With the abundance of toxins in our environment, it’s important to regularly detoxify our bodies. Detoxification is the process of eliminating harmful substances from the body through the liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph nodes, and skin. While our bodies are designed to naturally detoxify, our polluted environments and poor diets make regular cleansing necessary. Thankfully, there are many ways to boost your natural detoxification for improved health and vitality.
Why is detoxification important?
Toxins accumulate in our bodies through exposure to environmental pollutants, pesticides, household cleaners, food additives, heavy metals, alcohol, cigarettes, and even stress. If allowed to build up, these toxins can lead to inflammation, hormonal imbalances, impaired immunity, sluggish digestion, skin conditions, headaches, fatigue, and an increased risk of chronic disease.
Some signs your body needs a detox include:
- Constipation, bloating, gas
- Skin irritation like acne, eczema, rashes
- Moodiness, anxiety, depression
- Brain fog, difficulty concentrating
- Cravings for sugary, salty and processed foods
- Low energy and fatigue
- Trouble sleeping
- Frequent colds and illnesses
Detoxing enhances the body’s ability to eliminate toxins. This can rev up energy levels, improve digestion, clear the skin and help you feel mentally sharp. Periodically cleansing your body provides a fresh start and allows your body to work optimally.
Ways to detoxify naturally
Fortunately, you don’t need to undergo an intensive cleanse or buy expensive detox products to flush out toxins. There are many simple and affordable ways to boost your natural detoxification systems with diet, lifestyle adjustments and the use of specific herbs and nutrients.
Drink plenty of water
Staying well hydrated is key for detoxification. Water helps your kidneys filter wastes and keeps things moving through your gastrointestinal tract. Aim for half your body weight (lbs) in ounces of water daily, or about eight 8-ounce glasses for a 160-pound person. Increase your water intake during hot weather or exercise.
Eat liver and chlorophyll-rich foods
Your liver is your main detoxification organ, so it needs nourishment to function optimally. Eat plenty of greens like arugula, spinach, watercress, chard and dandelion greens. Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and bok choy are also great liver cleansers.
Beets, carrots, artichokes, apples, garlic and turmeric support liver detoxification. Chlorophyll-rich green foods help purge toxins and increase liver enzymes. Try detoxifying drinks like dandelion or chlorella tea.
Avoid processed foods
One of the best things you can do to detoxify your body is avoid processed and convenience foods. Reduce foods with chemical additives, dyes, sweeteners and preservatives. Avoid hydrogenated oils found in many packaged foods as they are hard for the body to break down. Minimize fried foods, sugary snacks, sweetened drinks and excess alcohol.
Exercise and sweat
Exercise is key for cleansing the body of toxins. As you sweat, impurities are removed through the skin. Get 30 to 60 minutes of exercise like brisk walking, jogging, cycling or yoga daily. Activities that make you break a sweat can help boost liver function and eliminate toxins.
Use dry brushing
Dry brushing your skin opens up pores and lymph channels to facilitate toxin release. Use a natural bristle brush and brush your skin in circular motions towards the heart before showering. Start at your feet and work up towards your torso, always brushing towards the heart. Do this daily before bathing.
Try bentonite clay
Bentonite clay is a natural detoxifier that binds to heavy metals and toxins in the gut. When combined with water, it forms a gel-like matrix that attaches to toxins and removes them as it passes through. Take one tablespoon of bentonite clay in water daily, separating it from supplements and medications by at least an hour.
Consider activated charcoal
Activated charcoal is a fine black powder that traps toxins for elimination from the body. It is porous with a negative electric charge that attracts positively charged toxins. Take 500 to 1,000 mg of activated charcoal up to three times per week, at least 90 minutes away from food and medications.
Try dry skin brushing
Dry skin brushing opens up skin pores and stimulates the lymphatic system to facilitate toxin elimination through sweating. Use a natural bristle brush and brush the skin in gentle circular motions towards the heart. Start at the feet and work up the legs and arms towards the chest. Do this daily before showering.
Take milk thistle
Milk thistle is a powerful liver cleanser shown to boost detoxifying enzymes. The active antioxidant component silymarin helps liver cells regenerate and remove toxins from the body. Take 250 to 500 mg of milk thistle capsules or extract daily.
Probiotics support detox through healthy gut function. Beneficial bacteria help break down and eliminate heavy metals, pesticides and carcinogens. Look for a high-quality probiotic supplement with at least 10 billion live organisms. You can also consume fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh and miso.
Foods to avoid during a detox
When doing a detox, you’ll want to minimize exposure to foods and substances that add to your toxic load or tax your detox organs. Here are some key foods and drinks to avoid during a cleanse:
- Refined sugar
- Artificial sweeteners
- Processed foods
- Hydrogenated oils
- Excess animal protein
- Dairy products
- Gluten grains
Focus on eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, beans, lentils, seeds, nuts, and healthy oils like olive and coconut oil. Drink herbal teas and water. Limit meat intake to a few times per week during your cleanse.
