If you read any magazine, blog, or Facebook group related to health, you'll most likely see someone recommending a detox of some kind. There are sooo many products out there touted to "cleanse and detoxify" your body. But do you REALLY need to do a detox? Can't our bodies detoxify on their own?
It may be tempting to jump on the bandwagon and purchase one of those 7-day-cleanse packages in hopes of dropping 5 pounds, instantly clearing your acne, or any of the dozens of other bogus health claims these products advertise. But you don't need to. Your body is astonishingly good at it on its own. You can, however, support your natural detoxification on a regular basis without some fad product. It’s your DAILY habits in the larger picture of your lifestyle that matter much more than a 7-day juice cleanse.
Our bodies are super amazing. On an ongoing basis without our even realizing it, there are thousands of processes happening behind the scenes inside of us. From the intricacies of digestion, to hormone production and use, to oxygen exchange in our lungs and blood, and so many more. Could it really be that somehow our bodies cant detoxify toxins on its own? Definitely not.
Our bodies are constantly detoxifying hundreds of different toxins we come into contact with, regularly and consistently. Lucky for us, we have some built-in detoxification pathways that cover all sorts of different toxins, so there isn't much we encounter regularly that can't be taken care of. Let's take a look at some of those different detoxification pathways so you can understand a little better how they work.
First, the largest organ and also the largest detoxifier is the liver. Think of the liver as a filter: it helps our body metabolize nutrients, eliminate harmful chemicals, heavy metals, alcohol, and drugs. It also helps to break down fats and filter blood. Our liver plays a vital role in carbohydrate metabolism (i.e. keeping our blood sugars stabilized), fat metabolism, and converting metabolites into “safe” by-products that can then be filtered out through our kidneys. Whole foods loaded with antioxidants and nutrients will help support our liver. Beets, for example, are a liver-loving veggie and you can add it to just about anything from smoothies and juices to pasta sauce!
Next, we have the digestive system. Not only is our digestives system made to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients from the foods we eat, but it's also a great way to rid our body of toxins. In more emerging research, our gut microbiome (i.e. our inner ecosystem of bacteria) has been shown to impact our immune system, moods/behaviors (from ADHD to depression), food intolerances, and overall inflammation in our body which may lead to certain chronic diseases. Having enough fiber from whole foods helps our body eliminate substances (i.e. heavy metals, chemicals, excess hormones, etc.) and metabolites from metabolic processes, helps our body maintain a healthy inner ecosystem that keeps us regular and reduces bad bacteria and yeast (which are naturally present). Choosing foods that are non-inflammatory and nourishing to your intestinal cells will help to support this detoxification pathway.
Then comes the kidneys. We've all heard the "drink lots of water to flush yourself out" mantra, right? Well, that is true, but as with everything, you CAN overdue it. Drinking half your body weight in ounces is a great goal to stay properly hydrated without flushing out too many electrolytes. Our kidneys are very efficient at filtering out waste and toxins in our system and out of our body through our urine. They’re also responsible for keeping our body in balance. For example, retaining electrolytes like sodium when we need them and getting rid of them if we have excess.
Did you know your skin is also a great way to get rid of toxins? It is mainly a barrier to keep things out, but it also allows us to excrete some toxins from our pores, like when we sweat. Our skin protects us from bacteria, viruses, and chemical toxins that shouldn’t enter our bodies. This is why having a good natural skincare routine is beneficial to help reduce these chemicals. Try to choose organic products made from sustainably sourced and clean ingredients to give your skin the nourishment it needs without stressing it with even more toxins.
How about your immune system? We usually think of the immune system as just fighting off infections, from bacteria and viruses. But how does that help to detoxify you? Our immune system is an incredibly complex system made up of cells, organs, and skin all with one goal in mind – to get rid of any foreign substance and eliminate it from our body. Our blood, lymphatic system, and all cells are involved in our immune system, but also in our detoxification systems too. After our body has fought of an enemy, like a virus, the dead viruses, cells and particles have to be removed from the body. Your lymphatic system does a great job of picking up and transporting them to rid them from the body. Nutrients in our diet that support our immune system include zinc, vitamin C, vitamin A, and antioxidants. I also highly recommend dry brushing to stimulate your lymphatic system to work efficiently.
SO, now that we have a little understanding of how we naturally detoxify, let's look at ways we can support healthy and efficient detoxification using whole foods sources.
Garlic and onions are high in sulfur and compounds that help to remove heavy metals from the body and can also prevent kidney damage caused by exposure. These sulfur-rich foods also help your body produce more glutathione, a critical antioxidant which latches onto and carries toxins out of the body.
Chlorella (a type of green algae) helps your body eliminate of mercury stored in your gastrointestinal tract, muscles and bones. If you’ve never eaten this before, you can try adding it to a green drink!
Vitamin B1, which is naturally found in peas, spinach, and pistachios, increases the excretion of lead from the body. Likewise, diets with sufficient vitamin B1 inhibits lead absorption and correlates with lower levels of lead in the blood.
Sunflower seeds, avocados, and almonds are high in Vitamin E, an antioxidant shown to protect the body from methylmercury. Avocados in particular can improve the health of your liver (your body’s primary detoxing organ).
Calcium-rich foods like collard greens and almonds protect your body from lead because more lead is absorbed by people on a calcium-poor diet.
Lemon juice stimulates the liver and helps your body flush out toxins. The vitamin C in lemon juice is also used by the body to produce glutathione.
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) and pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, a mineral shown to protect the kidneys from cadmium and can eliminate the symptoms of cadmium toxicity.
Cilantro (also called Chinese parsley) enhances your body’s ability to detox from heavy metals such as lead and mercury. It also has been shown to effectively purify drinking water that is contaminated with these toxins!
The lactic acid bacteria in kimchi has been shown to degrade the presence of pesticides. Probiotics also help to protect the body from BPA exposure, and also to detox from heavy metals and cancerous nitrosamines.
Beets and milk thistle both help to keep the liver healthy so that it can do its job to remove toxins from the blood.
Simply drinking plenty of filtered water every day (not from plastic bottles!) helps your body eliminate toxins by keeping your kidneys and bowels active.
Something as basic as fiber in our food helps to remove toxic waste from the body.
If you want to provide your body with some fuel and foods that encourage natural detoxification, try this delicious salad. This recipe uses whole foods to nourish you deep down to your cells and helps to enhance your natural detoxification abilities.
DETOX SALAD INGREDIENTS:
Choose all organic, if possible
3 cups finely-chopped kale leaves
2 cups finely-chopped broccoli florets
2 cups finely-chopped red cabbage
1 cup finely-chopped watercress
1 cup matchstick (shredded) carrots
1 cup roughly-chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/3 cup thinly-sliced green onions
1/2 avocado, peeled pitted and diced
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
Mix all ingredients together. Top with homemade Italian dressing and serve immediately.
You can support your body’s natural detoxification channels through eating whole foods, managing stress, sleeping, moving/exercising, daily bathroom breaks (bowel movements, urination), deep breathing, dry brushing your skin, putting natural products on your skin, sweating, drinking enough filtered water, and so on. You don't need expensive products or a 7 day fast to achieve normal detoxification. Just fuel your body with delicious, nutrient dense, whole foods and it will take care of the rest!