By Deborahann Smith
Practiced for centuries by cultures around the world — including Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine systems — detoxification is about resting, cleansing and nourishing the body from the inside out. By removing and eliminating toxins, then feeding your body with healthy nutrients, detoxifying can help protect you from disease and renew your ability to maintain optimum health.
How does detoxification work?
Basically, detoxification means cleansing the blood. This is done by removing impurities from the blood in the liver, where toxins are processed for elimination. The body also eliminates toxins through the kidneys, intestines, lungs, lymphatic system, and skin. However, when these systems are compromised, impurities aren’t properly filtered and the body is adversely affected.
A detox program can help the body’s natural cleansing process by:
- Resting the organs through fasting;
- Stimulating the liver to drive toxins from the body;
- Promoting elimination through the intestines, kidneys, and skin;
- Improving circulation of the blood; and
- Refueling the body with healthy nutrients.
“Detoxification works because it addresses the needs of individual cells, the smallest units of human life,” says Peter Bennett, N.D., co-author of 7-Day Detox Miracle with Stephen Barrie, N.D., and Sara Faye.
How do you know if you need to detoxify?
Bennett suggests that everyone should detox at least once a year. However, Bennett cautions against detoxing for nursing mothers, children, and patients with chronic degenerative diseases, cancer or tuberculosis. Consult your healthcare practitioner if you have questions about whether detoxing is right for you.
Today, with more toxins in the environment than ever, “it’s critical to detox,” says Linda Page, N.D., Ph.D., the author of Detoxification. Page recommends detoxing for symptoms such as:
- Unexplained fatigue
- Sluggish elimination
- Irritated skin
- Low-grade infection
- Puffy eyes or bags under the eyes
- Menstrual problems
- Mental confusion
How do you start a detox?
First, lighten up your toxin load. Eliminate alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, refined sugars, and saturated fats, all of which act as toxins in the body and are obstacles to your healing process. Also, minimize use of chemical-based household cleaners and personal health care products (cleansers, shampoos, deodorants, and toothpastes), and substitute natural alternatives.
Another hindrance to good health is stress, which triggers your body to release stress hormones into your system. While these hormones can provide the “adrenaline rush” to win a race or meet a deadline, in large amounts they create toxins and slow down detoxification enzymes in the liver. Yoga, Qigong and meditation are simple and effective ways to relieve stress by resetting your physical and mental reactions to the inevitable stress life will bring.
Which detox program is right for you?
There are many detoxification programs and detox recipes, depending on your individual needs. Many programs follow a seven-day schedule because, as Bennett explains, “it takes the body time to clean the blood.” His program involves fasting on liquids for two days, followed by a carefully planned five-day detox diet to allow the digestive system to rest. Page recommends a three- to seven-day juice fast (drinking only fresh fruit and vegetable juices and water) as an effective way to release toxins.
Here are our five favorite detox diets:
- Simple Fruit and Veggie Detox
- Smoothie Cleanse
- Juice Cleanse
- Sugar Detox
- Hypoallergenic Detox
Top 10 ways to help your body detoxify
After a detoxification program, you can cleanse your body daily with these diet supplements and lifestyle practices:
- Eat plenty of fiber, including brown rice and organically grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Beets, radishes, artichokes, cabbage, broccoli, spirulina, chlorella, and seaweed are excellent detoxifying foods.
- Cleanse and protect the liver by taking herbs such as dandelion root, burdock, and milk thistle, and drinking green tea.
- Take vitamin C, which helps the body produce glutathione, a liver compound that drives away toxins.
- Drink at least two quarts of water a day.
- Breathe deeply to allow oxygen to circulate more completely through your system.
- Transform stress by emphasizing positive emotions.
- Practice hydrotherapy by taking a very hot shower for five minutes, allowing the water to run on your back. Follow with cold water for 30 seconds. Do this three times, and then get into bed for 30 minutes.
- Sweat in a sauna so your body can eliminate waste through perspiration.
- Dry-brush your skin or try detox foot spas/foot baths to remove toxins through your pores. Special brushes are available at natural products stores.
- What’s the most important way to detoxify? “Exercise,” says Bennett. “Yoga or jump-roping are good. One hour every day.” Also try Qigong, a martial arts based exercise system that includes exercises specifically for detoxifying or cleansing, as well as many other exercises with specific health benefits.
Consult your doctor before using any health treatment, including herbal supplements and natural remedies, and tell your doctor if you have a serious medical condition or are taking any medications. The information presented here is for educational purposes only and is in no way intended as substitute for medical counseling.