A cure, pure and simple

Susannah Frankel was feeling overweight and worn out. Would a strict detox diet and a large loofah be the answer to her problems?
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Indy Lifestyle Online

"There is nothing you can do to reduce your chronological age," announced a supremely youthful looking Max Tomlinson. The London-based, South African-born naturopath and director of In-Spa luxury holiday retreats - designed to "enable clients to detoxify and re-energise themselves in some of the most beautiful houses in Europe and North Africa" - then went on to inform me that, for my part, I looked a good 10 years older than my biological age. Happily, this could be reduced, he said, and with none of the mess associated with the surgeon's knife. "You don't have to age as quickly biologically as you do chronologically," he said - something of a consolation under the circumstances.

"There is nothing you can do to reduce your chronological age," announced a supremely youthful looking Max Tomlinson. The London-based, South African-born naturopath and director of In-Spa luxury holiday retreats - designed to "enable clients to detoxify and re-energise themselves in some of the most beautiful houses in Europe and North Africa" - then went on to inform me that, for my part, I looked a good 10 years older than my biological age. Happily, this could be reduced, he said, and with none of the mess associated with the surgeon's knife. "You don't have to age as quickly biologically as you do chronologically," he said - something of a consolation under the circumstances.

There was more bad news, though. I thought I had been eating reasonably well - I knew the basics, after all: that brown bread was better for you than white, that fruit and vegetables were an essential part of every diet, that organic produce was probably better than non-organic, that overloading on fatty food, takeaways and sweets was not to be encouraged. A year-long flirtation with the Atkins diet, however, which was good for weight loss in the short term but led to crispy duck overload in the long term, was followed by the most almighty carbohydrate craving backlash - pasta, chips, pizza, I couldn't get enough of it - all of which left me "malnourished" by all accounts, and this despite the fact that I was eating like the proverbial horse.

I'd also given up smoking, which was a good thing, clearly, but I piled on weight as a result, which was a bad thing, clearly. Then there was alcohol - vodka, soda and lime, the "cleanest" alcoholic beverage - but too much of it. I was overtired, over-stressed, my skin was as dry as sandpaper... I was, then, as Tomlinson proudly informed me, "toxic", and therefore in need of "detox". And no one-day - or even one-week - detox would suffice. This would be for six weeks, the idea being that it would change any bad habits for good.

"You will have sweaty underarms, bad breath and big poos," decreed Tomlinson cheerfully. "A sign of detox is bowel motions that are particularly offensive." It occurred to me that most people would be loath to pay for a service like this one, but it was early days. At the beginning of the following week my programme arrived via e-mail.

"The programme works brilliantly if you are committed to regaining your health and ideal weight through detox," the introductory section read. "It takes time and effort but has a sound, rational, naturopathic basis. It is not a weight-loss diet but a programme that helps you return to optimal health." Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety, constant colds and flu, blotchy skin, insomnia, depression, water retention and menstrual problems were just some of the symptoms of toxicity, apparently - and I was suffering from more than a few of them.

"The common problems that lead to toxicity are the wrong foods and incorrect food combining [carbohydrates should be eaten separately from proteins, and fruit should be eaten on its own], lack of regular exercise or incorrect exercise, allergies, eating junk food, impaired liver function, sluggish lymph, hormonal irregularities, exposure to recreational drugs, exposure to environmental pollution, and emotional eating or eating to hide our internal pain."

The basic principle of my particular detox programme was to avoid wheat - no bread, pasta and cereals apart from non-wheat alternatives. Standard dairy products were also a no-no. No milk, cheese, butter, or cream from a cow. I could eat goat, sheep, soy, almond and rice substitutes. Yeasted and sugary foods were best left out: no Marmite, pickles, beer, champagne, fizzy drinks, mushrooms, bruised fruit, old jams, vinegar or ferments like tamari, miso or soy sauce, sugar, honey, malt, molasses, maple syrup, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, glucose and so forth.

I would not be eating animal fats, cooked oils, margarine and butter, peanut butter, diet drinks or products sweetened with artificial sweeteners. White bread, white rice or other processed cereals, pies, cakes, pastries, salt or any other condiment such as tomato ketchup or mayonnaise were all strictly off-limits, as were commercial breakfast cereals, soft drinks or other drinks that were not just pure fruit and freshly squeezed. Most canned, packaged or frozen vegetables and fruit, jellies, sweets, chocolate, crisps, ice cream, coffee, tea, alcohol, cocoa and sulphured dried fruits were not to be recommended. Basically, packaged goods or any foods or drinks with preservatives, colourings and flavourings were poison. I duly threw the entire contents of my kitchen into the bin and wondered what to eat next.

I was allowed as much organic salad, lightly steamed vegetables and fruit, beans, brown rice, fish and eggs as I could eat. I was advised - more like instructed - to drink freshly pressed fruit and vegetable juice, again as much as I liked. Then there were supplements: multivitamins (to make sure I didn't miss out on nutrients), starflower oil (a fatty acid that aids weight loss and boosts energy), fish oil (more good fat), milk thistle (to encourage the liver to detox the body), chromium polynicotinate (to stabilise blood sugars and reduce hunger pangs), L-carnitine (a fat-burning amino acid) and "Max's herbs". Trust is an essential part of any detox, I quickly realised: I dutifully dropped a teaspoon of nasty-smelling brown liquid into my water three times a day before meals for six weeks. I still have no idea what it contained.

