Detox has been a big buzzword lately, but what does it really mean? Most folks associate it with weight loss and drinking green juices in place of meals, but is detoxing necessary if we lead an allover clean lifestyle? And can we do it without starving or making drastic lifestyle changes?
The answer is yes—to both.
Even if we try to limit our exposure as much as possible, our bodies take in toxins every day from things like the food we eat, pollutants in the environment, and the products we put on our skin. A buildup of these toxins can lead to physical and mental ailments such as chronic fatigue, headaches, insomnia, food and chemical sensitivities, and even disease. Of course our bodies are ingenious and have a built-in system to ward off these nasty toxins—the liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, blood, skin, lungs, and colon all work together every day to flush these things out—but the majority of us could use a little extra help.
Why our detoxification pathways are stressed out.
Over the years we’ve introduced more and more toxins into our environment than ever before. Ever wonder about that new car smell? That’s chemicals you’re breathing in. Sleeping in a freshly painted apartment? Eek, no wonder you woke up with a headache. And even if we do our best to buy organic and limit our exposure, our food has drifted further from its natural state and is treated with pesticides and other additives. Many of us slather chemicals onto our skin and hair every morning and sit in buildings that may be off-gassing pollutants from things like paint, cleaning products, and plastics.
Clearing this stuff from your system can certainly have an impact on your health and your ability to lose weight. If you already live a rather clean lifestyle, your need to detox might be minimal, and you might consider a long-term sustainable approach to detox. But if you've been feeling a little gunked up and sluggish lately, you might choose to help your body’s natural systems to flush things out with a short-term detox program of some kind that will get you back on track.
Detox by eating the right foods (and avoiding the wrong ones).
If you're looking for a sustainable detox, the best place to start is eating whole foods. In other words, those that have not been processed or refined. Grains (like quinoa, millet, buckwheat), beans (like black, kidney, chickpeas), fresh fruits, and veggies should be the center of your diet. Look for the organic options to avoid ingesting pesticides, fertilizers, and other food additives. A great rule of thumb is to think about what that food went through before hitting your plate. Has it been processed? Has anything been added to it? Aim for food that’s as close to its natural state as possible. Just eating clean in this way will help rid your body of toxins, and you’ll be supporting your body’s natural processes so it doesn’t have to work so hard.
Use movement to rid your body of toxins.
Moving beyond the stuff we put in our bodies, some Ayurvedic techniques such as dry-skin brushing and oil pulling can be done from the outside to help our natural systems shed toxins. Exercising and getting a good sweat going can help, and a specific form of exercise called rebounding (jumping on a tiny trampoline) is also thought to speed up the process. Any movement is great for detox, but the motion of jumping up and down specifically stimulates the lymphatic system and assists in the transport, processing, and elimination of waste. So find yourself a trampoline or bouncy castle, take a few hops next to your bed every morning, skip some rope, or jump to the beats of Kris Kross; no matter how you do it, just move your body!
Juicing is a great detox tool, but be cautious.
Done all that but feel like you need a short-term detox protocol? Let’s talk about juicing. It’s a quicker way to flush out toxins while still getting all the great nutrients from fruits and veggies into your body. Since juicing takes all the fiber out of the fruits and veggies, our digestive systems get a big break and our bodies conserve energy. However, you might want to add some fiber back in via supplements like psyllium husks to keep things moving along in the intestinal tract. You can juice for three days, 13 days, or just have a juice for one meal a day for a month. It’s up to you—just make sure you’re drinking veggies and not only fruits, and beware that a full juice cleanse (replacing all or most meals for a period of time) will leave you feeling pretty weak, so it's best to consult your doctor beforehand. It’s also best to cleanse over a long weekend or in a retreat space, not when you have pressing deadlines or happy hour plans to tend to.
Focus on the foundations of detox.
No matter what kind of detox you’re doing, remember to always drink a lot of water! This is the most obvious way to promote the movement of toxins through and out of your body, not to mention critical to keeping hydrated and feeling optimal. Also, adequate sleep will allow your body to recover and spend more time healing and repairing.
When it comes to detox it's important to remember that your body is always working for you. And yes, a big part of detoxification is simply removing the hurdles we often throw into its path. Just becoming mindful of the things we’re putting in our body and breathing into our lungs is a great first step, but it's just that: a first step. The majority of us need to be more active about detoxification. So go get some fresh air, buy an air purifier if you live in a big city, fill your space with plants and try some of the tips above to make sure sure you're supporting your body in every way you can.