Is Detoxing Real & Does It Work?
You’ve had a tough weekend and you can feel it in your body. Puffy and sluggish with dark circles under your eyes. This isn’t new… you’ve actually been feeling quite off-track these days, allowing yourself to eat and drink things that are normally on your “no” list.
Now, you’ve heard that cleansing or detoxing can help. But does it really? If you try it, does it mean you’ll be stuck near the toilettes for the weekend or will you need to take gross-tasting supplements? Let’s explore.
Why do we need to detox?
Detoxing is something that your body does naturally. If it didn’t, we’d be in much worse health! Basically, detoxification is the purification of the blood and the removal of toxins from the body. As we journey through life, we accumulate toxins from our environment: in the water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the products we put on your skin. These toxins must be disarmed and removed by the body to maintain equilibrium and health.
What is a toxin? A toxin is basically any substance that creates an irritating or potentially harmful effect on the body. They can undermine our health and create stress on our biochemical or organ functions. Toxins can accumulate through our environment, as mentioned, but also from our cellular byproducts.
As toxins accumulate, they overburden the body’s systems and can disrupt cellular processes. This may lead to acute or chronic illness, including cancer. Toxicity occurs when we take in more toxins than we can eliminate.
What are some signs that you may need to detox?
When toxins enter or are created in our body faster than we can eliminate them, our “toxic load” increases. Once this happens, you may find yourself experiencing the following symptoms:
- Acne or other skin conditions
- Weight gain
- Joint pain
- Mood swings and/or panic attacks
- Fertility problems
- Memory loss
- Digestive and inflammatory disorders
- Immune deficiencies, cancer
By supporting your body’s detoxifying organs, you can help to regain normal function of your organs, clear congestion and disease potential and improve your energy. Detoxifying also rejuvenates your tissues and prevents degeneration.
How does our body eliminate toxins?
Your body comes equipped with its own detoxification. There are several organs involved in keeping your toxic load as manageable as possible.
Liver – your liver converts toxic substances so that they can easily be removed by the body.
Colon – the colon removes fat-soluble toxins via elimination.
Lymphatic system – a network of vessels and lymph nodes that carry cellular waste from tissues around the body into the blood and vice versa.
Kidneys – the kidneys remove water-soluble toxins via urine.
Lungs – your lungs remove volatile toxins through expiration.
Skin – your skin removes toxins through sweat. This organ is also closely linked to the liver.
These organs are also responsible for many different functions. An imbalance can occur when they are over-performing all of their duties. A detox can help lessen the toxicity in your body so that your vital organs can continue to perform optimally and without fatigue.
How can we support our detoxifying organs?
Of course, there are many different ways to detox. Before we discuss the different detoxification programs available online, let’s look at some natural and easy ways to support your organs on a regular basis. Reducing your exposure to toxins and drinking plenty of water to flush your system is a general way to keep your toxic load manageable. However, there are more specific ways that you can support your detoxifying organs.
The liver is the 2nd largest organ in the body (after the skin). Virtually everything you consume passes through your liver for inspection. If your diet is filled with non-nutrients, laden with pesticides and artificial ingredients, your liver has to work extra hard to cleanse and metabolize that diet. This can make your liver sluggish and slower in it’s work on some really important things such as: cholesterol metabolism, hormone production, amino acid breakdown (aka protein) and glycogen and nutrient storage (B12 and iron for example). Decreasing your intake of toxins will definitely lighten the amount of work your liver must do. Proper nutrition will also enable your liver’s enzymes to work optimally.
For extra support, or to help your liver detoxify, try the following:
- Avoid the top 7 allergens for a minimum of 10 days: soy, corn, wheat, tree nuts, dairy, shellfish and eggs
- Add one serving of cruciferous veggies daily: broccoli, bok choy, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage
- Include more liver supporting foods in your diet: kale, onions, lemons, green apples, dandelion, spinach, arugula, alfalfa. Chlorophyll, which is the green pigment that gives plants their colour acts as both a liver tonic and a liver cleanser.
- Start your day with lemon water.
The colon is part of the large intestine, the final part of the digestive system. Its function is to reabsorb fluids and process waste products from the body and prepare for its elimination. Transit time, the amount of time waste sits in the colon, is important to note. The longer the waste is in the colon, the more likely toxins may be reabsorbed into the bloodstream. This is also a factor for those with high-cholesterol. Transit time should be within 36 hours.
Transit test: You can test your transit time by eating either corn, which is indigestible, or beets, which stain your waste. Notice the amount of time it takes for either of these to pass through your system.
