washingtonpost.com  > Columns > How To

Detox After the Holidays

Sunday, December 26, 2004; Page M03

As a beauty consultant, this time of year I get a ton of panicked calls about how to undo holiday indulgences: the excessive eating, binge drinking and sleep deprivation brought on by the "gotta party" frenzy. People look in the mirror and see a rather haggard being staring back. Well, what you see on the outside is merely a reflection of the stored-up toxins (salt, sugar, alcohol, caffeine) having their own holiday party inside your body. Want to do yourself a favor? Try a DIY detox regimen to start the new year right:

FLUSH. Salty foods cause fluid retention and puffiness; those made with refined sugar cause spikes in blood sugar and, thus, cravings; and alcohol and caffeine cause dehydration. For your body's regenerative system to work, toxins must be flushed out -- and eight glasses of water a day won't do it alone. To truly purify your system while restoring essential vitamins and minerals, try a four-day regimen of fruit juices in the morning and vegetable juices in the afternoon along with your normal diet.

Start making up for your seasonal sins with good-for-you home remedies. (Photos Nate Lankford For The Washington Post)

_____Previous Columns_____
Navigate the Digital Music Scene (The Washington Post, Jan 2, 2005)
Pump Up Your Salary (The Washington Post, Dec 19, 2004)
Start a Winning Blog (The Washington Post, Dec 12, 2004)
Rent a Vacation Villa (The Washington Post, Nov 28, 2004)
Get on Camera at the Game (The Washington Post, Nov 21, 2004)
More Columns

The first two days, before you consume anything else, drink 1 cup hot water blended with the juice of one lemon, 1/16 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Lemons are rich in bioflavonoids (pigments that act as excellent detoxifying catalysts); cayenne pepper is an anti-inflammatory; and maple syrup adds sweetness. The juice is intense, thus the two-day program -- your body needs time to absorb it, then recover.

Next, along with breakfast, have a blend of orange or half a pink grapefruit, two or three slices of pineapple, two stalks of celery, and a handful of raspberries. Or, mix one pink grapefruit with three apples (rich in the digestive aid pectin), a pinch of cinnamon (high in chromium, which helps balance blood sugar) and a bit of fresh ginger (which helps settle the stomach). If you're prone to problems with stomach acidity, you can dilute these citrus-based juices with water.

In the afternoon, try juices made with carrots, which are packed with healthy antioxidants. Combine four carrots, a sprig of parsley (rich in chlorophyll, which helps stimulate digestive enzymes), 1/2 cucumber (high in water content) and 1/2 beet (which helps detoxify the bladder and kidneys); sweeten with a small apple if you're not a veggie fan. Another option is to combine two carrots with 1/4 small cucumber, one celery stalk and a small amount of Wakame (seaweed rich in vitamin C, calcium and iron).

NOURISH. You can't survive on juice alone, of course, but you should avoid sinful snacks. Select foods high in water content, such as cucumber, celery, lettuce and kale. Grapefruits are good metabolic stimulants; grapes are high in potassium (essential in maintaining normal kidney function); cantaloupes are high in digestive enzymes; and bananas and avocados digest slowly and help maintain blood sugar. Avoid alcohol, excessive caffeine, red meat and dairy products, and keep up your water intake. (Yes, we've all heard of the morning-after hangover hamburger, but it's best to stick to foods low in fat, high in nutrients.)

SOOTHE. The body can efficiently expel toxins through the pores of the skin. To hasten this process, combine in a bath 1 cup of Epsom salts and 1 to 2 tablespoons of an essential oil, such as lemon, jojoba, rosemary or olive. The ingredients' stimulating properties naturally draw toxins out. (Just be sure to test the oil first to make sure you're not allergic by applying a small amount to the underside of your forearm.)

Another option is to exfoliate the skin, which increases respiration and removes toxins. Combine 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1 tablespoon cornmeal and several drops almond oil with enough milk to form a paste. Apply by hand to the entire body (excluding the face) with gentle, circular motions. Rinse, then brush the skin using a loofah or sponge.

BEAUTIFY. You wear your hard-partying history on your face, too: an unhealthy pallor, puffiness, dark circles. To restore natural color, form a paste by mixing 1/2 cup plain yogurt (it brightens the skin), 2 teaspoons lemon juice (ditto) and honey (which softens the skin, improving appearance). Apply on clean skin, leave on for 15 minutes and rinse off with warm water.

Puffy eyes respond well to chamomile, which contains the soothing compound azulene. Boil a tea bag in 1 cup water, allow to cool, then soak two cotton pads in the tea for three minutes. Remove the pads and put them in the freezer for 15 minutes. Then position them on your closed eyes and relax with your head on a pillow for 20 minutes (elevating the head helps excess fluids associated with puffiness drain downward). Massage in eye cream afterward to hydrate and further stimulate blood flow.

For extremely dark under-eye circles, substitute black tea; it's high in soothing tannic acid, and its caffeine content dilates blood vessels, helping to draw blood away from the under-eye area. Cool, peeled, thinly sliced cucumbers are another soothing beauty-industry fave; press them in place under the eyes, let them sit for 15 minutes, then remove and rinse your face. Ahhh . . . Diana L. Carswell

© 2004 The Washington Post Company