded. They drag themselves into my office looking pasty, bloated, and wan. They are tired--often bone tired, with barely enough energy to make it through the day. At the same time, they are working harder than ever, running 100 miles an hour on scant fumes, stepping on the stress accelerator all day until it's time to pass out. But then they don't. Then they lie awake, fraught with worry, trying to sleep, knowing they need to recharge. As with big tired-wired toddlers, much-needed rest is out of their reach.

They're overweight (maybe just a little, maybe a lot). They're achy. They complain of arthritis, or back pain, or stiff neck, or one of the millions of other painful little messages that their bodies are sending, trying to prompt them to slow it all down. To take care of themselves.

There's no time, though, so they've got a few other complaints, too. Heartburn, irritable bowel, constipation, and reflux are common--their digestion just isn't what it used to be. Blood pressure may be going up; blood sugar levels might be teetering right on the edge of what's normal. Cholesterol has become an issue. They're flirting with metabolic syndrome (a combination of the preceding three problems--blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar)--and they know just enough about it to get worried. Enough to come to me for help, seeking a diagnosis that will make sense of their symptoms, and perhaps a prescription that will allay all their ills.

These patients are each unique, of course, with their own personal blend of hereditary challenges, life stressors, and health histories. But even so, they are all suffering from the same pervasive, insidious disease: modern American life.

The majority of my patients have the best of intentions. They try to eat well, but they're more likely to eat easy--relying on what's fast and available to fill their stomachs. That means too many processed foods, high in sugars, fats, and preservatives. They try to get a few fruits and veggies each day, but it's hard. Do potato chips count?

When sleep won't come, they stay up late into the night, watching the news on television, surfing the Internet, keeping up with their friends on Facebook. They wake up exhausted, grab some coffee, get the day going. Maybe there are kids to wrangle, maybe not. But there is work, whether it's at home or in the office, and lots of it. More coffee. Perhaps a doughnut or two; a 4 p.m. candy bar reward.

There's a commute, a trip to the grocery store, then it's back home. The house is a mess, but they do what they can, relying on chemical-filled cleaning products to do for them what elbow grease could and would do (if only they had the time). They're thankful for the miraculous plastics that make life easy for them, letting them take their coffee or cola to go, cordoning off single servings of salads, soup, sandwiches. What did we ever do before such convenience items existed? How did we live?

They're thankful, too, for the handful of pills they take every day to keep going--high-tech supplements, antidepressants, statins, blood pressure medication, antacids, etc. Modern medicine's pharmaceutical arsenal really is a miracle, they'll tell me. They want to believe it.

The only thing is, why do they feel like they're lurching through life like the undead--functioning in their lives, but not really living. Why do so many of them feel so bad?

Toxic Avengers

Although, as I said earlier, all of my patients are unique, they are also alike in one key way: They are all toxic to some degree, simply as a result of living in our chemically dependent society. This toxicity may or may not manifest itself. But nearly every pathological diagnosis is accompanied by an underlying systemic toxicity, which (especially if accompanied by nutritional deficiencies) can undermine the body's inborn genius for healing itself.

Toxins are a fact of modern life--and there is really no escaping them. (By toxin, we mean a substance that is in some way essentially poisonous to the body.) They are in the air and the water and the food; they're in nearly everything we touch. They're in our bodies, created within as we struggle to keep up the pace. They're in our media and minds. And yes, they're even in our medicine.

More than 80,000 different chemicals are produced and used in the United States--in everything from cosmetics and cleaning products to food and furniture; most of them are new to us, at least in terms of evolutionary history. Nobody really knows the full story of how they work on us or what they can do to us, as the Environmental Protection Agency has required testing on only about 200 of them. Science is showing that some big offenders, like bisphenol A, dioxins, or DDT (see "The Usual Suspects," page 8), can act like hormones in the body, disrupting its natural function and tinkering under the hood of our natural metabolic machinery. We know that many of them even have the ability to interact with our genes themselves, effectively "turning on" innate tendencies to develop disease. It's compelling and scary stuff. But the truth is, I think we're barely scratching the surface.

Chemical agents are everywhere, and messing with every bodily function. In fact, a very recent study out of Tufts University, published in the journal Endocrine Review, suggests that we are more sensitive than we ever knew to more substances than we could possibly suspect. It revealed that our bodies are sensitive to a very minute amount of chemicals--equal to one-twentieth of one drop of water in an Olympic-size pool.

