Where would you start in supporting your body’s natural detoxification processes?
Today I’m going to lay out a basic detoxification plan that anyone anywhere can implement. These steps can help you to move forward with your health, improve your sleep, give you more energy, and improve hormone balance – all with simple lifestyle and nutritional changes.
We all need to drink a lot of clean water to facilitate the removal of toxins from our bodies. How much water should we drink? We need about one ounce of clean water per kilogram (or .5 oz per pound) of body weight – more if we’re very active or sweating. This means the average person needs at least 60 to 80 ounces of water daily.
Water helps with detoxification not only through urination, but also with eliminating toxins through sweat and stool. Many of us are chronically dehydrated and we often overlook this basic need.
Notice that I specified clean water. I usually recommend that people investigate the source of their water and have it tested. If you use your local city’s water, it’s best to get a really good filter. I also drink lots of mineral water, because minerals are important for detoxification as well.
Bottled water is not always best. Did you know that about 25% of bottled water comes from a city municipality? This means that there’s a one in four chance that your bottled water just came from the tap somewhere else.
So it’s important to drink enough water and also to make sure that it’s clean.
What do I mean by clean food? This will vary based on where you live and what you can access.
Ideally we would eat organic, local, real food that has not been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. Local food is less likely to be sprayed or treated to artificially extend freshness. When we buy food that has been shipped across the country, it takes more chemistry to ensure that it arrives at your local store looking bright and fresh. For example, additives like bromate are added to salad bars to make lettuce look crisp and green, and trans fats are added to bread to extend its shelf life.
Vegetables are some of the most helpful foods for detoxification. Many of you are familiar with Terry Wahls’ work. In her protocol, she recommends 8-10 servings of vegetables a day. While her work is focused on multiple sclerosis, this part of her protocol could be beneficial for most of us. One of the powerful things about the Wahls Protocol is that it is a huge detoxifier. Real food is powerful medicine!
Eating clean, organic, real food including lots of vegetables is a great way to help support your body’s ability to detoxify.
There are two aspects involved in giving our bodies clean air to breathe: the quality of the air we breathe and the breathing process itself.
It’s amazing to think that there is mold in the air in most buildings. We have VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from the off-gassing of materials inside of our homes and offices. Buildings are so energy efficient these days that they don’t let toxins out and fresh air in. So one of the basic things you can do is to remove the particles from the air using a basic HEPA filter. A true HEPA filter will remove 99.9% of all particles from air. Since VOCs and chemicals actually attach to the particles in the air, a basic HEPA filter for the bedroom, your living space, or workspace is a great way to clean the air.
You may have heard someone say, “Take a deep, cleansing breath.” There is much wisdom to that. I mentioned in a previous post on this topic that we detoxify through the breath. Our bodies make VOCs and we need to breathe deeply to remove them from our bodies. Many of us are living with chronic stress and don’t take the deep breaths we need to remove these VOCs.
Shallow breathing results in an air dead space deep in the lungs. These small, shallow breaths move oxygen and carbon dioxide, but you don’t actually get fresh air deep into the lungs or get these toxins out. So it is important to take deep cleansing breaths every day, whether that’s through meditation or just making breath work part of your routine.
The average American does not sweat. Just think about how much people used to sweat 100 years ago. They would sweat all summer long! There are certain chemicals that can only get out of your body through sweating. For example, certain solvents are only removed through the lymphatic tissue underneath the skin.
So how might we add in sweating in our modern lives? Sweating during exercise is an obvious option. But we can also just go outside during the summertime. I also love far infrared saunas because they help us detoxify by sweating – even when it’s cold outside.
Moving our bodies actually helps us to have regular bowel movements, facilitates better removal of toxins through urine, and it also helps us breathe more deeply. If you have a dog, you know that they have to get moving in order to have a bowel movement. Moving our bodies helps us to get our GI tract moving too. Movement also actually moves your lymphatics, which helps your lymph system to detoxify better. You may have noticed after a hard workout that your urine changed color. That is because you’re actually getting more toxins into your kidneys, which are excreted through the urine.
Massage can help with detoxification, because it moves the lymphatic system under the skin. Have you ever had a massage and been told to drink a lot of water? Have you ever noticed that your urine changes color or smell after massage? This is because you’re actually detoxifying your body through the movement of your tissues. Dry brushing is an inexpensive and easy way to also facilitate better lymphatic flow.
Sleep is huge part of detoxification that is often overlooked. If you don’t get Enough REM sleep, your brain actually won’t detoxify. If you don’t get that seven or ideally closer to eight hours of sleep at night, it will reduce your brain and your liver’s ability to detoxify.
It’s also important to avoid eating too close to bedtime. Eating within 2-3 hours of bedtime will require that our body focus on the GI tract, and we’ll spend those precious sleep hours digesting food instead of detoxifying. If we stop eating 2-3 hours before going to sleep, our body can focus on cleaning up, repairing, making hormones, and detoxifying our brain and body.
Herbs and Vitamins
It’s so important to make sure we’re taking care of the basic lifestyle factors above before jumping to supplementation. Supplements are just that – a supplement – and not a substitute for giving our bodies the essential things it needs to function well.
That said, if we’re eating, sleeping, and moving in a way that supports our bodies in detoxifying, there are some additional ways to support detoxification even further.
Milk thistle, dandelion root, and curcumin are some of the best-known herbs that support detoxification. Milk thistle and dandelion help the liver make more bile. Dandelion also supports the kidneys in detoxification. Curcumin helps the bacteria in your GI tract to remove toxins more effectively.
Certain vitamins like vitamin C, alpha-lipoic acid, and vitamin E help prevent the side effects caused by toxins, and they also support your body in removing them.
Certain fats, especially omega-3s and phosphatidylcholine (PC), are critical for detoxification.
Did you know that low-fat diets actually affect your body’s ability to detoxify? That may sound surprising. There are fats in your body that need to be removed – from solvents, food, things that we breathe in, etc. You might wonder how our bodies get rid of these toxic fats. We know oil and water don’t mix and we can’t get rid of fats with water-soluble substances. We actually need healthy fats to dissolve toxic fats and remove them from the body.
Our bodies need lots of minerals. You may have heard some of the hype around alkalinization these days. The major alkaliniser is not a special smoothie or alkaline water, it’s actually minerals. Magnesium, potassium, zinc, and other trace minerals actually make our body more alkaline.
When you buy sparkling spring water (we use Gerolsteiner in our home), check the mineral content to make sure there are enough minerals. Minerals are important in helping your body detoxify!
A Note about Supplement Quality and Toxic Burden
While we’re talking about detoxification and nutrients, I’d like to add a caution about supplements. Some supplements can help with detoxification. However, it’s imperative to know that your supplements are clean and are not adding to your toxic burden. I wrote a blog post on cleanliness and sourcing for supplements to help you choose quality supplements. I would not want you to buy a supplement that contains lead, for example, as it would do you more harm than good. So careful sourcing is definitely important as we talk about supplementation.
Next week, I’ll discuss more advanced detoxification techniques. Remember that it’s critical to start with clean water, food, and air along with sufficient movement and sleep. After these have been been addressed, we can dive into some more in-depth interventions for detoxification.
Would you like some help to support your efforts around eating clean? Download our free Phytonutrient Spectrum Food Plan to get started today!
Take care and be well.
Since 2010, Richmond Integrative and Functional Medicine has been helping people to restore their health and hope with an integrative approach to conventional and alternative medicine that’s entirely science-backed. We at RIFM believe everyone is made for health. We offer a comprehensive, in-person patient membership program to ensure you get access to the care you need to thrive.
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