Ways to support a healthy colon:
- Eat a lot of fiber in the form of vegetables and whole grains. Fiber binds to toxins to more will be excreted. Fiber also adds “bulk” to your waste products, triggering a release. It is easy to get your daily 35g of fiber if you are eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. If you find you are not eating fiber rich foods at every meal and snack, you may consider a fiber supplement such as ground psyllium or ground flax seed. You must drink a lot of water if you are supplementing.
- Drink plenty of water. Water will help keep your bowels moving. When you are dehydrated, so is your stool, making it difficult to pass.
- Exercise. Movement actually helps the natural muscle contractions, peristalsis, that move food through your digestive tract.
- Limit red and processed meats. Having red or processed meats daily increases your risk of colon cancer by 15 to 20 percent. If you are choosing to eat some red meat, limit your intake to 4 oz twice weekly and remember that it is best to avoid processed meats as they often contain other components such as preservatives that can negatively impact your health.
The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to protect the body from outside threats. This system consists of vessels, similar to veins and capillaries, and lymph nodes such as tonsils, adenoids, spleen and thymus, which filter the lymph fluid. What’s important to note is that the lymphatic system does not have a pump, unlike the cardiovascular system. This means that to keep your lymph fluid moving, you need to activate it by moving your body. You may have heard about “rebounding” (jumping on a mini-trampoline) as a way to improve your immune health and detoxify by stimulating lymphatic activity.
Here are some other ways you can maintain a strong immune system:
- Follow an anti-inflammatory diet. The more nutrient dense your diet, the better your whole body will perform. Foods that stress the digestive, circulatory and immune system are the common allergens, low-quality animal products, refine vegetable oils and processed foods. On the other hand, anti-inflammatory foods give your body the nutrients and antioxidants it needs while reducing free radical damage. Include more green leafy vegetables, cruciferous veggies, berries, omega-3 rich foods like salmon and walnuts, nuts and seeds (chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin etc), extra virgin olive and coconut oils, herbs and spices like ginger, turmeric and garlic.
- Get a massage. Massage, whether it be self-massage or done by a professional, can be used as a way to prevent swelling, pain and fluid build up in tissues. Massage can activate the lymphatic system and help flush excess fluid from within tissues. In fact, “lymphatic drainage massage” is a specialized massage therapy offered by trained massage therapists that helps cells release toxins and breaks up lymph congestion.
- Dry Brushing. This technique not only helps your skin but can also promote lymphatic drainage. What is it? Exactly what it sounds like. It’s the practice of taking a large, dry brush and brushing the skin in a particular pattern to promote health; usually before showering. Since many of the lymph vessels are just below the skin, brushing the skin helps stimulate lymph flow which naturally detoxifies the body.
- Drink a lot of water. Lymphatic fluid is about 95% water, making water a crucial element to a healthy lymphatic system. Without enough water, lymphatic fluid cannot flow properly and can become congested.
Kidneys are one of our vital organs and they help process everything that you put in your system. They pass waste as urine. They filter blood before returning it to the heart. They also help create hormones that produce red blood cells, promote bone health and regulate blood pressure. Kidneys also regulate the body’s salt, potassium and acid content. Their job entails filtering about 200 quarts of fluid every 24 hours! When they become overworked, there is a body-wide impact.
Here are some ways you can support your kidneys:
- Hydration. Water helps the kidneys remove wastes from your blood in the form of urine. Water helps keep your blood vessels open so that blood can travel freely to your kidneys, delivering essential nutrients to them. When you are dehydrated, this is more difficult.
- Quit Smoking. Obviously, smoking is pretty much 100% ingestion of toxins. Smoking can also damage blood vessels which then decrease the flow of blood to the kidneys. When the kidneys don’t have adequate blood flow, they can’t function optimally.
- Don’t take too many over-the-counter drugs. Common non-prescription medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen can cause kidney damage over time.
- Include more kidney supporting foods such as: lemon juice, dandelion, parsley, ginger, turmeric, watermelon, pumpkin seeds, cranberry, grapes, spirulina, green tea, blueberries, millet, barley and baking soda. Don’t over-do-it with foods that drain your organs such as caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, nuts, sweet potatoes and refined products like sugar, table salt, and white flour. These foods are very hard for the body to process and put added strain on the kidneys.
Your lungs are responsible for filtering out toxins like carbon dioxide, fumes, mold, allergens and airborne toxins. The respiratory system may also excrete phlegm. What’s interesting to note is that as you inhale toxins or airborne pollutants, your alveoli (part of your lungs) become porous and can act as an emergency exit for toxins that the liver, kidneys and colon did not succeed in eliminating. These substances are transported by the blood stream towards the lungs and squeeze through the alveoli as phlegm. This phlegm not only consists of microbes and the products of their activity, but also of waste resulting from insufficient digestion and excretion.
What are some ways to support your lungs?
- You naturally detoxify your lungs simply by breathing and exhaling deeply.
