Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Detox Symptoms - The Real Story

Several people have commented to me that they would like to go raw, but simply can't deal with the detox symptoms. I find this to be an odd statement but have refrained from any blunt, truthful remarks like, "Would you rather just keep abusing your body than take a little pain?!!" Actually, I do understand. It takes a strong commitment to work through all the detox that a lifetime of abuse can bring.

But a lot of folks have indicated that they think the only kind of detoxification symptoms that one gets on a raw food diet is diarrhea. Perhaps that is the only thing they have experienced and quickly reverted back to a SAD diet to make the misery go away as quickly as they could. Chickens! You should stick with a raw food diet and experience the full palette of irritations that can come as the body throws out the junk we have been stuffing into it all these years!

Having eaten a 100% raw vegan diet now for 4 months, 1 week and 4 days now, I feel somewhat qualified to speak about the many and varied ways the body tries to cleanse itself of the toxins, poisons, and crap that the typical person ingests in a lifetime. While none of these are particularly pleasant, I will say that once a bout of detox has completed in my body, I feel so much better. But I am a little more hesitant to shout "Bring it on! It's all good!" anymore.

On Sunday, Andy Reed told me that a good rule of thumb is that a month of eating raw will equal a year of not eating raw. Given the number of years I have been on the planet and not been eating as well as I could, I figure there are a few years of detox ahead of me yet. Here is a short list of some of the things I have already experienced:

  • Acne
  • Hives
  • Rashes
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Excessive earwax
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Joint aches
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Emotional breakdowns

Each of these symptoms has presented with numerous variations that have frequently left me wondering if something was seriously wrong. But the telltale sign that it is detox is that the condition will come and go in a short period of time.

One morning I woke up early with a sudden, serious cough. It became quite intense and I couldn't stop coughing. As it was coming from deep in my lungs, I began to wonder if I had whooping cough or some form of pneumonia. I used to get pneumonia once or twice a year and remember the horrible feeling of not being able to breathe. After about 2 hours of non-stop coughing, I suddenly choked up 2 large, disgusting, brown balls of yuk from the bottom of my lungs! The episode was over and it has not happened since.

I have never been a smoker so I have no idea what this was or why this stuff was in my lungs. But I have been able to breathe better ever since!

I have now come to regard these kinds of things as just part of a process that will likely continue for the next year or two as my body lets go of a long time build-up of toxins. I should also mention that each and every one of the symptoms listed above could have it's own discussion! Especially the last two...mood swings and emotional breakdowns. Topics for another time.

On Monday I had:

  • Breakfast: Muesli with chia, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, walnuts and almonds, raisins, coconut flakes, apple and banana with almond milk.
  • Lunch: Power balls.
  • Supper: Kale salad with red bell pepper, pine nuts, lemon juice and olive oil.

On Tuesday I had:

  • Breakfast: Green smoothie with mango, orange, banana and Swiss chard.
  • Lunch: Kale salad with bok choy, sprouts, celery, carrots, avocado, black olives and a dressing of lime juice, Dijon mustard, agave nectar and olive oil.
  • Supper: A salad with escarole, bok choy, celery, sprouts, parsley and a dressing of apple cider vinegar and olive oil.


Momma Bear said...

thx for sharing!
Also, I'm very curious what your grocery list looks like weekly.
take care!

Karen Schlesinger said...

Hi Momma Bear!

I will send you my grocery list in an Excel format if you send me your e-mail address. You can contact me personally at:


Doll Creelman-Migliaccio said...

I really do understand the detox symptoms but that's not what stops me. lol Often, if I choose to eat cooked food it's because of something like texture, taste and good memories. I can deal with the detox just need to find alternatives to my comfort foods. lol

Thanks for sharing so opening here Karen. I really admire your commitment!

Wendy said...

cool blog!

as i transition to a less-meat and processed foods diet to more vegan and raw diet i started slow by replacing breakfast with a green smoothie and eating lunch and dinner as i normally would.

i'm only on day 2 and i am already experiencing "detox" symptoms (or maybe i am just sick) including sore throat, headache, and dizziness. i am trying to fight through! this post gives me inspiration... thanks.

Karen Schlesinger said...

Wendy, Good for you! Don't be discouraged by the detox symptoms, your body is healing and you will feel better in the long run. Be sure to let me know how you are doing...it is always good to have another with whom to compare detox stories!