Two days in and I felt like... I WAS GOING TO DIE. I had a thumping headache (caffeine withdrawal), felt sick (entirely normal) and exhausted (ditto). I couldn't concentrate, and my skin had never been so bad. Tomlinson was delighted to hear of any malaise - it meant that the programme was working - and sent me for acupuncture. Then, in the third week, and just when I was beginning to feel almost human again, I was booked in for colonic irrigation. "You must stop eating grapes," said John Pure (surely the best of all possible names for a man of his profession?) with the wisdom of Confucius. Safe in the knowledge that some things are better left a mystery, I didn't ask him how he knew, or why. Pure is a naturopath too, and proprietor of Pure Medicine, Tomlinson's London base, where like-minded therapists work together to cure people like me of a multitude of bad habits/sins. Throughout my detox I was barely out of the place, having needles and tubes stuck into various parts of my anatomy, or having my feet pushed and pummelled to the point of pain by Tomlinson, who uses reflexology to help things on their way. I practised deep breathing upon waking and felt like an idiot ("stand in front of a window and breathe for a few minutes"), brushed my skin with a loofah every morning, which is not very pleasant ("this activates the skin and helps to play a role in detoxing the body") and exercised (I've done yoga on and off for two years, but I worked harder at it).

In the end, the time and money invested was considerable, but after six weeks I was like one of those women in the WeightWatchers campaign, holding out their oversized waistbands to reveal the new and improved person within. I lost 10 kilos, was sleeping soundly for between six and eight hours a night and my skin felt better than it had done for years. Three months down the line and sticking religiously to a "maintenance programme" - basically, I continue with the principles of detox but now for only 70 to 80 per cent of the time - Tomlinson tells me: "You know, you look 10 years younger." Forgive any flagrant evangelism, but I feel that way, too.

Max Tomlinson is at Pure Medicine, The London Medical Centre, 144 Harley Street, London W1: 020-7486 0908

CLEAN UP YOUR ACT

1. Try to eat organic. If your budget doesn't stretch to that, include some organic foods and make sure that you wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly.

2. Aim to drink about one-and-a-half litres of filtered water or herbal tea a day. Add lemon juice to your water as this helps to rid your body of unwanted toxins.

3. Exercise at least three times a week to get your circulation going. Walking outdoors is a fantastic, low-impact way of exercising and ensures that you get oxygen into your lungs.

4. Reduce your sugar intake. If you need sweetness, add some honey or rice malt to your food. Read food labels, and stay away from sucrose, dextrose, lactose and glucose.

5. Eat plenty of fibre, as this ensures a regular bowel motion. The bowels are the sewage disposal unit of the body and we need to open them every day. Wholegrains, beans, brown rice and vegetables are all great sources of fibre. If you need more help, try using a teaspoon of psyllium husks in a full glass of water each morning.

6. Say no to junk foods on a daily basis. If you can resist the urge to eat denatured, processed foods you will be doing your body a small favour each day.

7. Stress robs the nervous system of vital energy and this in turn retards its ability to oversee the elimination of toxins from the body, so schedule in some form of relaxation every day. Try yoga, acupuncture, a daily walk, a regular massage or a reflexology session to help reduce your stress load.

8. Take a good multivitamin and mineral supplement every day as an insurance policy against the ravages of pollution, poor diet and stress.

9. Take some omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids. These are health-promoting oils, found in deep-sea fish, linseeds, evening primrose oil and borage, which have a profound effect on skin and hormonal health.

10. Maintain a good weight. Research shows that people who are a good body weight are inherently healthier. Stay off all snack and junk foods as these make manufacturers wealthy and your body poor.

THE TOP 10 DETOX SUPER-FOODS

1. Fresh, organic green salads.

2. Deep-sea fish. There is, however, a slight concern about levels of heavy metals in fish, so the fresher you can get, the better.

3. Live-culture yoghurts to help re-colonise the bowels with good bacteria, often lost when we take antibiotics or eat a diet rich in sugar and white flour.

4. Fruit or vegetable juice, daily. Fresh juices are pure nutrition and go a long way to preventing damage and ageing. Don't mix fruit and vegetables in the same juice.

5. Wheatgrass juice. The juice of this plant (below) contains huge amounts of chlorophyll, which cleans the blood and energises the entire body. Think of wheatgrass juice as a salad in a cup! It can be hard to find, but it is available fresh from some health food stores or dried from others.

6. Oxygen, although not a food in the strictest sense, is absolutely essential for life, rejuvenation and health. If we start to see oxygen as an essential food we will take the time to breathe deeply and exercise to increase our tissue oxygenation.

7. Soft fruit such as mangoes, papaya, pears and kiwi are packed with enzymes that help us digest properly. They are also full of vitamin C, a powerful cell protector and anti-ageing nutrient.

8. Jerusalem artichokes (below) help to regulate blood sugars and make life easier for the pancreas. If your blood sugar is normal, it reduces your need to eat sugar-rich foods, which have a damaging effect on our digestion and our immune systems.

9. Beetroot is a wonderful liver tonic and helps that organ to keep us clean from the inside out. Beetroot also acts as a blood tonic, building strong blood and helping to keep our energy levels up.

10. Ginger, added to fresh juice and to food, acts to strengthen digestion and improve circulation - a good thing, because blood carries all the valuable nutrients you're eating to your cells and removes all unwanted waste materials. Well-fed cells are happy cells.

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