Detoxification based on individual needs
There are many detox protocols to choose from. The best detox methods fit your unique health status, preferences and lifestyle. Here are some popular detox programs:
Freshpressed vegetable and fruit juices flood your system with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for detoxification. Drink only fresh juices for up to five days. Drink six to eight glasses of green juices daily made from veggies like kale, spinach, parsley, cucumber, celery and carrots. For sweeter juices, use fruits like apples, lemons, ginger and berries.
Like juice fasting, you can detox with smoothies including fiber from blended whole fruits and vegetables. Consume smoothies made with leafy greens, fruits and healthy fats from avocado, coconut, nuts or seeds. Rotate a variety of ingredients like kale, papaya, berries, pineapple and mango over three to five days.
A vegan cleanse focuses on raw and cooked whole plant foods. Fill your diet with greens, salads, soups, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, whole grains and plant-based proteins like tempeh. Use healthy preparation methods like steaming, sautéing, blending and juicing. Avoid sugar, alcohol, caffeine and processed foods.
Fasting gives your digestion and detox organs a rest. It activates autophagy, a process where cells recycle waste material and damaged proteins. Popular fasting methods include 16:8 where you fast for 16 hours (including sleep) and eat within an 8-hour window. Or fast for 24 hours one to two times per week.
Since much detoxification happens in the gut, you may want to cleanse your digestive tract. Try the cleansing foods listed above along with fermented foods or a gut cleanse supplement that contains bentonite clay, psyllium husk, probiotics, aloe vera, triphala and more.
Heavy metal detox
Chelation therapy using agents like EDTA, DMSA or DMPS is used to bind and remove heavy metals like mercury, lead, arsenic and aluminum. This is recommended under a doctor’s supervision to avoid redistributing metals to sensitive organs. There are also oral supplements to pull heavy metals from the body.
There are many liver cleanse protocols designed to optimize your main detox organ. Most involve drinking only fresh vegetable and fruit juices for several days along with liver cleansing supplements or foods. Look for blends with milk thistle, dandelion, vitmain C, amino acids like N-acetyl cysteine, and natural bitters.
Flush your kidneys by drinking unsweetened cranberry juice, celery juice, watermelon juice and lemon water. Take kidney cleansing herbs including marshmallow root, ginger, turmeric and astragalus. Avoid excess salt, sugar and alcohol which burden the kidneys.
Lymphatic drainage massage
The lymphatic system has no pump and relies on movement and massage to circulate lymph fluid containing waste and toxins. Lymphatic drainage massage performed by trained therapists uses gentle pressure to stimulate lymph flow. Stimulating lymph nodes helps remove toxins, reduce swelling and boost immunity.
Natural detoxification timeline
Here is a general timeline showing what you can expect during a natural detox cleanse:
|Headaches, fatigue, cravings as body adjusts. Drink plenty of fluids.
|Renewed energy, clarity as toxins release. Possible changes in bowel movements, urine and sweat odor and color.
|The cleansing crisis. Symptoms may flare up and subside as body eliminates toxins. Fatigue, mood swings and digestive issues could worsen temporarily.
|Improved energy and digestion. Skin clears up. Better sleep and concentration. Less inflammation and bloating.
Ways to make detoxing easier
Detoxification can initially make you feel unwell as toxins release from your tissues and exit your body. Here are some tips to make detoxing easier on your mind and body:
- Minimize workload and avoid stress during cleanse
- Get plenty of rest and sleep
- Drink detox teas to flush out toxins
- Take milk thistle, turmeric, activated charcoal
- Use Epsom salt baths to detox through skin
- Dry brushing and massage to stimulate lymph flow
- Infrared sauna therapy to sweat out toxins
- Always consult a doctor before undergoing a cleanse
Safety tips when detoxifying
It’s important to keep the following safety tips in mind when undergoing a detox:
- Start slowly, especially if new to cleansing
- Stay well hydrated and replenish electrolytes
- Eat enough calories and protein if fasting
- Avoid vigorous exercise during fasts
- Listen to your body and rest when needed
- Consult a doctor if on medications or with health conditions
- Break a fast if feeling unwell or lightheaded
- Transition slowly back to regular diet after cleanse
The bottom line
Detoxification is an important practice to reset your body and eliminate stored toxins. Periodic cleansing improves health by giving your detox organs a break and boosting their function. There are many safe, natural ways to detox at home through diet, lifestyle practices and supplements that support your body’s innate detoxification systems. Start slowly, especially if new to detoxing. With a little planning and preparation, you can gently cleanse and nourish your body for improved wellbeing.