The Best Detox Diet
There are many conditions in Western industrialised societies today that were unheard of, or at least very rare, just a century ago. The same conditions are still unheard of in primitive peoples who do not have the 'benefits' of our knowledge. There is a very good reason for this: They eat what Nature intended; we don't. The diseases caused by our incorrect and unnatural diets are those featured on these pages.
The digestive systems of carnivorous and herbivorous animals operate in quite different ways: the former is specifically designed to digest animal proteins and fats, while the latter is constructed to process plant materials.
Whereas the bacterial fermentation of plant starches and fibre, with the production and absorption of short-chain fatty acids, contributes between 60% and 90% of all the energy requirements in plant-eating animals, the colonic fermentation in humans is of minor importance for nutrition, with less than 10% of the energy requirements available from colonic digestion of starch, fibre and protein not absorbed in the small bowel, if the intestine has a normal length and function.
When plant materials enter our digestive system, the cellulose of which plant cell walls are made, which constitute a large proportion of the plant and which we cannot digest, passes through the stomach and small intestine to end up in the colon (large intestine) in an undigested state. Other carbohydrates, even though they have been processed to some extent, will also end up in the colon.
What happens to them is of considerable importance.
Together with the food we eat, the saliva we swallow, the mucus from our noses that we swallow when we sniff, are myriads of bacteria. The vast majority of these will be killed by the strong hydrochloric acid in the stomach and the juices of the small intestine. But a few will inevitably escape and end up in the colon. If the climate there is to their taste, they will take up residence and start families. If it isn't, they pass out in our excreta.
The bacterial flora living in the intestines of herbivores and carnivores are quite different from each other. The digestive process of a herbivore is continued in the colon by a process of bacterial fermentation. It is a vital part of a herbivore's digestive system, designed to get the most out of what is a pretty poor source of nutrition. But no useful digestion takes place in a our colon. All our digestion has taken place in the small intestine and our digestion is close to 100% efficient when we eat foods of animal origin. So what is left is only a small amount of pure (if that is the right word) waste. Within our colons are quite different species of bacteria compared to a herbivore's. Ours are ó or should be ó proteolytic (meaning they break down protein) bacteria that live on proteins and fatty acids, breaking them down in a similar way to the proteolytic enzymes that digest proteins in the small intestine. In the colon, these bacteria attack any protein and fat that has escaped digestion and convert these substances into amino acids, glycerine and conglomerates of amino acids called proteoses and peptides ó exactly the same process as happens further up the gut. But these bacteria are also capable of operating on carbohydrates. And when this happens, acid and gas are produced.
A pure carnivore should eat no plant material, so there should not be any carbohydrate in its colon to support fermentative bacteria. With no fermentative bacteria to produce acids, the proteolytic bacteria thrive there in a healthy alkaline environment.
Civilised Man does not restrict his diet to just meat and fat. He also eats carbohydrates ó and influenced by theories such as Burkitt's fibre hypothesis, and exhortations to eat 'at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day' ó this ensures that a lot of indigestible carbohydrate in the form of vegetable, fruit and cereal fibre as well as a proportion of other carbohydrates reaches his colon. This changes the gut flora considerably.
Unfortunately, medical science is still not very knowledgeable about such details in human beings, although it is certain that changes are produced when sugar replaces starch; much greater changes occur when carbohydrates replace proteins and fats in the diet.
Even a small amount of carbohydrate in the colon will support a colony of fermentative bacteria; if there is a large amount of the more indigestible carbohydrates such as bran and raw vegetation from salads, the fermentative bacteria will thrive until they can be overwhelming. As the production of acid in the colon soars, the resultant environment becomes hospitable to yeasts, moulds and other fungi. These too are avid fermenters and, as their numbers also increase, the colonic environment becomes more and more acid. But this environment does not suit the beneficial proteolytic bacteria which should be there, so they die off leaving the harmful fermenting bacteria unopposed. This leaves the colon both irritated and irritable. We start to see diarrhoea and other signs of digestive distress. The patient knows nothing of the bacterial change that has taken place. All he is concerned with is that his stools are getting smellier, sloppier and more acid, and his rectum is itching and burning.
At the same time, the irritable colon disturbs the rest of the digestive tract. The stomach becomes gassy and the small intestine speeds up the transport of the food within it. The various vegetable fibres, which are difficult to digest at best are speeded through to the colon with even less digestion than before. And as absorption of nutrients into the body takes time ó and that time is now reduced ó even more reach the colon. This provides an even better environment for the fermenting bacteria, which proliferate, and things go from bad to worse.
Prehistoric Man undoubtedly consumed some plant foods. But it was only in Neolithic times, after they had been made edible by boiling or other forms of cooking with fire that they were used in any real quantity. Right up to Roman times, vegetables, even salad vegetables, were invariably served cooked. While poorer Plebeians were described as eating raw plant foods such as chicory, lettuce, endive and garlic, aristocratic Romans certainly didn't ó unless they needed a laxative.
