By Sherri Young, RN, Nurse-Educator
For powerful detoxification, you shouldn’t turn to radical cleanses, punishing fasts or unpleasant purges.
Instead, choose natural detoxification because it’s better for you and — even more important — it lets your own detox pathways rid your body of toxins as intended. Your liver, kidneys, intestinal tract and skin already remove an astonishing amount of toxins and poisons from your system, every minute of every day.
But a few simple tips and tricks can make it easier for your body to detox naturally so you feel clean, clear and energetic every day.
What is natural detoxification?
You’re detoxing naturally right now. Every time you sweat, sneeze, cry, poop and pee, your natural detox pathways are removing toxins, poisons and waste from your body.
Everything you eat, drink, inhale and absorb brings in plenty of bad things, along with nutrients and healthy ingredients. All those toxins have to be broken down, processed, and eliminated from your system.
Your digestive system is the entry point for the bad stuff which then travels through your body. It gets sorted out and removed mostly by the superstar detox organ: your liver. Since your liver has more than 500 jobs, your daily detox upgrade should start with more attention and support for this key detox organ.
1. Give your liver the tools to do its job.
Nothing is more important for natural detox than strong, healthy liver function so it’s a good idea to provide some targeted TLC. Research suggests that milk thistle, or silymarin, can protect the liver from specific toxins, including certain drugs and perhaps even alcohol.
Cider vinegar has become famous for its health-supporting qualities that go way beyond the kitchen, including its use as a natural detoxification staple. To help flush out environmental toxins in the liver every day, mix 1 teaspoon cider vinegar into an 8-ounce glass of filtered water, adding honey or other flavors if you want.
Magnesium is essential for natural detox and is also used in at least 300 separate enzyme systems — but it can be hard to get enough of it every day. Good magnesium food sources are leafy green vegetables, black beans, oatmeal, avocados, nuts, seeds and bananas. Getting extra magnesium as magnesium citrate is a proven way to keep your bowels moving regularly — a crucial step in the natural detox process.
Antioxidants are very helpful for healthy liver function because they can prevent or even stop damage caused by oxygen free radicals. Since antioxidants neutralize troublesome free radicals, they support your body’s natural cleansing processes. Get antioxidants in colorful fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains and tea. To increase your antioxidant intake, try a well-absorbed antioxidant supplement.
2. Enjoy a little bit more sleep.
When you’re asleep, your cells and tissues are mending themselves. Since you’re not eating, your elimination processes finally have the opportunity to get caught up. Even your brain detoxes and flushes out toxic molecules that build up during your waking hours.
A big part of why you feel so refreshed after a good night’s sleep is due to the detoxification that happens during this daily down time. One study suggests that the most popular sleeping position — on your side — is the best way to encourage removal of waste products in the brain. So if you’re not one already, turn into a side sleeper and enjoy a long, detoxifying snooze.
Even an extra half hour of sleep can make a difference. Create this opportunity by getting in bed a full hour before you want to be asleep. This gives your body time to wind down and de-stress, and sends a signal to your brain that it’s okay to rest.
3. Get probiotics every day.
Your gut bacteria are important for natural detox because they help determine how food is processed. These little bugs also heavily influence whether incoming calories are burned — or stored. So they matter a lot to the digestive system, which is one of the major highways that transports toxins and poisons out of your body.
Having lots of different types of bacteria helps your “microbiome” stay balanced throughout the digestive tract. Create and maintain a diverse array of bacterial strains in your gut by eating probiotic foods with lots of good bacteria, like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, sour pickles, kimchi and miso. And consider adding a probiotic supplement with several different strains.
4. Eat more detoxifying foods.
Plenty of everyday foods can boost your body’s detoxifying ability, starting with onions and garlic. Garlic and onions contain lots of sulfur, one of the key elements used to detoxify radiation and pollution. Onions and garlic have been shown to have other powerful health effects including cancer-preventive qualities and active support for healthy digestion. Other sulfur-containing detox foods include eggs, red peppers, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cottage cheese.
Artichokes are great because their ingredients move toxins out and purify and protect the liver by increasing bile production. Detoxifying herbs and spices like parsley, turmeric, rosemary, ginger, fennel seed and cilantro are powerful cleansers and can perk up all your meals.
5. Drink enough water — but not too much.
Water flushes toxins out of your body mostly through your kidneys. Drink at least half your weight in ounces every day but don’t flood your system with water. Drinking too much water affects the balance of key electrolytes like sodium, potassium and chloride.
Start your day — really! Do this right when you wake up — with a cold glass of water with the juice of ½ a lemon. Experts say it wakes up your liver and flushes toxins. The lemon juice helps with detox by working to keep your body’s alkaline balance.
Common foods and ingredients turn toxic and need to be detoxed
- High fructose corn syrup
- Dairy products
- Hot dogs and deli ham
- Hydrogenated oils, shortening, palm oil
- Excess sugar
- Artificial sweeteners & preservatives
- Many medications
- Artificial food coloring
- Invisible pesticides on fruit & vegetables
The best detox is only natural.
If you don’t exercise much now, think about how you can add it to your life. Sweating helps some but it’s the exercise itself that detoxes poisons out of your body, including excess stress chemicals. Exercise also boosts circulation in the lymph network, which filters and extracts bacteria along with other damaging cells and substances.
While it’s true that some of us detox better than others, the “cleaner” you keep your diet and living environment, the fewer the poisons that will need to be removed. For most of us, this is a matter of trying to strike the balance between enjoying life and doing what we know is right for our bodies.
Don’t worry about being perfect. Instead, know that every move you make to support your natural detox pathways is a step in the right direction.
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