“Detox” is a big buzzword in the wellness world. After all, who isn’t interested in cleansing their system after an indulgent holiday season or a setback in their healthy routine?
While there’s no such thing as a magic bullet, helping your body detox is actually easier than you think. That’s because your body actually has its own built-in detoxification system. So how can you help your inner detox machine fire on all cylinders? We’ll get to that after this quick science lesson.
How Your Body Detoxes
Your body’s detoxification system is pretty extraordinary. It goes like this:
Your small intestine absorbs the bulk of nutrients from the food you eat, which your circulatory system passes to other parts of your body to store or use, explains Roger E. Adams, Ph.D., doctor of nutrition and owner of eatrightfitness. Simple sugars, amino acids, glycerol, and vitamins and salts may go to the liver, which stores, processes, and delivers them to the rest of your body when needed. “During this process, the liver filters the blood, helps balance the pH, and produces bile, which the small intestine uses to carry away waste and break down fats,” he says.
After the body uses various nutrients for energy and repair, the waste products from all of those reactions are sent into the bloodstream and to the kidneys to be eliminated from the body. “The kidneys act as filters for eliminating waste and toxic substances from the blood, and returning vitamins, amino acids, glucose, hormones, and other vital substances into the bloodstream,” Adams says.
Then, there’s your lymphatic system, which collects excess fluid that drains from cells and tissues and returns it to the bloodstream. It also transports and removes waste products and abnormal cells. Pretty cool, right?
How To Help Your Body Detox Naturally
Certain lifestyle changes can help enhance your body’s natural detoxification process.
A diet or product that guarantees weight loss, includes the word “miracle,” or involves processed, packaged foods is not likely a sound program, according to Katy Firisin, N.D., naturopathic doctor at Coastal Natural Medicine in Connecticut. “A detox program should help the body’s natural cleansing process by stimulating the liver to drive toxic substances from the body while promoting elimination through the intestines, kidneys, and skin,” she says. “It should refuel the body with healthy nutrients and transition the participant to a healthy, long-term lifestyle.”
Here are six ways to give your bod a boost.
1. Choose organic whenever possible
Decreasing the accumulation of toxicants (toxins that result from human activity, like industrial waste and pesticides) over time has the greatest impact on your body’s detoxification systems, according to Firisin. She recommends eating organic when possible, or at least following the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen lists from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which provide info on which produce is worth buying organic or okay in conventional form.
2. Increase your intake of high-fiber fruits and vegetables
“By eating more fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber, you have a better chance at reducing your cholesterol levels, which allows for better blood flow through your arteries,” says Adams. “Better blood flow means the liver and kidneys can do their work more easily.”
He recommends reaching for high-fiber fruits like apples, pears, berries, and plums, and veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, and legumes and beans. “These fruits and veggie options are a great way to add fiber, reduce cholesterol, and give your detoxification systems some optimization,” he says.
3. Cut down on alcohol
While drinking in moderation is generally safe, few Americans actually do so. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults of legal age drink no more than two drinks per day for men and one per day for women. “This recommendation does not mean that, if you don’t drink during the week, you can add those drinks up for happy hour on Friday,” says Firisin.
If you are looking to improve your health and ability to detoxify on a daily basis, Firisin recommends decreasing or avoiding alcohol. “The liver has many jobs to do. Alcohol essentially creates a distraction, so the liver is not able to do its everyday tasks once alcohol is introduced,” she says. “If you are a daily drinker, you are making it much harder for your liver to handle all of the other daily toxins it faces.”
4. Consider dry brushing Your Skin
Your skin plays a vital role in ridding the body of harmful toxins, hence why naturopathic physicians often recommend skin brushing, which involves exfoliating your skin in a particular pattern using a natural fiber brush, according to Firisin. “The process opens up the pores of the skin and supports skin, blood, and lymphatic cleansing,” she says. ”When the pores are open and not clogged with dead cells, the blood and lymphatic system are cleansed, and the body is better able to carry out the function of eliminating toxins and waste materials.”
The best time to dry brush is before showering, when your skin is completely dry. “Begin by gently brushing with long, gentle one-stroke movements,” she says. “The basic principle is to brush from the outermost points of your body (hands and feet) toward the center of your heart.” Cover the entire surface of your skin, which usually takes between three and five minutes to complete.
5. Drink green tea
Green tea has long been hailed for its health benefits, including lowering risk of disease, supporting the immune system, aiding in fat loss, and improving brain function, according to Toronto-based naturopathic doctor Olivia Rose, N.D. When consumed regularly, green tea may boost liver function, particularly in people who have liver-related health issues.
To support your liver, Rose recommends drinking 250 milligrams (about three to five cups) of green tea daily.
6. Incorporate Certain Supplements
There are several noteworthy supplements naturopaths often recommend for aiding in the body’s detoxification process.
One that Rose loves for supporting liver health is the herb milk thistle. “Silymarin, the active component in milk thistle, has been shown in studies to act as an antioxidant to protect from liver injury by supporting the production of the detoxification enzyme known as glutathione transferase,” she says.
Another one of Dr. Rose’s go-to supplements for detox support: garlic. “Garlic increases the activity of your detoxification enzymes,” says Rose. “It contains selenium and sulfur, which are an important mineral and antioxidant that help the liver produce the enzymes required for proper detoxification.” In addition to cooking with garlic, you can take it in supplement form. (The Academy of American Physicians recommends one 300 milligrams of dried garlic daily.)
7. Clean Up Your Home And Skin-Care Products
Firisin also recommends minimizing toxic chemical exposure by switching to natural products when possible. “Chemicals such as methylparabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, and petroleum-based products (often found in cosmetics) can impact our health over the long term,” she says. Look for cosmetic and household products that are labeled as free of these chemicals, as well as of fragrances and dyes, Firisin says. (The Vitamin Shoppe offers a wide variety of natural beauty and skin-care products to upgrade your routine with.)