Detox Me!
August 29, 2008 8:32 AM   Subscribe

I would like to detoxify myself. How do I go about it?

I have suffered from chronic sinus headaches - we're talking daily headaches - they never go away, postnasal drip (yuck!), and a chronic stuffy nose for most of my life. I am also always tired/fatigued.

I wonder if my troubles aren't related somehow to food allergies/sensitivities. So, I would like to clean my slate, detoxify my innards, and just start over. How do I go about doing this? Do I fast? And if so, for how long? Is it still ok to drink water (or anything) during this detoxification?

After I've fully detoxed myself, then what? How do I reintroduce food into my diet? And what foods do I reintroduce and at what pace?

I'm a 32 year old female well within a healthy weight.
posted by Sassyfras to Health & Fitness (39 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
You might want to read this article about detox from Harvard Medical School.

If you think you might have allergies, the best thing to do is to visit an allergist.
posted by grouse at 8:43 AM on August 29, 2008 [6 favorites]

There is no such thing as detoxification. Unless you are contaminated with heavy metals or something, which is very, very unlikely.

Do you have known food allergies? If not, eliminating foods to help with sinus problems is not going to work. I suppose you could drink more water to thin secretions. Take Claritin or some other med to treat sinus problems. Make sure your bed linens and environment are as clean and dust free as possible. If dust aggravates your sinus problems that is. I don't know if it will help but you may want to put pillow protectors on your pillows to protect from dust mites and sleep on your back on two pillows to lessen the symptoms of PND.

If you want to eat more clean for the fun of it and to give it a try. Eat organic fruits and veg and meats. Avoid packages. Drink water and tea made with purified water. Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 8:50 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

In addition to the article grouse linked above, there is a clip about halfway down on this page where a BBC show did a scientific-ish test on women and found that detoxing does nothing.

Seriously, talk to your doctor about your allergies. Also, I know people who swear that using a neti-pot does wonders for their allergies when they use it on a daily basis, so maybe try that.
posted by thejanna at 8:58 AM on August 29, 2008

Seconding the neti pot, depending on your symptoms/causes.
posted by kimota at 9:03 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Drink water.

Detoxing is a myth.
posted by Riverine at 9:17 AM on August 29, 2008

>and a chronic stuffy nose for most of my life

Most of your life? Yeah, this is chronic allergies not really the kind of thing you can treat at home. FWIW, detox is one of those feel good new agey things that doesnt really translate into results. I mean you can get 100 enemas and drink 100 gallons of water but you allergens will still be there when its over. These are two unrelated systems.

Other than talking to your doctor, you may want to buy a HEPA filter for your bedroom and run it while you sleep. This might help with allergens, but if youve had a chronic sinus problem your entire life I would think that youre a good candidate for OTC or prescription anti-histamines.

*also please research how much water it takes to kill you. There's no shortage of "detox experts" who will advise you to drink a dangerous amount of water.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:18 AM on August 29, 2008

3xing the neti pot. i was a longtime allergy sufferer before the neti pot, but no more.

"detoxification" as it is commonly used may be meaningless, but there is no denying that there IS crap that builds up in your holes so why not rinse them out.
posted by quarterframer at 9:23 AM on August 29, 2008

there is no denying that there IS crap that builds up in your holes

Which holes are these exactly? Are there any that won't be cleaned out by either blowing my nose, taking a good dump, or a bit of ear-wax removal? I'm eager to get the crap out of my holes right now.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 9:32 AM on August 29, 2008 [4 favorites]

Best food advice I've ever received:

1. yes, DRINK MORE WATER (at least eight cups a day; not a huge amount more); at first you'll need to urinate more but give it a week or two and your body will accommodate (it really will)

2. eat way more fresh fruits and vegetables (raw is generally better than cooked) and less meat but don't cut meat out entirely (ie: a good portion at least every third day)

3. pick through your fridge and cupboards and get rid of everything that came in a package; this sounds extreme and there are obviously exceptions, but in general, if it comes in a package, it's got a gazillion ingredients that aren't even food.

