Many people are surprised to learn that detoxification is different from a cleanse. A cleanse is usually done with a boxed product from the health food store. It may consist of special drinks, powders or supplements and the length can be anywhere from 3-10 days. Sometimes it can consist of eating a very restrictive diet in order to achieve a specific goal, usually weight loss. (Remember the cabbage soup diet?)
If you are planning on doing something like this, I would encourage you to make sure your detox pathways are open and functioning before you begin. Your detox pathways include your skin, bowels, kidneys and lungs. If you release toxins from the fat and you don’t have any way to get them out of the body, then you may create some health issues for yourself.
On the other hand, did you know that detoxification is actually a natural process that is happening inside you every minute of the day?
I am going to share some very simple, noninvasive things that you can do daily in order to support your body’s detox pathways. But first let’s talk a little about why we need to detox.
Basic biochemistry in the body produces free radicals and toxins. Your body is designed to eliminate these issues naturally.
The problem began over 100 years ago when we when started introducing synthetic chemicals into our food supply and daily life. Because of our exposure to a huge amount of environmental toxins, we are constantly overloading our system’s ability to keep up. We are exposed to a myriad of highly processed foods and additives, preservatives, pesticides, alcohol, and chemical overloads through our cleaning and personal care products.
Did you know that the average woman puts on over 500 different synthetic chemicals a day? Think about it: our deodorant, skin care and make up, lotions, shaving creams, hair dyes, shampoo, hair spray, nail polishes and body lotions all contain their own cocktail of synthetic chemicals. It’s no wonder our bodies have a hard time keeping up, and after a while this increased burden starts to take a toll on us and our health.
The good news is that there are some things we can do to protect ourselves and be proactive in our quest to improve our health.
The first step to support our bodies is to reduce our toxic load by reducing our exposure to chemicals that are not safe.
This includes doing things like switching to fragrance-free and cleaner (chemical free or “green”) products for both personal and household use, eating real unprocessed, non-GMO food and so on.
One of the things I am very aware of is the overabundance of heavy, unnatural scents that are put into everything. Some of the biggest offenders are the dryer sheets, the plug in air fresheners, and scented laundry detergents. Do garbage bags, toilet paper, and diapers really need to have a fragrance? We have gotten to the point where we think a lack of smell is not a good thing. Believe it or not, those artificially added fragrances can impact our health and the environment.
The chemicals used to make all of these products “smell good” can disrupt hormone activity, reduce sperm count, and they are linked to breast and liver cancer, diabetes and obesity.
The second step we can take is to assist the body in detoxing by supporting the organs of detoxification. We have several organs that help us clean up our waste.
The colon’s job is to collect and eliminate toxins from the body. However, if the colon becomes even slightly sluggish it cannot perform its job properly. This is one of the reasons that you want to address chronic constipation.
Our kidneys filter metabolic waste out of the blood. You can support your kidneys by drinking clean water, preferably half of your body weight in ounces, every day. I like to add a little pinch of sea salt to a glass of water in order to facilitate absorption into the cells. Begin your day with a large glass of water with the juice of half a lemon.
Your lungs trap toxins in the mucus lining. Deep breathing is very helpful for this. Remind yourself to breathe deep into your chest. So many of us only breath in the top 1/3 of our lungs. So practice taking slow deep breaths.
You can also do the following exercise which the Budwig Cancer Center recommends to their patients. Stretch the arms to both sides and move them up as you inhale through the nose. At the same time you should make circular movements with the hands, and when you reach the top briefly hold your breath. Then bring your hands down while exhaling through the mouth and again make circles with them as you move them downwards. If you feel lightheadedness, stop the exercise and work up to doing it a few times per session.
Our lymph system carries nourishment and clears waste, but it requires gravity and movement to do its job. To get that lymph fluid moving, I like to use a rebounder (a mini trampoline) - just gently bounce for about 20 minutes a day. Brisk walking is also helpful.
You can incorporate gravity by utilizing a standing desk, or lay down on your back and raise your legs on the wall and stay in this position for at least 20 minutes a day. Hydrotherapy showers are also beneficial - simply alternate hot and cold water at the end of your shower. If it’s in your budget, you can also get a lymph drainage massage.
Your liver is the main detox organ, it works around the clock doing over 500 different jobs. If you are constantly overburdening it with harmful eating and chemical exposure, then it makes it more difficult for it to do the 499 other jobs it must do in order to keep you alive.
I always like to support the body with real food whenever possible. One way to do this is to eat cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and foods high in sulfur like garlic, shallots and onions.
Applying castor oil packs regularly can also be beneficial for many people as it can help to stimulate lymph and liver function. Simply apply a high quality hexane free castor oil to a piece of cloth like flannel or an old t-shirt, lay it on the right side of the abdomen, cover it with additional fabric because it can be messy and apply some heat, either a hot water bottle or heating pad. Begin at 20 minutes and work up to one hour or more. There are many benefits to incorporating castor oil packs into your daily routine, requiring you to take the time to be still for a while is a benefit in itself. If you would like more detailed instructions there are many resources on line for castor oil packs.
Your skin is the largest elimination organ and there are two things you can do to support it. One is to sweat: exercise and hot yoga are perfect for this as is dry skin brushing to stimulate nerve endings and slough off dead cells.
If you have never done dry skin brushing it is very simple. Use a natural bristle brush with a long handle. Start on the feet and brush towards the heart using long motions. Then on to the hands and arms again brushing towards the heart. Dry skin brushing has the most benefit when done regularly, so work this into your pre-shower routine.
Aiding your body in detoxification doesn’t have to be harsh or complicated. Try adding a few of these suggestions into your routine!
I'm Amy Baragar, and I believe food is our first medicine. As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, I love helping people feel better with easy steps to healthy eating.