How to Detox Your Body Naturally
If you’ve ever felt bloated, sluggish, achy, unmotivated, and unfocused, you might have considered doing a detox or a cleanse to get a jumpstart on a healthier lifestyle. There are hundreds of detox products and cleanse programs to choose from, and it can be super confusing to know which ones are safe and effective.
What is a Detox Diet or Cleanse?
Detox diets are said to eliminate toxins from the body, and in turn improve health and promote weight loss. They are typically programs lasting between a few days to a few weeks to help you get rid of excess toxins that your body may be holding on to. Often times they involve fasting, restrictive foods, juices, herbs, teas, supplements, colon cleanses, or enemas.
Is a detoxification diet or cleanse really necessary?
If you’ve never followed a detox program or done a cleanse, you might be wondering, do I even need to eliminate or neutralize toxins from my body?
Your body has its own, highly efficient detoxification system. The liver, digestive system, kidneys, skin, and lungs are all responsible for detoxifying the body from endotoxins and exotoxins. Endotoxins are byproducts the body makes, like lactic acid, urea, feces. Exotoxins are those that come from outside the body, like pesticides on foods, pollutants in the air, or chemicals from products we use or apply to our bodies.
If these detoxification systems are performing optimally, the body should be able to remove toxins effectively without special detox diets or cleanses.
How do you know if you have too many toxins?
We are what we put into our bodies. The higher quality fuel we provide it, the better it will perform. The lower quality fuel we give it, the worse it will perform, and the worse we will feel.
In an ideal world, we would only consume exactly the nutrition our bodies need, in the exact right amount. The problem is, nobody is perfect, and sometimes we both knowingly and unknowingly put things in to our bodies that we don’t need.
When we give our bodies things it doesn’t need, or low quality foods in excess — fried foods, processed snacks and sugars, alcohol — the body has to work harder to get rid of these toxins. Over time, the functioning of the liver in particular can deteriorate as a result. Fried foods and too much sugar are difficult to process and can even cause fat to build up in the liver.
When our liver is functioning poorly or has too many toxins it can’t effectively get rid of, that’s when the body may send signals of suboptimal function, in the form of:
- Weight gain
- Inability to sleep
- Brain fog
- Constipation, Diarrhea
- Joint pain
- Imbalanced hormone and insulin levels
- Skin issues: eczema, redness, itching, swelling
- Hair loss, dandruff
Following a detox program for many people is a way of “resetting” the body, to feel better and hopefully make lasting changes.
How long should you detox?
Detox programs can be as short as a few days and can last up to a few weeks. Because many detox diets and cleanses are so restrictive, it is recommended to talk to your doctor before pursuing such a program and make sure it is safe for your unique health situation. Most important is for you to listen to your body.
Be especially careful of low-calorie, nutrient-poor diets. Side effects of detox or cleanse programs like these include low energy, low blood sugar, muscle aches, fatigue, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, and even nausea. Often times, these programs help individuals lose weight, but many gain it all back as soon as they return to a more regular diet.
What should you expect when you follow a detox or cleanse?
Though so many detox programs promise these amazing results and sound appealing for their simplicity, it is important to remember that some detox programs can actually be harmful to your health.
For example, a detox program of water fasting can be dangerous without the supervision of a medical professional. Not eating and only drinking water sounds simple and effective because we know water to be good for us and assume it is harmless. However drinking only water for too long or in excess can actually cause muscle loss, dehydration, or even potentially fatal water toxemia.
When done properly, an effective detox or cleanse can result in numerous positive outcomes. Many individuals enjoy the health benefits of:
- Reduced weight
- Increased energy
- Less inflammation
- Balanced hormones, gut
- Improved immune function – fewer illnesses
- Increased mental focus
- Smoother, brighter hair and skin
Do detoxes and cleanses really work?
Many individuals who follow a detox or cleanse feel the real benefits in a matter of weeks when done properly and in partnership with your doctor. For many, it’s the beginning of lasting, permanent change. More importantly, Dr. Anita recommends building healthy habits to ensure your cells are functioning effectively, allowing your body to remove toxins as it is meant to do.
You can enhance your body’s natural detoxification system to improve your overall health by staying hydrated, consuming less salt, getting active, and following an antioxidant-rich diet. Follow these tips to naturally boost your body’s ability to detoxify itself.
