Time for a detox has practically become a household phrase. What used to be attained through a simple healthy lifestyle, is now a massive market filled with magic pills and 48 hour fat flush promises, destined to be empty.
The real key to detoxification is through building up strength in the eliminatory organs through whole foods and natural herbs.
Not to dissuade you from properly cleansing your body of accumulated junk, but there’s a lot of hoaky products out there making false claims.
Which is why it’s important to talk about what a detox actually is and how our bodies remove toxins.
Some would say our eliminatory organs do this without any help, that our organs are designed to eliminate foreign and toxic materials.
Of course this is true to an extent but more likely was the case before we decided to rely on chemicals to grow our food and toxic industries to provide us with energy.
How can we help ourselves to remove these toxins from our bodies? There are many methods that we can incorporate into our daily lives to help lessen the toxic burden our organs have to bear.
I like to call this process, changing the filters, when your filters are clogged (3), they aren’t productive and they don’t really do their job well.
This same thing happens to our eliminatory organs when they are overburdened by excessive toxicity. Luckily, there are a number of ways we can help our bodies to release what is no longer serving us.
The Meaning of Detoxification
Detoxification is the primary focus of our eliminatory organs (4). The different systems in our bodies work together to expel, transmute or neutralize harmful and foreign substances which could potentially cause a threat.
This internal cleansing regimen happens regardless of our actions, but the efficacy of the organs to remove all the toxins we consume is questionable.
Our world has become bogged down with innumerable environmental toxins which we consume simply because we exist (5).
Disregarding the politics of these environmental choices, it’s unquestionable that we as humans aren’t designed to live in such heavily polluted environments.
To cleanse the body of unwanted toxins is an ongoing process because our bodies never stop accumulating what’s in our direct environment.
By giving our eliminatory organs the tools they need to strengthen and enable more efficiency, we are simply purchasing insurance on our lives. We all want to live long healthy lives and avoid any undue suffering.
The Ultimate Cleansing Strategy
- Eliminate all processed food,GMO’s, and pesticide laden fruits and vegetables from your life. Stick to free-range and organic meat and dairy products.
- Sweat daily either through exercise or using a sauna to expel heavy metals from the body.
- Incorporate daily juices and smoothies to get free radical fighting antioxidants and abundant nutrient dense whole foods.
- Get a good nights sleep, every night and learn what activities help you to destress. Stress is just as toxic as anything else and we can never function well when our nervous system is in fight or flight mode.
- Make the switch to organic and natural personal hygiene and cleaning products to avoid endocrine disruptors commonly found in these products.
- Consume fermented foods rich in probiotics for colon and intestinal health. This also helps in balancing hormones and ensuring the hormone secreting glands of the intestinal tract can function well.
- Drink plenty of pure water free from fluoride, chlorine and pharmaceutical residues common in city tap water.
- Dry skin brushing once a week to stimulate the lymph and strengthen the skins capacity for detoxification.
- Incorporate cleansing herbs to strengthen and improve the functions of your eliminatory organs.
- Eat sea vegetables for a mineral dense food and to nourish the thyroid and protect against radiation.
What Happens When We’re Toxic
The endocrine system is the collection of glands which secrete hormones, comprised of the pituitary, pineal, pancreas, ovaries, testes, thyroid,hypothalamus, G.I tract and the adrenal glands.(6)
Our endocrine systems keep our hormones in balance and are particularly susceptible to environmental pollutants(7).
Industrial plants in one Texas city alone emitted over 4,100 pounds of BPA (Bisphenol-A) a compound which strengthens plastic and a known endocrine disruptor in 2013. (8)
Signs of hormonal imbalance include mood swings, low energy levels, skin problems, rapid weight gain/loss, low sex drive, depression and anxiety (9). With so many endocrine disruptors in our air and water (10) we need to pay close attention to keeping our hormones healthy.
There are many natural substances which accomplish this quite well and a few key rules to keep the hormones healthy and strong against endocrine disruptors.
The body can quickly become overburdened from toxicity when we aren’t feeding it the right nutrients, sometimes making it near impossible to lose weight.
Our adrenal glands and thyroid gland become overwhelmed and high levels of stress seen in our society only exacerbate the problem (12). This can and often does manifest as very low energy levels to the point of being exhausted first thing in the morning.
To combat this fatigue, one has to employ all the techniques mentioned in this article in order to regain vibrance and alertness.
Issues like acne, psoriasis and eczema can all stem from high levels of toxins and hormonal imbalance. For young people, acne is common throughout their teenage years and goes away.
