Cleansing with Dr. Luke Fortney


I’m lucky to have a friend like Luke in my life. It’s my pleasure to give you the first installment of a little Q&A he and I are doing, discussing the cleanse he developed. I hope you enjoy and find some great insight!

Welcome to Fit Club Dr. Luke Fortney!

Welcome to Fit Club Dr. Luke Fortney!

Q: Not all physicians take a holistic approach to medicine; why do you believe that the elements in the cleanse are an important part of general health and wellbeing?

A: The more you learn about biology, the more mysterious it becomes. And the more you look at human beings and just experience living, it becomes even more amazing and mysterious, in the realm of awe I think ultimately. The mind and meditation were always things that were interesting to me, and the intersection of biology, medicine, consciousness and healing were even more interesting. It all seems to come together in people and how we stay well and get well. Most of healing, nearly all of it intact, is just the body doing what it does. Now, it gets off kilter from time to time and overreacts and needs some guidance and help (e.g. appendicitis, meningitis, myocardial infarction, pulmonary embolism, anaphylaxis, and on and on and on). That’s what we’ve always called medicine. So what we do in medicine is really try to assist the body. But the body is still doing all the work (e.g. antibiotics only allow time for the body and its immune system to finally clear out infection). Everyday, you and I have cancer cells forming that the immune system and our own built in DNA repair machinery recognizes and destroys. Pretty remarkable if you think about it that way. Add to this, all the strain we’ve added to our body by not moving, eating unhealthful foods, smoking, drinking heavy, and its easy to see how this system gets bogged down and strained.

The first rule in medicine is: “do no harm.” The first rule to healing is “remove the obstacles to healing” meaning that if we just get out of the way and stop punching it, the body will naturally repair and heal itself. This is just what it does. There is no debate about this. Everyday, our bodies are dealing with toxins from the outside, and what are produced inside. It has always done this and is actually really good at it. But modern lifestyle has really taken it to its limits. There are so many conditions I see that don’t have a clear answer, but are actually signs of strain on the system (just look at that long list on the detox). Whatever our vulnerable points, which are different from person to person, that is where we manifest different symptoms. It’s all tied together and what affects one part of the system (including mind body connection) affects the whole system.

The detox is just a “control, ALT, delete” for the system. It’s actually a prescription to “re-set” or jump start things…mostly by what we remove!. Often we think of going to the doctor and taking a medicine of some kind. But the premise of a cleanse like this is to begin to remove those things that are directly impeding what the body is trying to do 24 hours a day 7 days a week for your whole life. For most of us in the US (according to the CDC), this is the place to start pretty much no matter what the problem or diagnosis is (there are some obvious serious disease states where this wouldn’t be appropriate initially).

Q: Why do you think detoxing or cleansing is a healthy practice for us?

A: Its a way to anchor yourself, so that health is least likely to quietly escape when we’re not noticing. It rev’s up the system and clears it out. We seem to understand this with our cars and any type of engine. Its the same for us. At times we need to reset, to get out of the way of what the body is just trying to do.

Q: What can most people expect if this is their first time participating in a cleanse – are there symptoms or side-effects?

A: First, it is not designed to be an endurance test or what George’s dad on Seinfeld might call “feats of strength.” Somehow in our culture we’re always doing that: if it isn’t really hard or painful, then I must not be doing it right (e.g. exercise and diet). I try to tell people to really read through it first, and to make preparations a week or more ahead of time. And then if you’re going to do it, REALLY DO IT. It’s only a week, and in doing it, it is a project. In essence the whole thing is really just an experiential awareness exercise: let me see for myself what it is like to do this, to eat healthy and do healthy things. I can talk til I’m blue in the face (most physicians do), but until a person experiences what good healthy behaviors feel like, they’ll never really know. Show a man how to fish kind of a thing.

In the beginning, most people withdraw (literally, just like drugs and alcohol) from sugar, caffeine, etc. Modern food is highly manipulated combinations of fat, salt and sugar that do the same things in our limbic system that heroin does. So sometimes diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, irritability can be expected. By mid week though, if people stick with it and listen to their bodies and make appropriate adjustments (e.g. drink lots of fluid and don’t starve, EAT!), their bodies are starting to run more efficiently and we begin to actually experience the buzz and high energy, which is really our normal state.

Q: Do you believe that cleansing can actually impact physical symptoms like sinus issues, headache, and heartburn?

A: Yes, absolutely, this is why this was created in the first place. Modern medicine is mostly dealing with fatigue, chronic fatigue, chronic headaches, frequent migraine headaches, sinusitis, congestion, sleep problems, irritable bowel, joint and muscle aches, skin problems, mental cloudiness and concentration problems etc etc etc. Our culture teaches us to reach for the quick fixes and pills, which are powerful and effective, but they are a double edged sword and carry consequences. For example, use of chronic antacids leads to significant problems in the long run (now there are cases where daily use of these medications is appropriate), as one example. Most of our current chronic lifestyle diseases (heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, glucose elevation/diabetes type 2, many types of cancers, etc) eventually result from what the CDC calls “4 modifiable health risk behaviors” namely smoking, heavy alcohol use, poor diet, and being sedentary. Some reasonable and reputable models suggest that we can wipe out 80% of our chronic ailments and health problems simply by not smoking, no to moderate alcohol, moving around a little bit, and eating a fairly healthy diet overall. Big impact for such a little intervention.

Q: How important are the recommended supplementary practices, like journaling, vitamin supplements and energy work? 

A: The mind body connection is involved with everything, and is the most unrecognized and under appreciated aspect of health in our culture. There is a saying that “the sorrow that hath no vent in tears makes other organs weep.” Journaling is one of the cheapest but most powerful tools to get at the root of much of our despair and stress. Infact, obesity in our culture at it’s root is not even really about food, it’s about mood, stress, thoughts, and behavior. We self medicate our despair and sorrows with food (again fat, salt and sugar stimulate the brain’s pleasure centers like alcohol and drugs). So its mind body and body mind. They are inextricably connected. Nowadays there really isn’t any debate about this. I can go on and on and on and give lots of examples, both extreme and common that illustrate the powerful and universal effects of the mind body connection.

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