Detoxing is quickly becoming a way of life in our modern world, as common as taking vitamins and putting on sunblock. The internet is full of every kind of regimen under the sun, from spicy drinks to “miracle” diets to mysterious elixirs that don’t reveal their full list of ingredients.
Some of these are witches’ potions, some are legitimate, some are fads. Let’s talk about how to spot the difference…
How to dig through the avalanche
of “search engine detoxes”
Search for detoxes on the internet and you’re likely to find activities such as fasting, drinking only juices, eating only specific foods, cleansing and recharging with crystals and gemstones, using dietary supplements or herbs, using enemas or laxatives, limiting exposure to certain environmental elements, or using a sauna.
The point of all these activities is to remove toxins from your body. Occasionally they’ll promise additional benefits, including weight loss or general health improvement.
While the wonders of cyberspace bring us more detox ideas than we probably need, detoxing is not a new thing by any stretch. Both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine systems have practiced the art of detoxification for centuries.
But if you look at it from a traditional perspective, detoxing is about resting, cleansing, and nourishing the body from the inside out – it’s not a quick fix you can buy on Amazon.
Traditional detoxing involves cleansing the blood by removing impurities via the liver, where toxins are processed for elimination. Your body also eliminates toxins through the kidneys, intestines, lungs, lymphatic system, and skin.
When these systems are compromised, impurities don’t get pushed out of your body and your immune system or overall health may suffer. If this happens, you may experience symptoms such as bloating, skin irritations, unexplained fatigue, puffy eyes, allergies, elimination problems, or even mental confusion.
When and how to detox the smarter way
Many naturopathic doctors recommend everyone detox at least once a year (excepting nursing mothers, children, and patients with chronic diseases). Instead of seeking out exotic herbs or diets, a good way to start is to curb the amount of toxins you take in daily. Stop adding to the pileup inside your body. This means eliminating alcohol and cigarettes, refined sugars, and saturated fats.
You should also limit your use of chemically based household cleaners, cosmetics, and personal health care products like shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste. Instead, use natural alternatives.
Another key thing to limit during a detox is stress. Why? Because even though you’re not absorbing toxins from a crabby boss or that pile of unpaid bills, stress hormones create large levels of toxins in your system. Effective ways to relieve stress include yoga, meditation, and Qigong, which is a Chinese system of physical exercises and breathing control related to tai chi.
And of course, regular cardio exercise coupled with a good nights’ sleep will help tremendously to curb both short-term and long-term stress.
Smart foods to include in any detox
Lifestyle practices aside, here are the foods and vitamins worth eating if you’re trying to detox your body.
- Fiber. Eat plenty of brown rice and organic fruits and vegetables. Broccoli, spirulina, chlorella, seaweed, beets, radishes, artichokes, and cabbage are particularly high in fiber and detoxing capacity.
- Eat organic food to the extent you can. If you simply stop adding to the pesticides, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics and other food additives in your body, it will gradually eliminate what’s already accumulated. It’s not fast – this is a lifetime detox plan, not a quick fix.
- Avoid animal-based products and increase your intake of plant-based foods. For protein, incorporate beans and tofu into as many meals as possible.
- Have a daily cup of green tea, or herbal teas that include dandelion root, burdock, and milk thistle, all of which help cleanse and protect the liver.
- Take vitamin C supplements or get a daily dose of oranges, grapefruit, or lemons.
- Drink water throughout the day in place of sugary beverages. Aim for at least the standard of eight cups a day.
What to be wary of
As the idea of detoxing increases in popularity, more and more companies are trying to cash in on the craze. Some are legitimate and offer quality products, some don’t. Here’s what to be aware of if you explore different detox systems:
- Some of the juices used in cleanses and detoxes have not been pasteurized or otherwise treated to kill harmful bacteria, which can lead to serious illness.
- Certain mega-doses of otherwise excellent sources of nutrition can harm you. For instance, consuming too much of a juice high in oxalate can increase your risk of kidney problems. Spinach and beets are high in oxalate, and too much of either, over too short a time, can be a problem.
- If you have diabetes or if you’re borderline diabetic, I recommend you run any detox program by your health care provider; intense eating and drinking plans can produce sudden changes your body may have trouble coping with.
- Gentle colon cleanses can be helpful, and if you suffer from chronic constipation, they’re necessary. Senna is a gentle, effective herbal laxative, so look for a cleanse that contains senna or sennosides. Begin with a small dose and increase it until it does the job. Colon cleanses should be taken with caution if you have a history of gastrointestinal disease, kidney disease, or heart disease.
- It’s also worth considering a professional colonic cleanse if there’s a practitioner near you.
- Detox programs that include laxatives can cause severe diarrhea and electrolyte imbalances or dehydration.
- Consuming only water or tea without food for several consecutive days could lead to a dangerously low electrolyte imbalance.
- Any type of detox that calls for fasting can lead to headaches, fainting, weakness, or dehydration. Some of these (not dehydration!) may indicate you’re successfully getting rid of poisons. Fasting can be beneficial. But you need to be knowledgeable about the right way to do it; best to do it under the guidance of a skilled practitioner.
The turtle’s approach to detoxing
I’m often asked if there’s one, specific detox diet to follow for treating or preventing cancer, and the answer is no.
However, if you follow the detox practices that help eliminate toxins and reintroduce good nutrition to your body, you’ll be doing one of the best things possible to curb or help treat cancer, which is to strengthen your immune system.
The tried and true way to detox your body is the natural way: through good old-fashioned sweat and exercise. Longtime readers know I also strongly recommend infrared saunas. They are powerful detoxers with proven health benefits supported by published studies.
And whatever approach you take, detoxing is not an overnight fix. It can help you substantially and have long-term positive health effects, but anything that tells you you’ll be “toxin-free in 24 hours” or even in three days is baloney. The best detox program is long-term good habits.
Think of it like weight-loss: the most effective programs help you make steady, daily progress over a long stretch of time. The same is true for detoxification of the body. Just like the tortoise and hare, slow and steady wins the race.
Oh yeah, and if you were wondering about the crystals: I don’t recommend them.
- “10 Ways to Detoxify Your Body.” by: Deborahann Smith
- “Can Detoxing Regimens and ‘Cleanses’ Fight Cancer?” Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. 30 March 2016.
- “Do Detox Diets and Cleanses Really Work?” by AddaBjarnadottir, MS on January 10, 2019.
- “‘Detoxes’ and ‘Cleanses’:” What You Need To Know”. From the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. 17 September 2019.