4. DON'T PANIC; it's likely taken you your whole life to reach your current state of discomfort so don't expect immediate changes; in fact, the more gradually you can adjust your diet, the more likely you will make long term changes, because it's really all about changing some bad habits.

5. Allergies are over-rated. I'm not saying they aren't real but before you do anything drastic attend to the top four points for at least a couple of weeks and see how you feel.

Good luck.
posted by philip-random at 9:34 AM on August 29, 2008

Have you been to the doctor to rule out problems with your tonsils or adenoids?
posted by Jemstar at 9:38 AM on August 29, 2008

In response to philip-random:

1. at least eight cups a day... See Snopes.

3. in general, if it comes in a package, it's got a gazillion ingredients that aren't even food... About 95% of what's in my cupboard is an exception to this. Kind of a silly generalisation really.

5. Allergies are a complely real medical phenomenon, and don't let anyone who doesn't have them tell you they're 'over-rated', whatever that means. Your diet could be partly to blame, but a stuffy nose is much more likely to be caused by seasonal allergies (pollen etc.)

...and of course nth-ing anyone who says the concept of detox is largely a scam.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 9:44 AM on August 29, 2008

Allergies are over-rated.

No they are not. Half your advice is to change diet which will, you guessed it, stop the person from eating the food they are allergic to.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:02 AM on August 29, 2008

Best answer: 1. Keep water with you everywhere. Drink it. A lot of it.

2. Eat fruits and veggies. If you are brave enough, try the vegan route for 10 days-2 weeks. This has always been an amazing cleanse for me. I recommend going "natural" vegan- there are a lot of products out there that are just as processed and unhealthful as any other foods- they just happen to be vegan. I try to avoid too much soy, also.

3. A step further- try gluten free. This is challenging also, but not impossible. I have a full-40 job and take 3 university courses, and I can still function and plan on this diet. Gluten can cause allergic reactions in many people- I don't know that I have specific reactions, but I have always felt more energized and focused after going gluten free for a month or two. Since cases of celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and autism are both climbing in numbers, more people are embracing a gluten-free lifestyle and internet is a trove of recipes and alternatives. It is much harder than vegan (at least it is for me) but also makes you feel great.

I love to experiment within these "diets"- they always bring out creative cooking and substitutions. Not to mention you get to try foods you otherwise might not have- I found that I prefer almond milk to dairy milk and love the flavor of garlic polenta with tomato sauce rather than traditional noodles.

The water is very important. I also like to drink a big glass of warmish water in the morning with half a fresh lemon squeezed in. This is as energizing as coffee and very refreshing (make sure to brush soon after, lemony acids can damage tooth enamel).

Lemon is a good detoxifier. Garlic is a great all-around cleanser. Make sure to eat ample amounts of really GOOD food (organic is great) to keep yourself stocked up on vitamins and minerals. Research! Remember that just because people typically associate calcium with dairy doesn't mean that you can't find calcium anywhere else. Spinach is full of it! Beans are full of protein that you may miss if you go meat-less. We think of flour and think wheat, but flour can be made from nuts, beans, rice, and other grains.

People are always skeptical about cleansing, detoxing, natural methods vs. clinical- but give it a try! Be creative! Food can be an amazing medicine!
posted by gracious floor at 10:09 AM on August 29, 2008 [4 favorites]

try gluten free.

An allergist will be able to tell pretty easily if you have a gluten allergy. No need to guess, and potentially miss the real allergen, if there is one.

Lemon is a good detoxifier. Garlic is a great all-around cleanser.

How do they work? What do they do? What does that even mean?
posted by grouse at 10:24 AM on August 29, 2008 [11 favorites]

Allergies are over-rated.

All apologies here. I should have said "allergy cures" are over-rated. Symptoms are symptoms. If you've got them, there's something wrong.

1. at least eight cups a day... See Snopes.