Michelle (She Looketh Well) said...

Hi there, I found your blog on a search and was wondering if you had some advice for me. I have severe adrenal fatigue, mama to nine and all the symptoms that go with it. I eat only grass-fed organic meats and veggies with only two fruits a day because of blood sugar issues. I have begun to try green smoothies, but the amount of fruit sugar is so hard to get past. I don't feel well after drinking one, very shakey, hungry, headache and even a tummy ache at times. I put as littl fruit as possible in my smoothie. Recipe: 1 apple, 1 pear, 2 inch of banana, tons of greens and 1 T. coconut oil in hopes to help with blood sugar.

Do you think I should just 'push through' and continue to do smoothies and go as raw as possible? thanks

Karen Schlesinger said...

Hi Michelle.
I am no doctor and certainly can't begin to address adrenal fatigue, except to say that as the mother of nine children, you probably need SLEEP! I imagine the stress of raising a large family these days takes a big toll on your health, and I commend you for taking these steps towards improving your overall health and well being.
I have also been concerned about all the fruit in green smoothies raising my blood sugar. I have cut way back on the fruits and types of high glycemic fruits that I now use in my smoothies. I would suggest using more berries and lower glycemic fruits for your smoothies. You can also make a "savory smoothie" with all veggies.
My e-mail address is on the sidebar of the blog if you would like to discuss this further. I would love to hear how you progress with this.
And, absolutely, continue to move more towards a raw, vegan diet. You won't regret the results you feel as your energy builds.
Blessings to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Hello Karen

Im happy to have found your blog. I am on week 6 of a green smoothie/high raw diet and I am hitting the wall with detox. For 9 days now, I have had a terrible sore throat, cold symptoms, ear aches, scary looking green fuzzy tongue and red bumps on the tongue. Im pretty sure it is detox but it is so hard to know. One cant help but feeling like what if it is something else?

Im tryingt o hang in there because I know the only way to the other side is through this but it is HARD!

Karen Schlesinger said...

Kudos to you for hanging in there this long! I know how hard it can be when you start having multiple detox symptoms all at once. It is not fun. But you will be amazed at how good you feel once you get past all this. But if you remain high raw, don't be surprised when you continue to get symptoms periodically as you go forward. The detox process can go on for a long time, as I am discovering every day! The good news is that you are probably going through the worst of it now. Keep up the great work. You are getting healthier every day, even if it doesn't feel like it right now.

Anonymous said...

You arent kidding when you say the detox process can go on for a long time. Im now 9 weeks into a high raw/green smoothie diet and still have significant symptoms of detox.

My body is throwing out all kinds of stuff. Still have sore throat, mouth pain, and mood swings.

This is NOT for the fainthearted!

Karen Schlesinger said...

I commend you for staying raw this long! It takes a strong comittment to work through all the detox symptoms, but well worth the benefits.

However, if you are still having a sore throat and mouth pain you might want to check with a doctor just to make sure you don't have a medical problem. Being raw may have unmasked something that you have had for a while, but has been hiding in your body waiting for the opportunity to surface. Just to be on the safe side, go check it out and let your doctor know what you are eating. I get a lot of mouth pain with pineapple, so it could be something you are eating that is causing you so much trouble. Please let me know how things go. Blessings.

Sophie'smom said...

Dear Karen,
In 2005 I herniated in the L3-L5-S1discs of my spine, and have had constant nerve root pain ever since. I was on neurontin, and high blood pills for years, until recently, when I read several books on raw food. I have been on green smoothies for a week now but my blood pressure still soars. How long do you think it will be before I see good blood pressure? Thx. Susan

Sophie'smom said...

To Michelle (She looketh Well)
Have you read any of Victoria Boutenko's books; such as "Green for Life"? She explains why people even add fruits to green smoothies---they're not accustomed to the taste of chlorophyll. However, if you must, know this: when fruits are blended with greens, these cause the sugar to dispense very very slowly into the bloodstream, thus preventing a rise in blood sugar. That is why it is safe for diabetics to have green smoothies. Also, try adding just a pear, or one apple; not a banana, a pear, an apple and dates. In time, you will acclimate to the refreshing taste of greens!
Take care.