- Ensure good quality sleep. Sleep apnea and excessive snoring tends to make it more difficult for your lungs to detoxify overnight. You can use a Himalayan salt lamp to help clean your lungs further.
- Take a hot shower or visit a sauna. This is a natural way to get your body sweating, which actually helps your lungs get rid of toxic substances.
- Start loving oregano and ginger. Oregano is rich in natural decongestants and ginger helps eliminate air pollutants from the air passages before they have a change to irritate your lungs.
The skin is the body’s largest organ. It’s role is vast and includes protecting the internal layers from wear and tear, protecting against infection, chemicals and invaders, protection against UV rays, maintaining body temperature, absorption and excretion along with nutrient and water storage. Like your lungs, it can excrete toxins through sweat. All forms of detox can benefit the skin.
Some of our top recommendations:
- Exercise. This benefits your skin’s detoxification through sweating and releasing toxins this way. But, as we know, exercise benefits so much more than just your skin!
- Reduce your exposure to toxins. “What’s on the skin goes in” is a saying that you can adopt. Check the toxicity levels of your body lotions, shampoos and other beauty products. Yes, our skin is a barrier to toxins but it is also a vital organ. Keep it healthy by minimizing it’s exposure to toxic chemicals.
- Epsom Salt Baths. Epsom salts are made of magnesium and sulfate. Magnesium helps the body do so many different functions, including the removal of toxins. Not only will an epsom salt bath soften rough skin, but it can exfoliate dead skin cells and soothe skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
- Add some blue and red to your diet. There are certain foods that will specifically aid the health of the skin. Try adding more blueberries, purple cabbage, beets, walnuts and sunflower seeds to your diet.
Is detoxing for everyone?
Almost everyone can benefit from giving their body a boost. If you are using a lot of medications or you need to clear past or present addictions, detoxifying can really support your body remove the build-up of ingesting toxins so that it can function the way nature intended. Detoxing is also a great way to prevent future illness. Once the immune system becomes taxed due to a toxin overload, you are vulnerable to other infections or ailments.
However, at times, toxicity and allergic symptoms can be quite similar. This is why it is recommended to start by removing the common allergens (soy, corn, eggs, dairy, tree nuts, wheat) before starting to detoxify as detoxifying can, at first, cause stress on the body. This is why it is not recommended to detox if you are pregnant, nursing or receiving chemo. Also, the symptoms noted above can be an indication of a more serious underlying condition and it may be beneficial to speak with a medical professional before starting any program, especially if you take medications.
Outside of fertility, pregnancy or chemo, participating in a detox program is a great way to give your organs a break. It also seems to be a good psychological tool for helping to cut back or eliminate unhealthy components of your diet, like sugar or alcohol. This doesn’t have to be a strict program of eating only beets for 10 days. You need to remember that your body detoxifies naturally every day and that anything that supports elimination also helps detoxification. However, if you were to “do a detox”, what would be your options?
If you’re interested in trying a specific program designed to help you detoxify, where would you even begin to explore options that would be best for your system? As mentioned, there are easy and natural ways that you can cleanse. Eliminate sugar and food allergens and focus on eating whole, live, natural foods.
However, any search for detox programs online will provide you with over 71 million sites to visit. All of them ranging from alcohol detox centers to the lemon detox program. Either way, it can be a confusing world online.
What’s trending now?
One of the reasons that detox programs may have become so popular is because people do feel better after the initial toxins flush. Plus, most people can wrap their heads around a 3-10 day commitment to major change and, potentially, significant weight loss. But, without changing lifestyle habits long term, the weight will return and the symptoms of a toxic environment will re-emerge.
Here are four of the top detoxes in 2018
A juice cleanse is exactly what it sounds like… drinking juice only. But wait, isn’t juice something you’re trying to avoid? Generally speaking, it can be, depending on your needs and goals. And, we’re not talking about your child’s apple juice drinking box. We mean cold-pressed juice that’s fresh and full of enzymes and nutrients.
On a juice cleanse, only the extract squeezed from fruits and vegetables is consumed for anywhere from one day to two weeks. Many come prepackaged and delivered to your doorstep, sold by companies that claim that juice provides all the nutrition you need while keeping your digestive system from being taxed. But the body needs fiber to remove toxins through the GI tract. Something that juices don’t provide. Couple that with the lack of protein, fat and calories and you’re setting yourself up for hunger, low nutritional quotas and an eventual risk for malnutrition. Additionally, even juices without added sugar tend to be high on the glycemic index, which means your blood glucose levels will spike and then fall dramatically after consuming them, particularly without other food in your stomach. This can lead to even more hunger and fatigue.
