Hippo Manchester
October 13, 2005

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Goodbye corn syrup, hello organic oatmeal

Hippo reporter takes a shot at a dietary detox and healthier liver 

By Michelle Saturley  msaturley@hippopress.com

You know that saying, “My body is a temple?”

Well, my body is more like a seedy nightclub that you’re kind of scared to go into alone. I think there’s an after-hours rave going on in there and everyone’s starting to crash after a long night of partying.

I know I’m supposed to drink lots of water, eat plenty of fresh vegetables and whole grains and lean meat. But there are times — usually when I’ve taken on way too many projects, my kids are doing way too many activities and my husband is working way too many hours — that I forget what I know about taking care of myself. I start doing things the so-called “easy way.” Bad things, like stopping at the fast-food drive-thru, drinking too much coffee, and forgetting to drink water.

Lately, I think my body has been trying to tell me something. I wake up every morning feeling as though I’ve been run over by a Mack truck. I have dark circles under my eyes, and my skin seems to have lost its glow. I can’t even get out the door in the morning without a hideously strong cup of coffee. I sort of stagger through the day in a haze. By around three o’clock, I must go for another shot of caffeine or I will fall asleep at my desk.

In the evening, after the kids are fed and bathed and put to bed and all of the housework is done, I can usually be found in a near-comatose state, but only after I’ve had a few glasses of wine to “come down” from the hectic pace of the day.

I’m no nutritional expert, but I know enough to realize that two cups of coffee in the morning, a Diet Coke at lunch and two (or three) glasses of red wine in the evening is not exactly conducive to a healthy lifestyle. I know that processed foods, too much sugar, alcohol and not enough water are wreaking havoc on my body and mind.

When I mentioned my scary fatigue cycle to a friend, she told me about Lisa Allen, who owns The Daily Count, a natural foods shop in downtown Nashua. Allen was riding on the same train wreck of stress, poor diet and caffeine addiction, to the point that she was severely fatigued and her hair was falling out. Her physician told her that she needed a therapist and antidepressants, but she knew that wasn’t going to do the trick. With the help of a naturopath, Allen went on a liver detoxifying diet, with amazing results.

“The typical detox diet lasts about 30 days,” Allen said. “The purpose of the diet is to allow your liver time to cleanse itself of toxins. The liver is the coffee filter of your body, and you need to clean it out every once in a while for it to work better.”

To allow my liver time to heal, Allen told me, I must remove from my diet all of the things that it has a hard time processing, even when it’s in prime form. That includes caffeine, processed sugar including high fructose corn syrup, preservatives such as MSG, gluten (which is found in bread, cake and cereal) and dairy products.

Whoa. No bread? No coffee?

Am I really ready to say goodbye to my lifelong friends, high fructose corn syrup and caffeine? What are my choices here — a lifetime supply of rabbit food? And I’m not eating seaweed. That’s just not an option.

Apparently, Allen had the same reaction.

“When I went on this diet, I made it clear to my doctor that I would need more choices than just, say, steamed rice and vegetables if I was going to have any success,” Allen said. “We started coming up with ways that I could modify some of my favorite dishes so that I could stick to the diet and not be bored or limited.”

The result of Allen’s modifications is the cookbook Eating Clean: 100 Appetizing Solutions, featuring wheat-free and dairy-free alternatives.

With recipes like “Mediterranean Chicken with Chickpeas,” “Spicy Thai Chicken Soup” and “Apple Muffins” to work with, I just might be able to stick with this.

“It’s really a matter of deciding how much of a commitment you can make to your own health,” Allen said. “But if you have good-tasting alternatives, that makes the commitment that much easier.”

So, for the next 30 days, it’s goodbye, Starbucks. Hello, happy liver.