The reason for this is linked to hormonal changes which regulate over time. When adults get acne and other skin problems, it’s a signal that something isn’t working and the filters are blocked.
Also being exposed to air pollution from cigarette smoke and car exhaust will clog the pores and result in skin problems (13).
The digestive system is our key channel of elimination, we most of the junk which our other organs have processed through the colon. It’s of paramount importance to keep this pathway clear and take care to ensure everything is emptied out.
When we are chronically constipated our bodies will begin to reabsorb toxins through our fecal matter (14).
Usually for people who eat a healthy diet this isn’t even an issue, but there are certain herbs (15) which can help cleanse out any old matter and make room for your eliminatory organs to do their job.
Detoxifying from Radiation
With the powers that be embracing nuclear technologies as a method of energy production, we need to know how to protect ourselves against radiation (16).
This is one of the most prominent modern threats we are exposed to as the outcome can be dire. Accidents happen and exposure to these toxic elements is known to cause cancers (17) and endocrine disruptions.
Protection of the thyroid is crucial, if our thyroids are deficient in healthy iodine, they will absorb radioactive iodine which has devastating effects. Keeping the thyroid saturated with iodine naturally found in sea vegetables or through supplementation is important in the case of radiation exposure.
A lesser known remedy is a natural clay called zeolite, used during the crises of Chernobyl and Fukushima to absorb radiation, this substance is truly powerful (18).
Of course ensuring an abundant amount of antioxidants are present in the diet is vital for countering free radicals caused by radiation (19).
How our Different Bodily Systems Detoxify
The liver is arguably the most important eliminatory organ. Our livers really are filters and work to remove or neutralize any toxins in our blood, chemically converting them into substances which the kidneys can remove (20). The majesty of our livers is their ability to change fat soluble toxins, into water soluble toxins which can then be excreted by the kidneys.
Our lungs are the first organ to come into contact with pollutants from the air. They’re a very delicate organ and so there are biological protection mechanism which filter out some larger bits of foreign matter. If only they could recognize what we didn’t want in our bodies. Ensuring the lungs are working well is a part of detoxification. Ridding the lungs of excess mucous and phloem is accomplished by incorporating certain herbs in the diet. Making sure we get enough antioxidants is also crucial to lung health. Folate deficiency has been associated with higher incidence of lung disease (21), so eat those leafy greens!
Every single day these two little bean shaped organs filter 200 L of blood and remove 2 L of wastes and water. This function of the kidneys is another primary way our bodies remove toxins (22).
Stagnation breeds bad bacteria and discomfort, which is why it’s so important to keep the colon healthy. Toxins which our liver has processed are excreted through the G.I tract and colon. Peristalsis is the wave like muscular contraction of the intestines signalling us to release. When we ignore this urge, it becomes weaker and also weakens with age.
By sweating we give the body an auxiliary method of removing toxins. Our bodies have around 2 million sweat glands and are you may be surprised to know a typical adult loses 2-3L of water daily through sweating. With this sweat, some toxins are removed, particularly heavy metals (23). Sweating daily is an important way to detoxify.
The lymphatic system is comprised of the thymus, spleen and lymph nodes. It plays an important role in protecting the body from illness and removing metabolic wastes. When we aren’t moving as much as we should be our lymph fluid can become stagnant and inefficient.
The Answers to Relieve the Toxic Burden
Free radicals aren’t a hippy protest group, but a process which occurs when a bond splits and leaves a molecule with an unpaired electron. This initiates a chain reaction as the molecule with the lost electron must then steal an electron from it’s neighbor molecule, eventually disrupting a living cell. (24) Unfortunately, we produce more free radicals as we age.
When free radicals occur in the body, and we are equipped with antioxidants from the healthy foods we consume, we can deal with them no problem. However, pollution, radiation and even unhealthy trans-fats can spawn free radicals and if we don’t have enough antioxidants to balance things out, our chance of cancer and other diseases escalates (25).
Therefore ensuring you consume plentiful amounts antioxidants from fresh fruits and vegetables is an important strategy in detoxification.
Top 6 Antioxidant Foods
2. Raw Chocolate
5. Green Tea
6. Lemon Water
Juicing is one of the best ways of incorporating nutritious, antioxidant rich foods into your life. There’s no digestive burden and they are absorbed and assimilated easily. Fresh juices supply a variety of enzymes which help give your digestive system a break. Consuming green juices is particularly good for strengthening the eliminatory channels. The alkalizing effect that green juices have helps to cleanse the blood of impurities and strengthen the liver and kidneys.