I was aware of the Snopes article. If you read deeply into it, you will discover that there is still much discussion as to what does or doesn't constitute dehydration. Until I hear definitively otherwise, I will stand by the "8 cups" guideline (which isn't really that much; just 4 tall glasses, one when you wake up, one with each meal). It's just common sense, right up there with breathing fresh air and washing your hands before you eat.

A final thought: I've generally found that improvements in my health have come from a holistic approach (eating better, getting more exercise, getting more rest), so it's often very difficult to pinpoint what the "miracle" ingredient (or lack thereof) may be.
posted by philip-random at 10:25 AM on August 29, 2008

Best answer: You should check out this page that discusses food allergies and how to self-test for them through systematically eliminating possible offenders.

Basically the way it works is to stop eating any food from this list of most allergenic foods (taken from the above website):
* berries, buckwheat, chocolate, cinnamon, citrus fruits, coconut, corn, dairy products, egg whites, mustard, nuts, peas, peanut butter, pork, shellfish, soy, sugar, tomatoes, wheat, yeast

while eating from this list of least allergenic foods:
* apples, apricots, asparagus, avocados, barley, beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, chicken, cranberries, dates, grapes, honey, lamb, lettuce, mangoes, oats, papayas, peaches, pears, poi, raisins, rice, rye, safflower oil, salmon, squash, sunflower oil, sweet potatoes, turkey, veal

You do that for a week or two, then gradually add one new food at a time paying careful attention to your body's response.
posted by Durin's Bane at 10:25 AM on August 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

@ le morte de bea arthur

um, maybe blowing your nose works great for you. but if someday you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to experience difficulty breathing due to allergies, i hope you'll not be so dismissive of a simple tool that cleans crud out of your nose.

people can also have cerumen buildup extreme enough that their hearing is blocked and need to use a syringe and h2o2 to remove that crud from their ears. etc.
posted by quarterframer at 10:30 AM on August 29, 2008

Hi 32 year old healthy female with chronic sinus headaches! I am you, and consider myself pretty educated in alternative therapy. And to be honest, I'm not sure "detox" is really necessary if you're living a relatively clean life. (Eating plenty of veggies, good protein, staying hydrated, getting lots of sleep, taking your vitamins...)

FWIW I've tried:
- Quercetin
- Colostrum
- Neti pots
- Herbal teas
- Local honey
- Removing pillows/dairy/etc.
- Mucinex, Nasalcrom, saline sprays
- Countless prescription medicines, nose sprays, and pills.

All of these were marginally helpful, but not actual solutions. I finally really pushed the issue with my ENT (aka otolaryngologist - who basically just keeps throwing pills at me) and requested a blood allergy test, covering common foods, dust mites, down, airborne & indoor allergies. And it came back BFN (big fat negative). He says it's possible I'm still allergic to something (I definitely have allergic episodes at times) but they've found nothing.

It's looking to be, simply a structural thing. Nose is slightly crooked inside, and sinus cavities are just too damn narrow. I've scheduled an appointment with another ENT to discuss Balloon Sinuplasty. I suggest you have your GP or ENT examine you and take some x-rays and bloodwork. A simple surgery might be right for you. I'm hoping it's right for me! In the meantime, start tracking your symptoms and what you're eating, to look for patterns. And get some Nasal Comfort, the best saline spray out there. Good luck!
posted by for_serious at 10:43 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

1. Have you tried a neti pot? Changed my life.
2. Forget detox, if you have food allergies you need to see a doctor for the basic tests and after you've eliminated the bigs ones like celiac, you might try an elimination diet. I did one for the "big allergens." I did one month without gluten, another without dairy, another without corn. I also did the raw vegan thing, which eliminates many common allergens. I didn't identify any real sensitivities, but it helped me tweak my diet to what my body seems to like best: raw veggies, some meat, a little fruit, and few grains. I had chronic bloating and it went away.
posted by melissam at 11:00 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Research on garlic as a nutrient *

Lemons *

Lemons are a great source of B6, iron, potassium. Rich in antioxidants and pectin, lemons may protect us from free radicals, prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol, lower blood sugar levels, and act as an antibacterial in the body. They offer dietary fiber, vitamin C, calcium, folic acid, manganese, magnesium, zinc and other nutrients.

