Every day, we are exposed to numerous toxins and other substances that are foreign to the body and must be eliminated for optimal health. These toxins include indoor and outdoor pollutants, chemicals found in cleaning and beauty products, and chemicals found in foods and drinking water.
How does the body manage to get rid of these substances and stay healthy? We have an innate detoxification system that is constantly working to remove impurities from our blood. In fact, a few important organs and body systems allow this to happen day in and day out, all without us even noticing.
We can also utilize a few specific herbs and supplements to support this natural (and crucial) body function. Here, we’ll break down the fundamentals of these innate systems and the supplements that can help them function at their best.
How Does The Body Detoxify Itself Naturally?
Detoxification, or detox, is removing impurities and toxins from the blood. In traditional medicine, detoxing is meant to cleanse and nourish the body. Without detoxification, the buildup of toxins would occur, leading to adrenal fatigue and a sluggish lymphatic system.
While detoxing has become a buzzword, often used in diet programs and on social media to sell “healthy” products, detoxification actually occurs naturally to keep our body systems working properly. We have organs and fluids within our bodies that are responsible for removing toxins. To promote detoxification, the best thing you can do is support these body systems by eating a healthy diet, removing pollutants from your household, and supplementing with certain herbs or supplements.
The liver and kidneys are the main organs responsible for detoxifying the blood, although the skin, digestive, respiratory, and lymphatic systems also provide detox pathways in the body. The liver is the body’s master detoxifier, working to remove toxins from the bloodstream while regulating blood composition. The kidneys serve as another filter and also help to regulate electrolyte balance so that body cells can function properly.
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The skin, meanwhile, is the body’s biggest organ and works as a protective barrier against toxins and substances. It also allows for detoxification through sweating. Then, as part of the digestive system, the intestines work to eliminate toxins through stool. The respiratory system is made up of protective barriers, including tiny hairs and mucus, that keep particles out of the lungs.
Finally, the lymphatic system works to keep bodily fluids in balance. The lymph nodes detect bacteria and foreign invaders in the body and then prompt the production of lymphocytes (infection-fighting white blood cells). Lymph fluid goes through the spleen and thymus, which act as filters, removing dangerous microbes.
7 Herbs and Supplements that Promote Detoxification
Our body’s detox system is both complex and extraordinary, but just like any other system that helps us function at our best, it can benefit from some outside assistance here and there.
If you’re feeling sluggish, bloated, gassy, or constipated, these symptoms could indicate that your body is burdened by a high toxic load. You see, when the body doesn’t properly or fully eliminate the toxins or pollutants found in foods, the environment, and certain products, it stresses many systems, including the lymphatic, immune, and digestive systems. Some potential results: leaky gut, adrenal fatigue, weakened or heightened immune response, and brain fog.
To help support a strong detox system, consider these seven herbs and supplements.
1. Milk Thistle
Milk thistle is one of the most popular detoxifying herbs. It helps the liver eliminate heavy metals, pollutants, alcohol, and other foreign substances. It’s available in supplement and tea forms.
2. Dandelion Root
Dandelion root has natural diuretic effects, promoting the removal of toxins through urine. Dandelion tea is popular and supplements are available, too. It can be useful if you’re dealing with bloating, skin issues, or urinary tract health issues.
3. Reishi Mushrooms
Reishi mushrooms work as adaptogens that support healthy liver function and the body’s ability to flush out toxins efficiently. Reishi powder or capsules can be used when you’re dealing with skin concerns, fatigue, trouble sleeping, feelings of anxiety, and more.
Turmeric root helps to support healthy liver function, making it a beneficial herb for detoxification. It can be used daily in supplement form to promote the detox of toxins that trigger an inflammatory response.
5. Burdock Root
Burdock root is described as a “blood purifier” in traditional medicine. It’s used to eliminate toxins, including heavy metals, from the bloodstream. It works as a natural diuretic and promotes lymphatic drainage. It can be helpful if you’re dealing with skin concerns, bloating, and more—and also supports joint health.
Because the digestive system is involved in detoxification, it’s important to support healthy stool elimination by keeping the good bacteria in the gut plentiful. Since they promote gut health, probiotics can be particularly beneficial if you’re dealing with slow digestion, bloating, low energy and brain fog.
7. Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal supports healthy digestion and the removal of toxins. It works by trapping chemicals and impurities, which bind to its millions of tiny pores. It’s most commonly used in powder, tablet, and capsule forms. Try activated charcoal when experiencing gas or bloating.
The body is equipped with sophisticated systems for detoxification, and the goal of the supplements shared here is simply to support those systems. Other must-do’s for promoting detoxification include proper hydration, daily exercise (such as yoga), massage therapy, foam rolling, Epsom salt baths, and infrared sauna use.
Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., D.C., C.N.S., is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist, author, and member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. Dr. Axe operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites, sharing healthy recipes, herbal remedies, nutrition and fitness advice, and information on essential oils and natural supplements. Dr. Axe founded one of the largest functional medicine clinics in the world and has served as a physician for many professional athletes.