Health & Beauty: Analyze your diet

A 21-day internal-cleansing kit brings acne, migraines and a $275 price tag. Is it worth it for a bikini body?

Illustration by Mark Stivers

Ah, summer. Time to start thinking about triple-digit weather, trips to the beach and barbecues by the pool, not to mention that one article of clothing that terrifies those of us who have put on a few pounds over the winter months: the bathing suit.

With summer barreling down on me like a stampede of wild horses, I decided to clean up my act and go on an organ-detoxification program. I ordered the 21-day Internal Cleansing Kit produced by the Massachusetts-based medicinal-herb company Blessed Herbs, running $275 online.

The kit promises to nourish, heal and soothe the toxic weary, but the regimen isn’t for the squeamish or undisciplined. The pre-meal capsules can number as many as 10 at a time and resemble something that should be dispensed to the equine set. The herbal elixirs taste eerily like liquefied bark. In order to achieve the highest level of cleanse, the herbalists at Blessed Herbs suggest eliminating dairy products, fried foods, sugar, salt, alcoholic beverages and meat. As if this wasn’t enough of a challenge, my 21-day plan also coincided with my birthday and previously planned trips to Chicago and Las Vegas.

So long, happy hour!

The cleanse also requires plenty of time in the bathroom, between the copious amount of water I am instructed to consume and the recommended three daily bowel movements—aided in part by a component of the cleanse known as the “digestive stimulator.” Better splurge on double-ply toilet paper.

The system is a four-pronged attack on the toxins that ravage and deplete the body. Starting with the digestive system, the first seven days focus on the removal of mucoid plaque—a layer of adhesive, hardened mucus lining the inner walls of the intestine and typically compacted with old fecal matter, bound-up toxic waste and unwanted guests (i.e., parasitic organisms). Ick!

The first week also welcomed my birthday. Devastated by the prospect of no birthday cake, I searched for dining options outside my home that adhered to the strict guidelines of the program—slim pickings in Sacramento. Ultimately, I stumbled across Café Americain in Old Sacramento and found its menu embraces the organic, vegan lifestyle I was now part of. I abstained from the caviar and champagne, but welcomed the succulent, verdant selection of delicate vegetables artistically arranged on a canvas of white porcelain.

Week two of the program ushered in the purification of the body’s major detoxifying organs: the liver and gallbladder. Unfortunately, my second week’s voyage into clean living also brought with it a “health crisis.” It’s a perfectly normal reaction, according to the accompanying literature. My body begged to differ as migraine headaches wracked my brain and lethargy consumed what felt like every muscle, joint and ligament in my body. This just in time for my trips to the Windy and Sin cities. My liver and gallbladder had had enough. Darn you, happy hour!

Chicago, the meat capital of the U.S., is surprisingly vegan-friendly. Thanks to the all-vegetarian Chicago Diner, I have now embraced a new non-meat protein. So long tofu, all hail seitan!

In Las Vegas, I began to doubt I could continue faithfully on my journey to inner cleanliness. I should have known I was in for trouble by the nature of the trip—my cousin’s bachelorette party. There was bottle service at Pure Nightclub. There was the smarmy waiter at Mesa Grill who said to me, after I inquired about amending a dish, “Mr. [Bobby] Flay does not allow any substitutions with his dishes.” I barely made it out of the oasis of debauchery with my mission intact.

Having thoroughly annoyed all of my travel companions, not to mention the pitiable wait staff that had the misfortune of serving me (explaining the cooking techniques, lists of ingredients and subsequent substitutions for any dish that crossed my path), I returned to Sacramento and set out on the third leg of the program. It was time to move on to the body’s oxygenating and purifying organs: the lungs, kidneys and bladder.

Happily, this stage of the cleanse did not bring another health crisis. However, much to my surprise, I began to crave sugar. Ordinarily, I don’t yearn for the sweet stuff, but having completely eliminated it from my diet, my body went into shock. Again, I questioned my ability to forge on. Inspired by the kit’s $275 price tag, I trudged through.

Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly force down another beet, carrot and apple juice for breakfast, I embarked on the fourth and final stage of the cleanse. The focus this time is on the lymphatic system, blood and skin, or what the program calls “the rivers of life throughout the body.” Knowing that in just seven more days I’d have completed the most challenging and rewarding endeavor of my existence, I pressed on.

According to Blessed Herbs, by the time the body moves to the final stage of the program, the blood and lymphatic system is overwrought by a flood of toxins as the other organs flush out their chemicals during the previous phases of cleansing. Luckily, the scourge of acne and red, irritated skin that accompanied this stage soon gave way to clear, radiant skin. Finally able to leave the house without caking on the cover-up, I stopped thinking about investing in Clearasil stock.

While not endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration, the kit lived up to its promise. After completing the program, not only did I feel completely rejuvenated in mind, body and spirit, but I no longer had to pull, squeeze and tug to get into my favorite jeans. While I’m not quite ready to stay the course of a mostly raw, vegan diet, I’m inspired to continue with a more mindful approach to eating. Now, time to go bikini shopping!