*add "vampire-repelling skills" to both.
posted by gracious floor at 11:10 AM on August 29, 2008

I clicked on your question because I had the same one myself, but not for the same reasons.

Sorry this is not totally answering the question you are asking, but:

I had the same exact issue, for years. Is flying painful for you as well?

I self-diagnosed chronic sinusitis from internet research and got an ENT recommendation from my allergy doctor. He did a CAT scan and agreed.

One year and a half after sinus surgery and I'm a different person.

No headaches

No (inexplicable) fatigue

No pain when flying

Almost zero colds in 18 months.

It was the best thing I ever did.
posted by slo at 11:53 AM on August 29, 2008

Our GI tract does a damn good job of cleaning stuff out of it. I would see a Naturopathic doctor if you think it's diet related. A dietician and an allergist would be great also. Naturopathic doctors seem a little more broad spectrum, and may cover more bases.
posted by nitor at 12:05 PM on August 29, 2008

Mostly everyone here is advising against detoxing, but if that is what you feel you want to do, I recommend looking into the Master Cleanse. I did it for two weeks three months ago, and Ive never felt better in my life. I used to get migraines every week, and they started to get better when I cut processed food and refined sugar out of my diet, but since doing the Master Cleanse I have not had a single headache. I also feel it regulated my metabolism, cleared up my skin and improved my mental focus. I understand that most people regard cleansing as uneccesary, but what the hell, it worked for me.
posted by osloheart at 1:22 PM on August 29, 2008

Listen to slo. I have been diagnosed with chronic sinusitis this summer as I have had daily sinus headaches for three months now. I have also had minor problems with allergies in the past. I self-diagnosed first and when I reported my suspicions to my doc, he agreed.

If you do have chronic sinusitis, it's something that could easily be cleared up with antibiotics or a very minor surgery. I just got a referral today to an ENT so I'm hoping that my experience will be as good as slo's.

Add me to the above people that believe detoxing is a myth. Your body already has a detox system superior to any other - the liver and kidneys.
posted by triggerfinger at 1:35 PM on August 29, 2008

I have not yet encountered a detox solution that delivered on the practicitioner's promise. They are, however, a good way to detox your wallet/bank account of money.
posted by jdfan at 1:39 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would also add that getting chronic sinusitis diagnosed and dealt with is a very good thing - I wound up with a cranial abcess after ignoring the problem and resolving than was not a minor surgery.
posted by Crosius at 2:08 PM on August 29, 2008

Response by poster: I guess I'm using the wrong terminology or something. Maybe detox isn't the word I'm looking for.

What I want is to flush my system basically. I was thinking along the lines of fasting but drinking water or tea . . . getting the toxins outta me - the effects of processed foods and refined sugar.

Then starting from that point, adding in the foods that would be most beneficial to me and veering away from those known allergens and trouble foods.

I wasn't meaning to imply I was looking for any particular program or product to do the detoxification.

I do have chronic sinusitis. I have been on antibiotics previously - it didn't help. My doctor said that sometimes the infections are so deep that antibiotics don't work. I'm just trying to fix this problem from a more natural perspective.

Thanks for the answers thus far!
posted by Sassyfras at 2:12 PM on August 29, 2008

You might be interested in looking at Michael Pollan's book "In Defense Of Food" and shifting your diet in that direction, if you are worried about processed foods and sugar. I don't think fasting or teas will do anything to remove "toxins" from your body. Your body is already doing that. Just put better food into it.
posted by DarkForest at 2:39 PM on August 29, 2008

I think everyone understood what you wanted and they're telling you that you are misguided. There are no such thing as "toxins" from which you need ridding. Unless of course you have liver or kidney disease - then you have bigger problems than post nasal drip. "Cleanse", "Detox" and "Flush" are all words used to describe the same bunk.
If you think your sinusitis is a result of allergies - go to an allergist. You can do the elimination diet mentioned above - but an allergist is probably a good ally in that process.
You should probably also look at a new ENT. Sounds like a lot of people in this thread have recovered from the symptoms you describe with good medical care.
posted by Wolfie at 2:39 PM on August 29, 2008

Best answer: There is no such thing as a "toxin," unless you believe you've been poisoned, in which case you need to go to the hospital for emergency medical treatment. Sugar and processed foods do not contain any "toxins" for which periods of self-imposed starvation or liquid diets are a cure.

