It might be tempting to dismiss detoxing as just the latest health fad or a California cliché that’s easy to poke fun at, but the truth is, in this age when the air we breathe and the water we drink are contaminated with dangerous chemicals – to say nothing of the processed foods we eat or the chemicals in our personal products that get absorbed through our skin – cleansing is “trendy” for a reason.
Whether or not we feel physically ill, most of us could benefit from a little hit of the reset button – which is basically what happens when we reduce our food intake and eliminate irritants like sugar, caffeine, dairy and gluten from our diets, giving our cells a chance to release toxins they’ve been storing.
As anyone who has completed a detox program (which can last anywhere from three days to three weeks or more) will tell you, the results are undeniable: our eyes and skin become more clear, we have more energy, we sleep better, feel lighter, and nine times out of 10 we lose weight – though most doctors discourage doing a cleanse for that reason.
Detoxes vary in intensity; as a rule, the less you take in the more your cells release. Today, with the growing popularity of juice cleanses and Dr. Alejandro Junger’s Clean Program it’s not as common to see people walking around with tall bottles of “lemonade,” the sign of someone doing the Master Cleanse. But according to Dr. Lilian Au, a Naturopath at Pasadena’s Paracelsus Natural Family Health Center on Lake Avenue, the Master Cleanse – which consists of consuming only water with maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne – is scientifically sound. “Maple syrup stimulates the regularity of the bowels and has B vitamins, Calcium and Potassium,” Au explains, adding that it also acts as a protein source. The lemon juice not only provides Vitamin C, it’s anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial, as is the cayenne. “Cayenne increases blood flow and circulation,” she continues, “and also helps the digestive tract and stimulates the natural secretions in your stomach and saliva.”
The Paracelsus Natural Family Health Center often uses detoxing in the treatment of chronic allergies and systemic inflammation, and has also created its own program that includes special recipes and supplemental elimination-aiding therapies like colonics and infrared sauna sessions. “People in the community are becoming more aware of their health,” notes Au, adding that cleanses “empower” patients by showing them that they can battle illness without medication. While she asserts that cleansing is “generally pretty safe,” Au recommends always consulting with a physician or a naturopathic doctor before starting, “to make sure there are no underlying issues, and that the liver and kidneys function normally.”
For Dr. Junger, the L.A.-based creator of the 21-day Clean Program, detoxing was a path to personal healing that the cardiologist then felt compelled to share. His 2009 book, Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Heal Itself, became a bestseller thanks in part to celebrity fans like Gwyneth Paltrow, who wrote about it on her website, Goop, but also because of its effectiveness and user-friendliness.
Unlike most detox programs, Clean is designed to be compatible with a fast-paced urban life. The menu includes morning and evening smoothies, a hearty midday meal, juices, soups and even snacks. Explains Junger, “You want to do things at the intensity at which they’re appropriate for you. If you don’t eat anything your body goes into such an intense detox mode that it releases toxins into the blood. You actually get more toxic than before. That’s why I give a solid meal for lunch. I equalize the detox process down enough that we are able to live life in a city and have energy to move around.”
Junger also created an optional “Clean Kit” that includes protein and fiber powders to blend into smoothies, plus an array of daily supplements, from probiotics to digestive enzymes. “I don’t like products on principle,” says the doctor, “but I do like certain tools that we can use to improve the results we’re getting. A lot of people don’t have time to go shopping or prepare the food…I was desperate to find a way to help those people.”
Whether you invest in the $425 kit or merely fork over $15 for the paperback, the Clean community offers priceless support. Phone appointments are available with “wellness coaches,” and the website features journal posts from people at various stages of the 21-day program. And, because it’s safe to say that everyone is food-obsessed while they’re doing a cleanse, the message boards are chock full of recipes for creative smoothie combinations, savory vegetarian dishes, gluten-free treats and much more.
However, if Junger is to be believed, once our taste buds get beyond their sugar and salt cravings, our experience of food becomes so sublime that even the most basic ingredients are deeply satisfying. “By day 10 you enjoy broccoli with as much intensity as a piece of chocolate,” he asserts. “By day 21 a salad is the most incredible experience in the world!”
It’s safe to say that Danielle Charboneau, who is one-half of the Echo Park-based juice company and detox delivery service Juice Maids, doesn’t need much convincing on that front. Also a yoga teacher and a raw food coach, Charboneau was given a Norwalk Cold Pressed Juicer (which preserves 96% of the nutrients in fruits and vegetables, vs. around 40% with a standard juicer), and soon she was creating liquid elixirs to rival any mixologist in the city – except hers were totally healthy. Today she and her Juice Maids partner Sarah Eaves have over 50 delectable concoctions in their arsenal, all of which have been given cute rock ‘n’ roll names by Eaves. “Starship” is pineapple, orange, cucumber and seasonal greens; “Free Bird” is celery, fennel and apple; and “Sunshine Superman” is lemon, coconut and jalapeno. There are also heavier nut milks — “Sexy Sadie” is cashew nut milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and beet – and intense veggie combos like “Hot Child in the City,” which is red pepper, broccoli, zucchini, jicama, garlic and sea salt.
Is it any wonder Juice Maids is known as the juice company for foodies? Though Charboneau concedes that juice cleansing not for everybody, she notes that hundreds of their clients have changed their lives after just a three or five-day cleanse. “A lot of times people come to us because they’re trying to get rid of some kind of addiction,” she says. “It can be really difficult to break bad habits and bad patterns.”
Every cleanse begins with a consultation to tailor the program to a client’s needs, and it’s also essential to prepare your body in advance. “You don’t just eat meat and then start an all-green cleanse,” counsels Charboneau – a philosophy echoed in the two-week pre-cleanse “elimination diet” recommended by Junger.
Juice Maids clients can choose between three-, five-, seven- and 10-day programs, which are available for delivery between Santa Monica and East Pasadena. If you’re tempted but not ready to commit, individual juices are also sold at Atwater Farms and Intelligentsia, where the Juice Maids’ signature glass mason jars glow charmingly from the refrigerator.
“Sarah and I always found that health and juicing seemed so out of reach and new agey to us,” notes Charboneau. “We thought, why can’t health be cool and hip and fun?”