In the past decade, we’ve been hearing more and more about the practice of detoxing. Modern medicine finally seems to be jumping on the detox bandwagon, although the concept of detox goes back centuries. Ancient medicine used techniques like clay baths, panchakarma, oil pulling, and sweat lodges to rid the body of “bad humors”.
Modern detoxing practices have taken these ancient practices and infused the science and medicine of the 21st century. Sweat lodges have become infrared saunas, the essence of panchakarma is now found during massages at spas, and detoxifying clay can be found in many modern face masks. There are also a host of detox programs (my Whole Detox program included!) that transform these ancient methods of detox to suit the detoxing needs of our modern lives.
Whether ancient or modern, detoxing practices and programs at their root are simply supporting the body’s natural detoxification abilities. Many of us are unaware that under the surface our bodies are working diligently every second to clear toxic invaders out of our systems.
Specifically, there are five organs in the body that are responsible for processing the constant barrage of toxins in our bodies: our gut, liver, lungs, kidney, and skin. However, in our modern world, these organs are overwhelmed with the amount of toxins in our bodies - it’s been estimated we carry over 700 contaminants in our body at one time.
Simply put, your hardworking detox organs need a helping hand! Let’s look into the role of each organ and simple things you can do to make sure that each essential piece is able to process toxins at an optimal level:
The gut – consisting of the esophagus, stomach, intestines, and colon – is the first defender against toxins that you ingest. A well-balanced gut filters out essential nutrients from your food and drinks while sending toxins down the gastrointestinal tract to be excreted. However, if there is a pH imbalance, a lack of healthy bacteria, or a blockage in the gut, then toxins are often recirculated back into the body. To keep your gut functioning optimally, try these tips:
- Eat more fiber: Fiber-rich foods like root vegetables and gluten-free grains, offer a mechanical way of clearing toxins from the body. The sturdy material of the fiber “scrapes” toxins out of the gut and through the colon for elimination.
- Try probiotics: Certain types of probiotics called lactobacillus have been found to remove carginogens from the body and absorb heavy metals. Lactobacillus is most common in fermented dairy foods like yogurt and kefir, but can also be found in fermented dairy-free foods like miso or tempeh.
- Add some berberine to your diet: Berberine, a naturally occurring compound found in plant foods like Oregon grapes and tree turmeric, helps to restore healthy bacteria in the gut to prevent inflammation and aid in the natural detoxing processes of the system.
The liver is often recognized as the main organ for detoxing, and for a good reason. It is responsible for filtering out toxins from your blood and eliminating toxins that may arise during the digestion process. Support healthy liver function with the following tips:
- Supplement with milk thistle: Milk thistle is a powerful antioxidant that supports the health of liver cell membranes, reduces free radical production, and facilitates the elimination of toxins in the body. Milk thistle can be taken as a supplement – however, as with all supplements, it’s important to consult your physician before adding milk thistle supplements to your daily routine.
- Add turmeric to your meals: Turmeric is a detox superstar, boasting a host of health benefits. Within the liver, it has been shown to protect against liver damage, inhibit hyperplasia, and reduce inflammation. Turmeric can be added to a spectrum of dishes, including stirfrys, salad dressings, and smoothies.
- Drink dandelion root tea: Dandelion has been shown to reduce fatty liver and alcohol-induced oxidative stress. The tea, which can be found in most health-food stores, also has powerful antioxidant benefits.
Your kidneys help to maintain the delicate pH balance in your body, and are responsible for filtering out toxins from the blood and eliminating them in the form of urine. If your kidneys aren’t function optimally, toxins can remain in circulation throughout the body, causing harm. Show some love to your kidneys with these tips:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables: This tip could easily be included under any of the organs on this list! With regards to the kidney, a high intake of fruits and vegetables reduces our acid load, rendering our body more alkaline (the opposite of acidic). An alkaline body supports detox processes and overall health.
- Drink cranberry juice: Cranberry juice prevents unhealthy bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder, causing infections in the bladder and potentially the kidneys. This tasty red juice has also been shown to reduce painful and harmful kidney stones.
The lungs are tasked with a daunting job: ridding the body of all the pollutants that we inhale every time we take a breath. Ease the heavy load on your lungs with these tips:
- Invest in an air filter: While we might not be able to control the air outside of our home, you can turn your home into a clean-air safe haven with an air filter. A high-quality air filter will remove many of the air pollutants that may enter the home, reducing the work your lungs have to do.
- Exercise in clean air: If you choose to exercise outside, try to do it somewhere with good air quality, like a forest or a park full of trees. When we exercise, we’re often taking in big, gulping breaths of air (and toxins) that we hold inside. Changing your exercise spot to a place with cleaner air will minimize the toxins you breathe in during a particularly tough bout of cardio.
- Breathe out: The lung has a simple – and very effective – way of getting rid of toxins: breathing out! We can support this process by taking time every day to engage in deep breathing. Set aside a few minutes to try four square breathing, a relaxing deep-breathing pattern: Simply inhale for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, hold for four counts, and repeat. Do this in clean air for added benefits!
The skin is our largest detox organ – every pore is designed to help toxins exit the body. Unfortunately, the large surface of our skin also allows many toxins to get in. Here’s some ways to reduce your skin’s toxic burden and support its natural detox function:
- Switch up your personal care products: We may be conscious of toxins in our food and air, but many of us don’t think of the toxic chemicals in the personal care products we slather on our skin every day. Look at the lotions, soaps, shampoos, and makeup you are using. If the ingredient list is full of chemicals you can’t pronounce, change your products for natural, organic options.
- Try skin brushing: While it might sound strange, using a large, dry, boar-bristle brush daily on your skin helps to unclog pores and release any toxins stuck to the surface of your skin. Dry brush your whole body once a day, and shower afterwards (in filtered water, of course!) to clear off the residue from brushing.
While the barrage of information about detoxing in the media might seem overwhelming, remember that you can always keep it simple! By supporting your body’s natural detox organs and processes with the tips above, you’ll help your body stay healthy, functioning, and happy, even in our toxic world!