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By the end of the first week I fully de-tether myself from coffee's clutch and settle into a nice routine. I'm helped largely by the fact that the Master Cleanser drink—that mix of apple and lemon juice, grated ginger, honey and water—becomes more than a suitable coffee replacement. I make the beverage fresh every morning with piping hot water and sip it, as I did my coffee, as I check my e-mail, play a few Scrabble turns on Facebook and head out with my dog to the park. It even—just like coffee—keeps me as regular as the rising sun.
As for food, I'm surprisingly sated by my new regimen, which I largely attribute to the 100 grams of protein I dump in my fruit and yogurt smoothies every day.
For breakfast, I typically eat toasted gluten-free fiber bread (without butter), an egg (not fried in bacon fat), and seeds and nuts (ground in my suddenly neglected coffee grinder) mixed in yogurt with berries.
For lunch, I typically down a MediClear smoothie, eat a salad tossed with olive oil and apple cider vinegar, spoon out an avocado sprinkled with lime juice and salt, and maybe munch on a few gluten-free pretzels with mustard. At work, I snack on a mix of cashews, pumpkin seeds and Brazil nuts.
For dinner, I eat lots of soup. My favorite becomes pureed winter squash, carrots and ginger added to stock. I also grill salmon, cook wild rice, and steam chard and spinach. Throughout the day, and especially after dinner, I sip Traditional Medicinals' EveryDay Detox tea.
I soon find my intense cravings for food before lunch and dinner are gone. My peaks and valleys in energy are also gone. My nighttime clenching and grinding (I spent $500 on a mouth guard a few months ago) seem diminished, as are the headaches they often cause. And, despite having to get up to go to the bathroom twice a night to rid myself of all those ounces of water, I'm enjoying nights of deep sleep.
But while my energy levels seem to be more consistent, my endurance wanes during the first week of the cleanse. Martinez warned me this might happen, but it's still surprising.
I first notice it when pedaling just one mile to and from work. It's more of an issue, though, while hunting. I spend a Saturday up the Blackfoot with my friend Molly, and by noon, after a morning of trudging over hills and down into steep ravines, I'm wiped. Swigs of MediClear smoothie, pretzels, pumpkin seeds and Brazil nuts don't energize me—not like Molly's summer sausage and cheese would. My concentration leaves me, my footsteps become careless, and the chances of me getting a buck in my sights are nil. I make a case to call it a day.
On our way out we spook about 10 cow elk. We don't have the tags to shoot one (nor, I don't think, could we have gotten a clean shot), but the thought alone of quartering one and dragging it to the car exhausts me. It leaves me wondering, once again, whether any of this is worth it.
Stress, Martinez explains to me, is a big piece of how the body becomes clogged. In fact, she says, many physical manifestations start with a mental or emotional trigger. To deal with those emotions, and to isolate why I might feel a certain way, she recommends that I meditate.
"It's hard to be physically sound and have a mental and emotional imbalance," she says.
The key to effectively meditating, she says, starts with simply breathing well.
"Deep breathing," she says, "is the culmination of a really good cleanse. Most people are totally incredulous. 'I can do that much good for my body just through breathing? I breathe all the time.' It's just that they're not doing it right."
The main purpose of deep breathing, she explains, is to relax. A good, deep, conscious breath expands the diaphragm and triggers the vagus nerve, part of the parasympathetic system responsible for allowing the body to rest and digest.
"What we find," she says, "is that a majority of people overeat or are stressed or sleep badly. Or they have concentration issues or mood issues, and that's because they just don't appreciate the benefits of a really good, deep breath and doing so regularly."
Martinez prescribes 100 deep, conscious breaths every day: Breathe in through the nose for a count of five or until you feel your abdomen completely rise, hold for a count of one, then exhale through pursed lips for a count of eight. In her office she has me stand up, put my hands on my stomach, and focus on making my belly expand as I inhale, not just my chest.
I take my conscious breaths at night before bed, and use them as an opportunity to reflect, relax and zone out. After a few nights I find myself focusing on my breathing at work. Even when hunting, sitting silently against a tree as I watch the light of the ascending sun inch down the ponderosa pines, I consciously belly-breathe.
While I'm breathing at night, I also slap a castor oil pack on my stomach.
"I'd say that Dr. Friess and I have two things that we use in the practice that are kind of our miracle drugs, and this is one of them," Martinez says as she motions to a bottle of castor oil. "It's an $8 bottle of miracle drug. It's so easy to use. It's by far the best thing we've ever run across."
Castor oil, a 4,000-year-old medicine derived from the castor plant, is a pro-inflammatory agent that seeps into the skin and improves blood flow to an area while also boosting the white blood cell counts, Martinez says. The pack is simply a saturated piece of cotton or flannel that you put on your stomach. I use a washcloth, and toss it in the oven for about 10 minutes at 200 degrees before applying it to give it an extra soothing effect.
"Seventy percent of our immune system lies in the gut-associated lymphoid tissue or GALT found linked to the intestines," Martinez says. "Each castor oil application stimulates the GALT, leading to more efficient blood filtration and improvement of digestive related disorders. It's common for patients' bowel movements to be much easier to pass, more formed."
For the record, I notice my bowel movements have been extremely well formed since starting the cleanse.
About two weeks into the cleanse I face my biggest test. It's Thanksgiving Day and a guest brings an appetizer I can only surmise was sent by God to test my will: chocolate covered bacon.
It's two of my favorite things in the world brought together into one amazing dish. There's a cookie sheet full of them. It taunts me. My friends say they're delicious, but I refrain. I imagine my expression matches the sulking dog's, who gets to enjoy even less of this spread than I do, and who scoffs at the rawhide we toss him as consolation.