If you believe that eating sugar and processed foods is bad for you, just stop eating those things. There's no need to stop eating altogether to get those foods out of your body; they'll be out of your body within 24-48 hours if you stop eating them.

If you believe that certain foods are more beneficial than others, start eating more of those and fewer of the others. Again, there is no benefit to starving yourself for any period of time before beginning a healthier diet.

If your doctor is telling you that you have an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection, you need to see a specialist who can help you treat that. I had a sinus infection that didn't respond to antibiotics, but a course of stronger antibiotics combined with low-dose steroids cleared it up. If you have a viral rather than a bacterial infection, there are medications to help that too. But again, starving yourself will not kill germs in your sinuses.
posted by decathecting at 3:15 PM on August 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

As long as you have functioning Kidneys and most of your Liver, those "toxins" from last week are gone.
posted by piedmont at 3:26 PM on August 29, 2008

Response by poster: Ok, so I'm retarded. No such thing as toxins and detox is a scam. Got it.
posted by Sassyfras at 3:30 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

The over-watering is pretty bunk. Change your diet, eat fresh foods, fewer (or no) processed foods.

The body does a fine job detoxifying itself with a modest amount of water intake.

Start drastically changing your diet and vastly increasing your water consumption and you're asking for a sodium/potassium disaster.
posted by aleahey at 3:35 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sassyfras, if we all knew everything, we wouldn't need the Green. Kudos to you for letting go of the "toxins" misconception.

If you want an all-around advice book on healthy eating, I recommend Andrew Weil's Eating Well for Optimum Health. (And yes, Andrew Weil is a big ol' supplement-flogger who's overly credulous about 'alternative' remedies, etc., etc., but EWfOH is actually quite sound.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:53 PM on August 29, 2008

placebo's real. Look for double-blind studies, not anecdotal reports. "It worked for me, it'll work for everyone" is like saying "I like mustard, mustard is good, you like mustard...if you don't like mustard, you're the problem, not the mustard."
posted by mumstheword at 9:15 PM on August 29, 2008

placebo's real. Look for double-blind studies, not anecdotal reports. "It worked for me, it'll work for everyone" is like saying "I like mustard, mustard is good, you like mustard...if you don't like mustard, you're the problem, not the mustard."
posted by mumstheword at 9:18 PM on August 29, 2008

Well, if you want to know how much water you are supposed to have take your weight, divide that number by 2. You need that many ounces of water a day - unless you are sweating a lot in which case you need to calculate how much to increase. Remember that foods, such as French fries and beef Bourguignon, contain water so you can figure out how much water you are eating in each meal and include those ounces. Don't count the water in hard liquor or coffee. For other caffeinate beverages, beer and wine, count each ounce as 1/2 ounce toward your total. Or, just drink 8 glasses of water a day. Whatever size glass you pick will probably be good enough.

BTW, mumstheword is wrong! Vile and wrong. Mustard is as mother's milk to all creatures. Whatever problems you may be having, mustard can only help.

If you don't want a neti pot and you are not near a body of salt water, there are softer, less splashy, more easily controlled ways. (My otolaryngologist shrugs off neti pots as one of those things, like mayonnaise, the people will use even though there is something better, like mustard, out there.)
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:53 PM on August 30, 2008

Lesser Shrew, I stand corrected. Mustard was a poor choice for my equally weak analogy...however, since I'm stuck on that analogy, I'll replace mustard with triple chocolate cheesecake, and hope you are more agreeable.
posted by mumstheword at 10:48 PM on August 30, 2008

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