Detox programs abound left and right. All over social media you’ll find celebrity endorsed juice cleanses and diets suggesting they are THE answer to those last, stubborn 5 pounds stuck to you like an over-jealous boyfriend or the remedy to that feeling of endless exhaustion no matter how much sleep you seem to get. Want the real deal? Keep reading!
True, we are living in a toxin-saturated world. Think of the pesticide-sprayed lawns we walk by every day, the chemical-laden products we use on our skin and hair, the chemicals leached from the plastic container last-night’s take out was delivered in and the seat on the airplane (or your child’s pj’s for that matter) drenched in flame retardant. These are only a few examples. We are currently estimated by scientists to have over 700 contaminants rummaging around in our bodies. As we accumulate these toxins such as heavy metals (ex. lead and mercury), chemicals (ex. parabens and pesticides), air-borne pollutants, they lovingly embed themselves in our tissues, primarily fat, as well as in our brains and bones. What happens when we couple all of this with the ever-persistent onslaught of stress of modern day living, the lack of proper sleep and full-range, frequent movement? Our bodies internal detoxification mechanisms - the liver, the kidneys, the gallbladder, the skin and even the respiratory system - don’t stand much of a chance.
Do juices and detox diets work?
True, detox juices usually contain several herbs and vegetables such as cilantro, milk thistle, dandelion, garlic, and chlorella that do indeed work to gently pull toxins from the body – same for many of these detoxing diets and can be wonderful as part of a maintenance protocol. However, they fall short of a full, true detox protocol. Why? While they help your body to release toxins from tissues, they generally do not contain any binding agents to properly flush them from your body. These toxins end up circulating the body and getting reabsorbed. This often exacerbate the situation, sometimes making the symptoms much worse. Examples of some binding agents are charcoal and various types of clay.
If you’ve tried everything and nothing seems to move the needle in the right direction or you feel worse after a juice cleanse or detox diet, there are a handful of comprehensive detox systems in the market today that might be more effective. They usually need to be supervised by an experienced physician (usually a functional medicine, naturopathic or alternative medicine practitioner). If you want more info on this, send us an email.
Some signs you may need a deeper detox include: brain fog, hormone imbalances, thyroid issues, diabetes, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, weight-loss resistance, autism, autoimmune diseases and even cancer.
On the sunnier side of things, there are ways to minimize exposure to toxins – and they are simple and inexpensive (mostly). Here are our top 13 detox tips:
1. CHOOSE YOUR FOOD WISELY. Whenever possible, choose organically grown and locally grown food, high quality grass-fed meats, and wild, well sourced seafood. Avoid inflammatory seed and vegetable oils at all costs. Gut nourishing foods such as cleanly sourced collagen and fermented foods also help fortify good gut bacteria which in turn will down-regulate inflammation and help heal the gut which will help protect you from toxic elements.
2. DON’T CHOOSE FOOD AT ALL. I am talking about water fasts, and not necessarily prolonged ones. Periods of not eating allow for the body’s own cell-cleaning mechanism, known as autophagy, to take place. Studies have shown that the magic number of hours to fast seems to be 16 hours. In other words, eat your last bite of the night at 8pm and don’t ingest any calories until 12pm the next day. Another option would be to eat 2-3 meals, breakfast, lunch and even dinner if you choose and simply make sure to finish your last bite 16 hours before the next meal. For example, be done by 4pm and eat breakfast at 8am. Water, black coffee and tea are fine while fasting. The key is to avoid any calories, including supplements.
3. WATER. Drink lots of water and always be sure that is filtered from fluoride, a known neuro-toxin, pesticides, chlorine and other harmful, potential endocrine disruptors. Solid block carbon filters or reverse osmosis filters work well, although they can be costly. Alternatively, and even better if you have access, opt for a clean source of natural spring water. Here is a link to find one near you. Avoid water bottled in plastic!
4. AIR. Invest in a high quality air filter with the ability to remove chemicals and allergens. We use a Molekule filter and love it. It destroys air pollutants such as VOCs, allergens, mold spores, bacteria and viruses and looks pretty snazzy to boot.
5. AVOID PLASTICS. Bring your own glass or stainless steel containers to restaurants if you normally bring home leftovers. Replace any straws with glass or stainless steel ones. Stay away from plastic bottles and storage containers. In a pinch, plastics #2, 4 and 5 are the best options.
6. MOVE MOVE MOVE. Movement helps keep moving toxins out of the body. HIIT training, bouncing on a mini-trampoline (or rebounding) are ideal. As a bonus, quick and intense movement first thing in the morning for about 3-5 minutes helps move the toxins that have built up in your body while lying still and will reset your circadian clock…which leads to the next tip!
7. SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP. This could be one of the most important tips of the bunch! This is the body’s processing and detoxing time in the spotlight. The brain uses this opportunity to clean house, create memories, and un-gunk the mind of any plaque build-up. In addition, it improves mood, immune function and mental and physical performance.
8. DRY SAUNA and PHOTOBIOMODULATION (infrared light) THERAPY. These are the priciest suggestions of the bunch, but well worth looking into. Just a few times a week in a sauna for a mere 11 minutes will have a tremendous impact on the mobilization of toxins through the skin. While not usually thought of as such, the skin has a high fat content, and as mentioned above, fat is a prime hiding location for toxins. Photobiomodulation is a therapy involving specific wavelengths of light applied to areas of the body to improve functioning of that particular tissue. This type of therapy has a profound effect on energy metabolism. We use the Joovv.
9. STRESS-LESS. Meditate, get outside and balance your circadian rhythm, laugh, and hug someone. Hemp oil, adaptogenic herbs, medicinal mushrooms are examples of things that can be helpful. (We've written much more about hemp oil in the past, so we won't go into it here). Stress inhibits our ability to detox. When we are in fight-or-flight mode, our energies go towards surviving. As an example, you wouldn’t worry about cleaning the house if it were on fire.
10. COVER your skin as much as possible when on an airplane to avoid contact with the flame retardant-ridden seat.
11. DRESS CLEANLY. Be aware of clothing sprayed with flame retardant and/or other toxic chemicals. Children's pajamas are notorious for this. While we do not want our children catching on fire in their beds, what are the chances? The risk of exposure to noxious chemicals is much worse in our opinion.
12. UNCOVER your skin. Allow your skin to receive regular doses of sun before applying a non-chemical laden sunscreen. The benefits of sunlight reach far beyond vitamin D…benefits a supplement cannot possibly capture!
13. POOP. Our bodies are designed to get rid of wastes and pooping at least once a day is critical for eliminating toxins. If you have trouble, take a look at your fiber intake and make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day. Stress can also get in the way. If you are looking for a supplement, magnesium helps with both stress and to loosen the bowels!
Bonus Tip: Learn some breathing exercises to help with detoxification. The Wim Hof Method is one of our favorites.
Incorporate these strategies in your daily life, keep your body as free of toxins as possible and live an overall much happier and healthier life!
(Full disclosure: We are affiliates of a few of these brands listed above. While we make a little bit of money if you make a purchase using our links, it is at no extra cost to you. Rest assured, we honestly wouldn't be recommending them if we didn't believe in them)!