So you’ve read an advertisement for “detox tea”, you’ve heard about that time that celebrity dropped half a person in weight following a “detox diet”, and maybe even some friends have regaled you with their “master cleanse” horror stories of lemon juice, cayenne, maple, repeat! Now you want to know what’s actually safe and effective to help you detoxify your system after years of partying, eating questionable takeout, and maybe entertaining some “toxic” relationships. Let’s cover the basics before you dive in and possibly end up worse off from where you started.
What is it?
Detoxification is the process by which the body eliminates everything from hormones and other chemicals made IN your body, to the drugs (I mean pharmaceuticals and recreational!), environmental pollutants, and food additives you ingest daily. The “emunctory”, or drainage and elimination organs, are responsible for helping the body maintain homeostasis instead of spinning out of control due to toxic overload. Many think the the main detoxification organ is the liver, however there are many other avenues to aid the body in draining and eliminating toxins including your blood and lymphatic system (an entire circulatory system that runs next to your veins and arteries and carries fluid other than blood), skin, sweat glands, kidneys, lungs, spleen, and colon. In fact, even the little bacteria living inside your digestive tract play a role in breaking down and removing certain substances from the body! (Thanks little bugs!)
We can even zoom in to a microscopic level when considering detox. Each cell in your body has its own inner detoxification system. When that detoxification system fails, the cell will die and become another thing for the larger system’s detoxification system to clean up! Ahhhh, the circle of life!
Are you ready?
The question most people are surprised to hear is: “Is your body healthy enough to detox?” Most of us are NOT ready, which is why people often report feeling awful when they try detox fads. If our body’s natural elimination systems aren’t ALL functioning optimally, we end up moving toxins from one place to another, instead of eliminating them properly. Smooth sailing for your body’s detoxification processes requires many essential “cofactors” that act as helpers to aid the biochemical processes of elimination. These are most often specific vitamins or minerals. If you lack the cofactors, you will end up building up MORE toxins as you try to force your body to do a job it doesn’t have the tools for! Before tackling any detox commitment issues, make sure you figure out if your body is up to the task.
What’s the best plan?
Anyone planning to attempt to kick start their body’s detox processes should be under the supervision of a doctor who will assess your body’s readiness, provide a comprehensive plan, and give support along the way. Naturopathic physicians are the best choice here as we are trained specifically to first eliminate any “obstacles to cure” (can be toxins or other factors such as diet, stress, etc), give the system what it needs to heal (nutrients, herbal support, vitamins, minerals, etc), and let the innate wisdom of the human body do it’s thing and finish the job!
It’s important to avoid any plan that leaves you hungry for a long period of time. This can kick your body into survival mode and you may actually GAIN weight as your body tries to store more calories to combat starvation.
Here are some ways to start prepping your body for detox, before you even contact a healthcare provider:
First, identify and try to eliminate major sources of food, water, cosmetics, hygiene products, and cleaning products that may be adding to your toxin exposure. This can be daunting! You may need to consult the (trusty?) internet or get help from a professional. One reliable source is EWG.org. It is confirmed impossible to remove EVERY source of toxins in your life, but after all, isn’t the first step always admitting the problem?
Drink a glass of warm water with the juice of ½ of a lemon every morning before anything else. This is a fabulous way to gently flush out your system and get your blood flowing.
Invest a small sum into a dry body brush. Before showering, brush every part of your body moving TOWARDS THE HEART. This encourages the lymphatic flow essential for cleaning up your system.
Break a sweat! Whichever physical activity you prefer and your body can handle, as long as you are sweating you’re eliminating. This includes, dancing (vertical and horizontal), playing tag, jumping on a trampoline, and any other exercise you can think of!
Think lovely thoughts! Eliminating negative thoughts, hence negative energy, has an immensely powerful healing effect to your physical body. Though it’s easier said than done, explore ways to be positive and emotionally healthy. Consider meditation, counseling, or maybe just push yourself to spend more time with the people you love.