Natural Ways to Support Your Body’s Detox System
1. Reduce Added Sugar and Processed Foods
A number of studies show how eating less processed, whole foods, including cruciferous vegetables, berries, garlic, and spices like turmeric can help your body detoxify naturally. When incorporated with protein and quality fats, these whole foods help provide the nutrients needed to detoxify and lose weight.
2. Eat Antioxidant-Rich Foods
Health issues in the gut can create or worsen a less-than-optimal detoxification system. By incorporating high antioxidant foods, we can remove free radicals, which can damage our cells and cause cancer. Top antioxidant rich foods according to the USDA include beans, berries, artichokes, apples, pecans, cherries, potatoes, and dark leafy greens.
3. Eat High Fiber Foods
Many high fiber foods are considered prebiotics because they feed the friendly bacteria in the gut. The right combination and balance of gut bacteria is important for digestion and helps with removing toxins from the body in a timely manner. When digestive issues like constipation are frequent, our bodies continue to accumulate harmful toxins. Good prebiotic, high fiber foods include garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, bananas, barley, oats, and flax.
4. Decrease Salt
Though also a necessary nutrient for an optimally cellular function, sodium also acts like a sponge in the body, absorbing fluid. Most noticeable changes might be our face/eyes feeling puffy or rings fitting too tightly. In the long run, too much salt and sodium in the diet contributes to high blood pressure, which is linked to conditions like heart attacks, kidney problems, fluid retention, stroke, and osteoporosis. By reading nutrition labels and curbing our intake of salt and sodium, the short term and long term effects that comes with too much dietary salt is also reduced.
5. Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Because toxins negatively affect our hormone and insulin levels, it can also impede our metabolism and fat loss in the process. An anti-inflammatory diet includes wild-caught seafood, plant foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids including flaxseed and chia seeds, lots of non-starchy vegetables, and spices including turmeric.
6. Drink clean water to flush out Toxins
Your cells need water to perform normal function. Staying hydrated not only keeps them running smoothly, but also allows them to eliminate toxins optimally along with its numerous other functions. Many trusted sources recommend about 8 cups of water a day, or roughly half your weight in ounces. High water fruits and vegetables like cucumbers and celery also make an easy way to get extra water in edible form.
Among its numerous other health and mental benefits, exercise can help your body better excrete toxins and burn fat more effectively. Toxins get flushed through our skin when we sweat.
8. Get good sleep
Sleep is an important component to eliminating toxins, allowing the brain to reorganize and recharge itself, along with eliminating toxic byproducts aht accumulate during the day. Inadequate or poor sleep is associated with health consequences like stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Following a bedtime routine, reducing technology use at night, and aiming for seven to nine hours per night will allow the body to detox optimally.
9. Incorporate Meditation to Reduce Stress
Stress releases cortisol, and when in excess, can wreak havoc on the body. Meditation, even a few minutes of the day, can reduce that stress, and comes in many forms. Guided meditation using imagery, mantra meditation using a calming word or phrase, mindfulness meditation, qi gong, tai chi, yoga, are all effective forms of meditation practiced by millions around the world through the years. Sitting, lying down, even walking meditations can work in as little as five minutes a day to reduce stress.
10. Choose Organic to Avoid the “Dirty Dozen”
Eating exclusively organic may significantly reduce the amount of toxins we consume through pesticides, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has identified the twelve fruits and vegetables that contain the most pesticides. Choosing organic when we eat these items specifically can help eliminate toxins in the body.
11. Choose Natural Body Care Products
Using natural deodorants, makeups, moisturizers, shampoos, and other personal care products can also reduce your exposure to chemicals.
12. Minimize Toxic Household Products
Prevention is always the ideal approach to avoiding toxins in the body. Avoid household cleaners, building materials, plastics, and other products that made using toxic chemicals.
13. Consider Supplements to Detoxify
Sulfur rich foods like broccoli, garlic, and onion are known to enhance the removal of heavy metals like cadmium. Dr. Anita has researched and identified other natural ingredients that are available in supplement form to remove harmful toxins like glyphosate, better known as the pesticide Roundup.
Which detox is the best?
The answer is complicated. What may work well for one person may not work for another because of our unique biological makeup, emotional state, commitment levels, and current lifestyle habits. Every person is different and may respond in unexpected ways.
It is best to follow a program under the supervision of a medical professional like Anita Wang, MD. With her training in both western medicine and functional medicine, Dr. Anita is able to carefully monitor your progress and ensure patients are still getting the nutrients they need. Ultimately, a body that is balanced in micronutrients, hormones, and the gut will allow you to feel and look your best, for your entire lifespan.