Our bodies have an innate detoxification system to help us overcome our less-than-perfect world. Detoxification, or the removal of toxins from our bodies, is primarily carried out through our circulation, and by sweating, breathing and digestion. Rather than quick-fix detoxes, we should really be focusing on supporting our body’s natural detoxification system.
When your diet or environment has been less than ideal, you can turn to any or all of the natural detox methods below for the ultimate self-care. No gimmicks here, just science-backed ways to support detoxification, so you can “detox” your body naturally.
Water doesn’t just quench our thirst. Water lubricates our joints, improves our energy, reduces our hunger sensations and yes, is required for optimal detoxification, especially via our kidneys, skin and bowels. Adequate hydration is associated with lower risks of many diseases.
Aim to drink at least half your body weight in ounces in clear fluids or enough that your urine is very pale in color.
Eat your veggies.
Fruits and vegetables are chock full of the nutrients that our detox pathways thrive on—vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli (especially broccoli sprouts), Brussel sprouts and kale contain phytochemicals and sulfur-rich compounds that have potent anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits. These vegetables also support liver detoxification by increasing glutathione production, an important antioxidant for reducing oxidative stress.
Other dark leafy greens like dandelion greens, and beets are also detox-supporting superstars. Choosing organic produce will reduce your exposure to pesticides and other chemicals that further increase your toxic burden.
Sprinkle in herbs and spices.
Turmeric is a well-known anti-inflammatory root that also helps to improve circulation, relieve pain, reduce cancer risk and support liver detox by increasing glutathione levels. Make sure to stock up on sulfur-rich garlic, anti-viral ginger, antioxidant-rich herbs like thyme, rosemary and more.
Sip on some tea.
Green tea’s polyphenols, GTE and EGCG, have been shown to induce detox pathways in the liver as well as protect the liver from damage when it is exposed to mycotoxins and aflatoxins during the detoxification process. They also both appear to inhibit certain enzymes, CYP2E1, that when overactive can lead to increased oxidative stress and higher cancer risk. Other research has shown tea to have a wide range of health benefits.
Chlorella is a green algae that animal research shows can increase the elimination of heavy metals like mercury through urine and stool. Another study found chlorella supplementation in pregnant and lactating women reduced the levels of dioxin, a harmful environmental toxin, in breastmilk.
Similar to spirulina, chlorella can be found as a powder you can stir into smoothies or baked goods.
Get your fiber.
Fiber is essential to keep food material moving properly through the digestive tract. A lack of fiber contributes to constipation and stool sitting in the colon for too long, enabling toxins to be reabsorbed into the body. Fiber also feeds gut bacteria, helping it thrive, which influences toxicity. Berries, chia seeds, almonds, beans, Jerusalem artichokes, barley and peas are excellent examples of high fiber foods.
Stress limits the body’s ability to detoxify efficiently. There are countless ways to manage stress and accelerate the removal of toxins while simultaneously decreasing the burden on the body. The key is to find the strategy that works best for you and that you can be consistent with. Meditation, exercise, massage, deep breathing and regular sauna use have all been shown to help combat the effects of stress. Exercise, like sauna use, improves our circulation, helps our lymphatic tissue drain, and enables our body to eliminate toxins through sweat. Combining cardio and weight training appears to raise glutathione more than one type of exercise alone.
Due to all of the significant benefits these stress-reducing strategies can provide, incorporating more than one, or all of them if you can, on a regular basis would be ideal.
Catch some zzz’s.
When stress, anxiety and the business of life hits, sleep often takes a hit too. Unfortunately, that is when we need it the most. Sleep is when our body repairs, heals and restores itself, helping us prepare for the next day. This is especially important in the brain, because deep sleep triggers the brain’s waste removal system, the glymphatic drainage system, to clear away toxins that can lead to neurodegenerative diseases.
Most experts recommend aiming for 7-9 hours of quality sleep a night.
Clean up your diet.
Some dietary components such as sugar, alcohol and refined flour-based foods increase our toxic load, inflammation, and oxidative stress and even dampen our bodies ability to combat damage. Alcohol reduces levels of the antioxidant glutathione in the lungs (which detoxify by expelling carbon dioxide), while sugar and high glycemic, wheat-based foods can increase insulin and glucose levels, which promotes inflammation.
Fructose which is often obtained in the diet from fructose-sweetened beverages like soda increases the stress hormone cortisol and body fat accumulation. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, has been shown to increase inflammation in the gut lining, weakening the intestinal barrier in those who are sensitive. This may contribute to toxins leaking out of the intestines and into the bloodstream, which reduces the ability for those toxins to be eliminated via stool. By avoiding these foods you can relieve some of the stress on the detoxification system.
Minimize environmental toxins.
Plastics, heavy metals, personal care products and household cleaners all contribute to our toxic load. Many of these chemicals are known as obesogens and endocrine disruptors, interfering with normal metabolism and weight management. Reducing exposure to these types of toxins puts less stress on our detoxification pathways so our systems are not overwhelmed.
Do you need a detox?
Think you’ve overdone it and not treated your body well? Not to worry, these powerful foods, nutrients and glutathione-boosting strategies are enough to keep most people’s detoxification pathways running smoothly without the need for a more intensive approach.
Since all of these tips are consistent with a healthy lifestyle and carry minimal to no risk or side effects, you can stack all of these together in your favor.
However, in rare cases, such as those exposed to high levels of heavy metals or poisons, more comprehensive or even emergent treatment by a physician may be necessary. It is also possible to have genetic predispositions on the genes that code for detoxification, which can make the process less efficient and increases your need to be vigilant in avoiding as many contaminants as possible. In this case, working with a knowledgeable functional medicine practitioner or other healthcare provider help you understand how to improve your overall functioning.
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