Soup is the new Juice. Lower on the glycemic index and a heartier alternative to fruit. People are turning to more fiber-rich vegetable and bone-broth-based recipes for light and nutrient-packed meals. Bone broth has many added benefits including stronger bones and joints along with a more robust immune system.
Other popular liquid cleanses use brewed tea, apple cider vinegar, or lemon water as their main detoxifying ingredient, And while some research does link the benefits of those foods to overall health, they aren’t necessarily the magic ingredient on their own. The best detoxifying liquid to flush out toxins is… water. Although some detox programs focus solely on apple cider vinegar, green tea and lemons to improve liver and kidney function, there is no solid scientific data to back up the claims of these ingredients improving your removal of toxic substances on their own. Again, the body needs fiber to detoxify and lemon water doesn’t contain the fiber necessary in order for the body to “self-cleanse”. These ingredients can be beneficial parts of a whole food based detox diet.
Many people use colon cleanses as a means to keep the colon healthy. This process includes taking laxatives, teas, powders or supplements, using enemas, or getting colonic irrigation (colon hydrotherapy) to flush out the colon and removing “waste build-up”. Yes, colon cleanses can be helpful in eliminating/washing away toxins from the body, but, as always, these methods should be as natural as possible. Strong and harsh chemicals may provide temporary relief, but in the long run can negatively impact your colon health. There can be side effects to cleansing, and some practices can become habitual and even dangerous. Documented risks can range from nausea, diarrhea, and dehydration to constipation, and even kidney and liver failure. Perhaps more significant, constantly flushing out the colon can remove the healthy bacteria that thrive there. Recent research has linked the bacteria in your GI tract to a whole host of health benefits.
Rather than using harsh means, work on helping your body naturally clear out the bowels by eating fiber-rich foods, drinking enough water and providing healthy lubrication like a daily tablespoon of coconut oil to your diet. A healthy colon is cleared out completely every three days.
Have you ever tried an infrared sauna?
This simple treatment is a valuable way to naturally detox your body and support an overall healthy immune system. Infrared sauna therapy works by using infrared light to heat the body by penetrating into the deeper layers of the skin and tissues rather than by simply increasing the temperature of the room to make you hot and sweaty. It is believed that by penetrating deeper, it can promote cell regeneration, allow more toxins to be removed from tissues, and improve blood flood which helps with tissue healing. This is critical for lymphatic, skeletal and muscular health.
What if you don’t want to follow a “program”?
Going back to the point that your body does detoxify naturally, you can easily use a gentle approach to “get clean”. In fact, a whole food based program will give your body the support it needs to that the BODY can determine the best use of this nutrition and how to heal.
Top 10 Detox Foods
- Green Leafy Vegetables: chlorophyll helps to remove environmental toxins
- Lemons: Vitamin C, the detox vitamin, helps convert toxins into a water-soluble form to be more easily removed by the body.
- Watercress: these peppery leaves have a diuretic effect.
- Garlic: activates the liver enzymes that help remove toxins
- Papaya and pineapple: promote better digestion and reduce inflammation.
- Sesame seeds: help to protect liver cells from the damaging effects of alcohol and other chemicals. Also high in calcium.
- Cabbage: activates two types of detoxifying enzymes in the liver.
- Psyllium: a plant that’s rich in soluble fiber and binds to toxins (cholesterol too) and helps clear them out of the system.
- Beets, artichokes, green apples, pears, berries, asparagus, broccoli, legumes, and seeds.
- Parsley: contains enzymes that decrease oxidative damage in the body, supporting liver detoxification. Parsley also acts as a diuretic.
By adding more of these foods and eliminating the foods that can cause an overload (sugar, food allergens, processed foods and meats, red meats, dairy), your body can continue doing the tough job of removing toxicity in the body.
It is possible to do a cleanse safely if you follow the guidelines recommended by experts and keep in mind that a few days of bottled beverages may magically solve your health issues or make you 10 pounds lighter but that weight or those symptoms will quickly return if you don’t make long-term sustainable changes.
If you are ready to make some changes, decide how gentle or drastic you’re going to go. Then, pick a reasonable timeframe for your cleanse. Depending on your choices, you’ll need to adjust this from three days (for severe caloric restriction such as juicing) to 28 days for an elimination diet. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of clean water throughout the cleanse, and eat if you feel faint or nauseous. It’s a good idea to get your physician’s approval, too.
A healthier way to think about resetting yourself is to lose the restrictive mindset and instead focus on foods you can add to your diet for their nutritional benefits. Not only will this help your body run properly, but it will also help you effectively remove internal waste products. Also, remember that you can also support your physical body by changing some simple things in your environment. Drink filtered water. Change your beauty products or laundry detergents to something more gentle and toxin-free. Buy organic foods, as much as possible. Pick your battles and make small changes for long-term success.
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