In the vast majority of cases I see, there is no "smoking gun" toxin to point at, no one trigger of the discomfort and dysfunction of mind and body that motivates the person to get help.

The real problem, as I see in my practice every day, is a chronic onslaught of multiple chemical exposures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that the average person's body contains 153 chemical agents known to be toxic or probably toxic to the human body. And that's just what is known; many other chemicals are so new that we just don't understand their long-term effects.

The body was designed to deal with many toxic substances, both outside the body (exogenous) and inside it (endogenous)--think about our ancestors eating an occasional poisonous mushroom or flooding their systems with cortisol so that they could outrun a saber-toothed tiger. Such an occasional physical insult could easily be addressed by the body's system of detoxification, ever ready to wage all-out war. But it was not meant to be in contact with so very many toxins 24/7. The body is simply not equipped to deal with the daily load of hundreds or even thousands of chemicals, many at or just below the level of what's acceptable.

The liver, kidneys, and the bowels--our main organs of detoxification and elimination and our body's natural defense against the dark arts of modern chemistry--are overloaded; our natural detoxification mechanisms don't work as well as they should because they just can't keep up with the burden. A truly effective detox means not only flushing out unwanted chemicals absorbed from air, food, water, and the body's own internal metabolic and stress-related processes, but also binding them efficiently with nutrition drawn from a healthy diet, then eliminating them from our bodies effectively and efficiently. It can be hard to keep up.

Because we are overloaded, our bodies have no choice but to store unprocessed toxins in bodily tissues--especially fat cells, since most toxins are fat-soluble. We accumulate toxins over time. No wonder we feel so bad.

No wonder we all need a little help!

The Phases of Detox

The help you need--that we all need--is a detox cleanse.

But not just any detox will do. Despite what a cursory Internet search will tell you, there are no magic formulas for detox, including the so-called "Master Cleanse," which involves drinking a mixture of water, lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and salt. There is no way to bully your body into doing a better job through deprivation, fasting, or purgation.

Detox isn't something that requires extreme measures--in fact, radical plans can cause much more harm than good, flooding and overwhelming the system with too many toxins without supporting their elimination.

In the simplest terms, here's why: The body's detoxification system operates in two phases. In phase I, the body identifies toxins and transforms them into unstable molecules, or free radicals, to be excreted. In a sense, phase I makes the toxins more toxic, so that the body can't help but notice them and try to get rid of them. Most detox plans focus solely on phase I, which offers incomplete support and can be downright dangerous.

Your body simply cannot process toxins without adequate nutrition.

During a healthy and normal phase II, these hypertoxic free radicals are then bound up with specific dietary nutrients to render them water soluble so that they can be eliminated from the body via the urinary or digestive tract. Here is where most detox plans come up short--phase II requires maximal (not minimal) nutrition, meaning that vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients needed for the successful binding of phase II must be readily available. If they are not, you are only releasing, reprocessing, and restoring toxins. (For a complete explanation of this process, see Chapter 9.)

In other words, for phase II to work optimally, the body must be well nourished with the dietary nutrients (or "substrates") needed for this crucial binding process. The body has six primary pathways for successful detoxification (the most important being sulfation, glucuronidation, glutathione, methylation, acetylation, and amino acids). All of these require the nutrients found in a plant-based diet, as well as adequate fiber and hydration. By definition, these come from food.

If you are doing a detox that focuses on phase I at the expense of phase II, you are allowing free radicals to roam about like a crazy man with a loaded gun, doing damage anywhere and anyhow they can. Fruits and vegetables are nature's phase II SWAT team--there to neutralize the threat before things get lethal! If you're overweight, sick, and toxic, 2 weeks of an imbalanced diet such as the Master Cleanse can make you look and feel worse than ever. Any plan that requires fasting or reliance on one, two, or three foods will be a net loss. Your body simply cannot process toxins without adequate nutrition. Without it, you may never even get to phase I!

Where Do Toxins Come From?

Everywhere, is the short answer. But for the purposes of understanding the scope of toxicity, here's a brief list of the primary sources of our cumulative exposure:

Fruits and vegetables: Conventional produce is routinely exposed to pesticides and herbicides, which can contain neurotoxins or carcinogens. Organics are a far better bet, though they, too, can be exposed to chemicals that have persisted in the soil or water. One good example is DDT, which has been illegal since 1972 but will take thousands of years to break down in nature. It is ubiquitous and was found by scientists at Consumers Union to be present in nearly 25 percent of organic produce.