The eating of raw vegetables died out throughout the Middle Ages, being only used as a purgative. Renaissance Italy seems to have reintroduced the salad trend, but even then salads were cooked, then cooled, vegetables and fish.
The use of raw plant foods other than as a laxative or purgative, is a very modern fad. And it may not be a very healthy one.
What really is a 'detox' diet?
One of the concepts that alternative health professionals believe in is 'cleansing' or 'detoxifying'. It can happen when you add a super-supplement to your diet, or when you eliminate bad stuff you used to eat or drink. We are familiar with the concept for drugs and alcohol, but not so much for foods and other lifestyle habits.
It is dietary carbohydrates alone that cause intestinal distress of varying degrees in carnivores and Man. What we should eat is a non-irritant type of diet: one in which carbohydrates can be eaten, but in such a way that they don't play havoc with the intestinal flora. We need some form of diet that detoxifies the gut.
Because of incorrect or insufficient knowledge, 'detox' diets all seem to be based on raw vegetation or juicing of vegetables and fruit. Quite what the rationale for this is I have no idea because, as I have shown, such a diet is actually quite toxic to the large intestine. And science has shown that a drink of ordinary tap water is far more effective than the various expensive products sold for detoxing.
As far as the intestine is concerned, the diet should be one that does not irritate it. This means, first of all, excluding laxatives such as prunes, figs and rhubarb; it means avoiding sharp, scratchy wastes such as bran; and it also means not juicing raw plant material and fruit, as this, perversely, is one of the best ways to cause all this agony.
To absorb the most carbohydrate in the small intestine and, thus, prevent it from getting to the colon in large quantities, it is necessary to break down the cell walls so that the digestive enzymes can get at and digest the nutrients inside. Juicing does not do this. Looked at through a microscope, even after juicing, plant cells are seen quite plainly to be intact, merely floating about in the fluid portion of the plant. In this form they are just as indigestible as they were in their original whole raw form.
By drinking a glass of orange juice or carrot juice, it is easy to imbibe five or six fruits and, in this way, to greatly increase the amount of carbohydrate in the diet ó which is the very last thing one should do.
Tinned fruit juices are in a different category, as the heat used during the canning process does tend to disintegrate the plant cell walls. But as these juices are generally drunk first thing in the morning, they enter the digestive system quickly, pass through it just as quickly and end up in the colon virtually unchanged ó a perfect medium for the fermentative bacteria and their friends. Canned juices are also frequently sweetened, which is not a good idea.
There is only one way to set the balance right again and that is to eat little that will allow undigested carbohydrate material to reach the colon. This is possible. Synthetic diets composed of pure amino acids, fatty acids and glucose, which need no digestion and leave no residue, will halt the production of acid in the colon and restore the correct balance. But trials on volunteers showed that it takes about three months of very strict dieting to achieve this result, and it had to be conducted in a hospital background.
A more realistic way is to reduce the amount of carbohydrate in your diet to a minimum. And avoid at all costs such material as bran or other vegetable and fruit fibre which cannot be digested, as this will certainly end up feeding the very bacteria you are trying to get rid of.
If you really want to detox, the part that needs detoxifying is your brain: cleanse it of prejudices, inhibitions and inherited appetites. Purge it of unsubstantiated dogma and fill it with science and common sense.
To phew or not to phew
Most of us don't go around smelling the droppings of animals or even our own. But those who live in the country and walk the fields will probably have noticed that where animals such as cows are kept out to grass, their droppings either don't smell or have a not-unpleasant smell. The same is true of sheep, rabbits, and all other animals that eat their natural diet, including carnivorous animals. Compare this with the noisome smell you are likely to carry into the house if you walk in some dog dirt in a city street. This is because domestic pet dogs don't eat a natural diet.
The same is true of humans. Do you pass wind? When you do, does it tend to clear the room? When you go to the lavatory, do you have to open the window and suggest that the next person might be wise to wait a few minutes before 'going'?
My family and I don't. When we go to the lavatory, we use one piece of toilet paper to discover that we didn't need it ó our stools leave us cleanly. And we don't leave a smell behind ó except the day after we have been out to dine with friends.
Last but not least
But getting back to what most people want from a detox diet ó the best by far, and a lot cheaper than all the books and medications, all you need is to drink water.
. Dukes HH. The Physiology of Domestic Animals. Comstock Publishing Company, Ithaca, New York, 1955.
. Voegtlin WL. The Stone Age Diet. Vantage Press Inc, New York, NY 1975.
. JAMA 9 May 1966 and Medical World News 20 May 1966. Quoted in Voegtlin WL. Op cit.