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The holidays are a time for good company, good times, and good food. Unfortunately, most of us eat a little more good food than is truly optimal for good health, but detoxification is not just possible, it's largely painless.

Detoxing from Sugar, Fat, and Salt

The first step to detoxing is recognizing what the "toxins" are. A large part of our need to detox is due to the additives and chemicals that food manufacturers put in food to make us want to eat more.

If you were looking for a common denominator in every food we overeat, what would it be? Medical school dean and former Commissioner of the US FDA David Kessler believes that it is sugar, fat, and salt.

These three ingredients create both a "mouth feel" that we associate with comfort foods and induce changes in the chemistry of the brain itself. Dr. Kessler believes that these foods trigger the release of dopamine in the pleasure centers of the brain, and the resulting rush of satisfaction primes our brain to associate everything it can with the sugary, fatty, salty food so it can find more.

If we eat this intensely satisfying food at McDonald's, we eventually tend to steer our cars into the parking lot at McDonald's. If we get a rush from potato chips, we also get a rush from looking at the bag. If we suffer doughnut addiction, we tend to look closely at our food so it fills our field of vision, the same way a doughnut with the "bulls-eye" in the center fills our vision.

So the first step in detoxing from sugar, fat, and salt is simply to avoid the cues that would have us eat more. Record your television programs and use the skip button to avoid advertisements for food. Close your cupboards. Your brain can work through doughnut and potato chip withdrawal if you just can avoid the cues for eating more. A more insidious kind of food addiction, however, involves chemicals that act in the brain much the same way as morphine and heroine.

Detoxing from Beef, Dairy, and Gluten

If you were looking for the most commonly used addictive drug in North America, would you think of looking for a cheeseburger?

The cheeseburger is the perfect storm of three of our most addicting foods, beef, dairy, and wheat, the latter being the source of the stretchy protein gluten. These three foods contain opioids, naturally occurring chemicals that when liberated by digestion and circulated to the human brain, occupy the same receptor sites as opium and morphine.

Food scientists discovered about 25 years ago that the gluten (the protein that gives wheat dough its "stretch") in white bread concentrates 15 different mu-opioid chemicals that the brain finds addictive. A "mu" opioid is a particularly fast acting food chemical to which the brain responds within about 45 minutes of food consumption.

The casein and immune globulins in cow's milk release some chemicals we might lightheartedly call the "moo"-opioids, brain chemicals that work more slowly than the opioids in gluten but that are released in greater concentration. The hemoglobin and albumin beef blood contain even greater concentrations of mu-opioids.

Biting into a cheeseburger literally induces a state of bliss. Moreover, the addicting power of beef, dairy, cheese, and egg can be intensified by manipulating sugar, fat, and salt.

And what about that side salad you can get at most fast food places now? Guess what, the fast food chains offer vegetables that naturally contain some of the same mu-opioids, like Romaine lettuce and spinach, and the side salad is served with a dressing that provides at least sugar and salt (if non-fat) of the trio sugar, salt, and fat, and more likely all three.

Detoxing from High-Fructose Corn Syrup

As if beef, dairy, and gluten, and sugar, salt, and fat were not enough, modern processed food is also loaded up with a sweetener called high-fructose corn syrup. This sweetener begins as cornstarch, the same white powder you might use to thicken a pudding or a sauce. The cornstarch is loaded into enormous vats and dissolved in water with enzymes.

These enzymes artificially digest the cornstarch into glucose, and then into a mixture of glucose and fructose. Both sugars have the desirable sweet taste that makes them useful in making food, but fructose has the additional advantage of browning during baking without making a sticky caramel. These means it can be used to make cookies that slide into the package and pies that brown without burning. Fructose also sits on the shelf for months or years without crystallizing, so baked goods made with fructose offer the illusion of freshness to a much later expiration date. It's not anti-microbial, however, so baked goods made with fructose require additional preservatives and stabilizers to avoid spoilage.

In the human body, fructose interferes with the creation of a hormone called leptin. This hormone is the signal to the brain that the storage depots of the body (the white fat, the liver, and the bone marrow) are full and it is not necessary to eat more. Our brains are hard-wired to keep us from starving by encouraging foraging, snacking, and nibbling until leptin tells us to quit. High-fructose corn syrup keeps us foraging, snacking, and nibbling on products that made with it.

Food manufacturers know this. They know that eating foods sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup keeps us hungry. And when we are hungry, we accumulate experiences associated with eating, some happy, some not, that trigger still more eating. This sugar is a major ingredient in bread, especially "whole wheat" bread, and foods that don't taste particularly sweet, such as hot dogs, ketchup, mustard, and relish, as well as the buns we put them in. It's also used to make the cardboard container used to dispense the hot dog.
High-fructose corn syrup is especially insidious when combined with caffeine in soft drinks.  The fructose fuels the thirst for more soft drinks, and the addiction to caffeine that is fed by the concoction punishes the user if he or she tries to quit.

The first step in regaining control of eating patterns is simply to avoid the addictive salt, sugar, and fat—especially when it highlights the flavors of wheat, beef, and dairy. The second step in regaining control of eating patterns is to avoid highly processed foods laced with corn syrup, caffeine, MSG, and other chemicals.

Do You Need Natural Body Cleansing After Eating Granny's Christmas Cookies?

Natural body cleansing after dietary excess is a matter of just saying no to the sugar, fat, salt, beef, dairy, gluten, and highly processed foods of the modern diet. The fact is, if you avoid these foods, your body can begin to detox on its own quite nicely without any further effort on your part.

But do you need to avoid everything that tastes good? Must you avoid Grandma's sugar cookies and offend every cook in your family come holiday time?

Of course not! Feel free to eat made-from-scratch delights in moderation. After all, if the cook in your family is not figuring out ways to lace his or her holiday treats with high-fructose corn syrup, caffeine, and MSG, these foods are not impossibly addictive. They may trigger learned cues for overeating that have been reinforced by sugar, fat, and salt, but without the other modern food additives, their power over you ends when the holiday season is over.

Just remember that the foods we eat in childhood become the foods we love all our life. Give your children a life of healthy appetites by providing them with treats that are made with natural foods, rather than industrially processed foods, made at home, rather than in a factory.

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