Meat and dairy: Beyond the health-depleting burden of animal fats, which have been linked to heart disease, obesity, and even cancers, conventionally raised meat and dairy are exposed to chemical pesticides (in the feed) and, in many cases, hormones and antibiotics used to promote growth and fend off disease. Dairy is especially toxic if you are among the 60 percent of Caucasians, 75 percent of African Americans, or 90 percent of Asians who are lactose intolerant (in which case lactose acts as a toxin to your system).

Sugar: Sugar is a sneaky subverter of health, but in excess (which isn't a lot) it's nearly as toxic as any man-made substance. Because sugar, or glucose, raises blood insulin levels and promotes inflammation, constant exposure leads inexorably to diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease--not to mention any of numerous cancers that have been linked to elevated insulin levels. Fructose, another kind of sugar that does not raise insulin, has been shown to perhaps be even worse for health.

Plastics: Chances are you've heard about the problems associated with the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic bottles, food storage containers, can liners, and packaging materials. Guess what? It's even worse than you know, as cash register receipts can deposit literally a thousand times more of the substance than containers can. Worse, literally hundreds of chemical compounds are used to create plastic products, which have been proven to leach chemicals into air, water, and food when under pressure from heat or routine wear and tear. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical used in creating nonstick plastic coatings in cookware and some clothing, was recently associated with heart disease in a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers found what appears to be a direct relationship: The more PFOA you have in your body, the more likely you are to experience cardiovascular disease. Hundreds of good published studies chronicle the adverse health effects of dozens of common man-made chemicals to which we are exposed daily.

Air: Particulate matter (smog), containing toxic organic compounds and heavy metals, is mostly the result of cars or power plants. Chemical fragrances, cleaners, synthetic furniture, and building materials add to the chemical burden indoors.

Water: Municipally treated water is likely to be free of microorganisms. But it likely contains chemicals, excreted pharmaceuticals (including birth control pills), or lead leached from old pipes, unless you are purifying it yourself through reverse osmosis. Treatment plants were not designed to filter out most chemicals (including environmental toxins and medications).

Household and personal care products: Take a close look at the labels on the products under your kitchen sink (surface, floor, and tile cleaners) and in your bathroom (shampoos, lotions, sunscreen, and deodorants). You'll likely see a long list of chemical agents, which you're exposed to through the air or, in the case of personal care products, the skin. "Fragrance" is a tip-off that toxic chemicals such as endocrine-disrupting phthalates and benzophenones, which can interfere with thyroid function, are present. How susceptible you will be to them is a matter of genetics--and diet, because these toxins compete strongly with others for control of detox pathways.

Drugs: Not many docs will tell you this, but I will: Drugs, even the prescription kind, can be toxic to the body. We use chemicals to cause a reaction in the body, and the huge list of side effects you will see on the package insert demonstrates that one man's medicine is another man's poison. With Western pharmaceuticals, we can only hope that more good is done than harm.

Table of Contents

Foreword Dean Ornish vii

Introduction x

Chapter 1 What's the Problem? 1

Chapter 2 How Toxic Are You? 29

Chapter 3 The Detox Continuum 48

Chapter 4 Get Ready, Get Set… Go! 71

Chapter 5 The 3-Day Turbo Cleanse 98

Chapter 6 The 7-Day In-Depth Detox 134

Chapter 7 The 21-Day Clean and Lean Diet 177

Chapter 8 Beyond the Detox Prescription 289

Chapter 9 The Science of Detox 319

Acknowledgments 338

Index 340

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The Detox Prescription: Supercharge Your Health, Strip Away Pounds, and Eliminate the Toxins Within 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wish the author would have discussed diabetes more.  The 3-day recipes are very sweet.  I adapted the recipes to have less sugar--adding more greens, etc.  I think it would be helpful if Dr. Merrell would have offered some alternatives.
MW-CA More than 1 year ago
This book is a great resource if you want to make a complete lifestyle change rapidly and naturally. Love that the science behind the plan is explained but in an easy to read manner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pleasant suprise. Not as dry as expected. I did the 21 day detox and have never felt better! I highly recommend this book.