I recommend adding at least one fresh juice every day to help bring relief to your organs and digestive system. Make a mostly green juice, perhaps adding an apple to sweeten things up, you can see some of our juicing tips and recipes.
Liquid nutrition is particularly good for helping give our organs a break. These high density drinks offer easy to absorb nutrients and an optimal delivery system. Most people just wouldn’t be able to eat all the fruits and vegetables that you can add into a smoothie. Yet we need far more fruits and veggies than we’re presently getting, the addition of smoothies and fresh juices will provide the body with what it needs to heal and rejuvenate.
We’ve written previously about the benefits of smoothies if you’d like a more in depth guide. Green smoothies with added detoxifying super foods like dandelion and kale are proven to help with detoxification and super nutrient dense.
Herbs and Superfoods
There are many herbs that can help with strengthening the eliminatory organs.
Dandelion root and burdock root are two popular folk remedies for boosting liver function. Burdock root is great for adding to fresh juices or even eating in soups and stir fries. To us it is a weed but to many cultures it has always been an important food.
Elecampagne and mullein have always been used to cleanse and expel excess mucous from the lungs. Freshly juiced ginger is excellent for promoting circulation and clearing congestion.
Uva ursi is a kidney tonic herb which will prevent infection and help the kidneys to work more efficiently. You can also juice dandelion leaves which have a strong diuretic effect and work to draw excess water out of the body.
Colon health naturally improves when we incorporate plenty of whole foods, probiotics and enzymes. There are a few herbs which can help to get things moving including cascara sagrada, but shouldn’t be depended on. Daily smoothies with plenty of bulk are great for promoting regularity.
The purpose of why we sweat is becoming more and more clear to researchers. A meta-analysis in 2012 found considerable amounts of arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury in sweat, more so than was present in urine and fecal matter (26).
This and other findings like it point to our skins ability to release toxic heavy metals.
Breaking a sweat daily is essential for proper detoxification, it’s out with the old (toxins) and in with the new (juices,smoothies,nourishing herbs).
The more you can get your sweat on the better. My personal favourite way of encouraging this release of toxins is an infrared sauna.
Regular saunas are great too but infrared technology actually initiates a deeper cleansing reaction by stimulating circulation to even the smallest blood vessels and hard to reach places (27).
Do whatever you need to do to break a sweat and maintain it for at least 10 minutes daily. This important piece of the detox puzzle is often overlooked but highly important.
Open the Window
Indoor air is often far more polluted than outdoor (28). Open the windows! Even just a crack to get fresh air flowing through your home.
Stay Away from Junk
It goes without saying but I’m going to say it anyway. If you want to detoxify and strengthen your eliminatory organs you must only consume whole foods.
Organic food is important while cleansing particularly as you are working to rid the body of pesticide and herbicide build up.
Avoiding GMO foods and trans-fats will help to stabilize the hormones. Common reasons why our hormones get out of whack is because we’re eating conventional meat and dairy.
These animals are fed an unnatural diet consisting mainly of corn and soy (both of which are genetically modified).
Soy is a known estrogen mimicker and disrupts healthy hormones in both men and women(29). I beg the question why is there such a rise in infertility and cancer of the reproductive organs?
Consume only free-range or pasture raised chickens and grass fed beef or wild game. This one change drastically alleviates much of the toxic hormone disruptors we consume.
Dry Skin Brushing
The act of full body exfoliation, or dry skin brushing is useful for stimulating movement of the lymph and increasing circulation.
This helps improve the skins ability to expel toxins as well as the function of the lymph fluid. Dry skin brushing also helps clear away dead skin and can improve complexion and even reduce cellulite.
Side Effects of Detoxification
Some people will experience side effects when detoxing from a standard american diet and lifestyle. It’s not uncommon to be extra tired and experience headaches in the first stages of cleansing.
You are providing the tools and your body is working extra hard to utilize them and get rid of stored toxins. The digestive system will also readjust itself over time but won’t adjust to these changes overnight.
It’s best to get as much sleep as possible and start your detox when you have a few days off. Give your body time to adjust and don’t expect to much from yourself.
Cleansing is a Lifestyle
Environmental toxins aren’t going away anytime soon. Realizing this, take care to always implement detox strategies into your life, not just for 2 weeks a year.
I’m not saying you have to be perfect all the time, more simply, adding fresh juices, smoothies and exercise to your life for the long term will have endless benefits.