My mission as a Functional Medicine physician is to educate and inform my patients and community about the toxins we face in today’s world, the connection between toxins and disease, and how to effectively protect the body against potential harm.
The good news is that your body knows how to detoxify. In fact, your body is detoxifying for you as you read these words.
Sometimes, however, we need to create the conditions for the body to optimize these processes and that’s exactly what I’m going to cover today.
In this article, you will learn:
- The importance of detoxification
- 7 detox strategies for everyday life
Detoxification is an important body process.
Although the word “detox,” can conjure up thoughts of juice cleanses and hard-to-follow protocols, detoxification refers to biological processes that are happening all of the time in order to eliminate waste.
The body removes toxic byproducts of cellular metabolism and normal body functioning, along with environmental toxins that make their way into the body.
There are 5 organs of detoxification that include:
- The liver
- The colon
- The kidneys
- The lungs
- And the skin
The liver typically gets a lot of attention when it comes to detoxification, and for good reason. The liver has the ability to transform waste products and toxins into water-soluble molecules that can then leave the body through the urine, bowel, breathing or sweating.
In order to effectively do its detoxification job (along with the hundreds of other jobs it has to do daily), the liver requires a lot of nutrition in the form of vitamins, minerals, amino acids (from protein) and antioxidants.
A solid foundation of nutrition from real food supports detoxification in the liver. This is one reason why the food you eat is critical for health.
Most of the toxin exposures that we face now, in the 21st century, have existed in the environment for only 60-70 years. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an inventory of over 86,000 man-made chemicals that are in the environment. Many of these chemicals are approved and released with little or no testing on safety.
And there is virtually no research looking at the cumulative exposures that humans now face throughout our lifetimes, or the synergistic combination of multiple toxins together in the body.
We are exposed to chemicals in the air, in the water, in our food, in personal care and cleaning products, in non-stick cookware, from toxic mold (add link to article) and even from receipts. The toxin exposures we face every day are more than any other generation in history, and every day in my practice, I see first-hand how these exposures overwhelm the body’s detoxification systems causing symptoms and disease.
My intention isn’t to be alarmist, but to inform and empower you about these sources. There are many simple things you can implement into your daily life to both reduce your exposures to harmful chemicals as well as support your body in eliminating the toxins that you can’t avoid.
7 Everyday Detox Solutions
1. Limit the toxin exposures that you can control. Here are some ways that you can reduce your chemical exposures by making small changes and swaps in your life and living environment. If this feels overwhelming, simply pick one thing off the list to start with.
The benefit of these lifestyle changes is lessening the toxic burden on the body so that the detoxification systems in the body are more able to handle the toxin exposures that you can’t control.
- Swap plastic water bottles for a reusable glass or stainless steel water bottle. This helps decrease exposure to plastics and chemicals like BPA.
- Filter water for cooking and bathing. (See my guide here to choosing a water filtration system.) This reduces exposure to fluoride, chlorine, PFAS, microplastics, heavy metals and more.
- Filter indoor air to reduce exposure to mold, dust, particulates and chemicals from indoor air pollution. See my Recommended List for some quality air filter choices.
- Choose organic, non-GMO food as much as possible. Use the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen, Clean Fifteen list to help you prioritize what produce is most important to source organically in order to reduce exposure to pesticides and herbicides.
- Avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals in personal care products and make up. Check your current products using EWG’s Skin Deep Database.
- Avoid heating food in plastic containers because chemicals from the plastic can leach into food. Instead use glass, ceramic or cast iron.
- Use natural cleaning products in your home in order to avoid chemical exposure.
- Take your shoes off in your home to keep out dirt, fertilizers and chemicals that may be on your shoes.
- Regardless of partisan issues, we all want to keep toxins out of the environment. Support your political leaders to craft quality legislation on a federal level to address these issues comprehensively and fairly among all states. There are many personal things we can do to limit our exposures, but change on a greater scale is incredibly important as well.
2. Eat detox supporting foods. My Paleo diet plan helps you to eliminate common toxins that are found in processed foods (food dyes, artificial flavors, preservatives and pesticides, for example) while providing key nutrients to support the body’s detoxification processes. You’ll also protect your liver from processed sugar while protecting your future health.
In addition to the Paleo lifestyle approach, you can also add in specific foods to help support detoxification. Here are a few of my favorites:
Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are powerful for detoxification. Eat some daily, even with your breakfast.
- Bitter greens: Nutrient-dense greens, including dandelion greens, watercress, kale and arugula, help to improve digestion, support the liver and reduce inflammation. Greens are a gentle detox food to include every day and are easy to add to a smoothie.
- Artichokes: Artichokes contain silymarin, an antioxidant that protects liver cells.
- Lemons: Adding a slice of lemon to your water can help to stimulate digestion, bile flow and support the immune system.
3. Drink tea to detox. Medicinal herbs have a long history of use for supporting the organs of detoxification. Herbs can be taken very gently as a tea or tincture. For more therapeutic dosages, herbal extracts can be used as well.
- Milk thistle: The seeds of a milk thistle plant can be ground and brewed like tea, either alone or with other herbs, as gentle liver detoxification support. Milk thistle contains silymarin, like artichoke, to protect and even regenerate liver cells.
- Dandelion root: This is another helpful tea for detoxification and can even make a delicious coffee replacement when the root is finely ground (often with chicory) and then brewed like coffee.
- Nettles: Stinging nettles are a mineral-rich herb, often taken as a tea, that can act as a gentle diuretic that can aid in toxin removal.
- Green tea: Green tea contains EGCG, a powerful polyphenol that supports the body’s ability to detoxify. My most trusted source is Pique Tea, as they triple-screen for toxins, and their product does not use a tea bag (some of which steep plastic into your tea!).
4. Hydrate. Maintaining good hydration status supports the kidneys in being able to flush out toxins. We all have different needs for how much water we need based on our body size, how much we sweat, how much caffeine we consume, what climate we live in and our electrolyte status. Be sure to drink enough water so that your urine is clear and you aren’t going long stretches (except overnight) without urinating. For many people this will look like 60-75 ounces of water, or more, each day.
5. Sweat. Toxins can leave your body through the skin via sweating. Sweating can be active, such as higher intensity exercise, that really gets the blood flowing and breathing deeply. Just as toxins can leave your skin during exercise, they can also leave through your lungs simply by breathing.
Sweating can also be more passive and relaxing, such as sitting in a sauna or a hot bath. I recommend Sunlighten infrared saunas as well as Sauna Space saunas, which are more portable and fit in smaller spaces. Add my Clear + Restore bath soak for extra detoxifying power in the bath. And if you are sweating a lot, make sure to restore water and electrolytes.
6. Stay regular. We’ve talked about ways to support the liver, kidneys, lungs and skin in terms of detoxification, and staying regular is equally important. Many toxins are excreted from the body through the digestive system. They can bind to fiber in the digestive tract or the body can release them into the digestive system through bile.
If you aren’t having regular bowel movements, these toxins can get reabsorbed into the body and have a hard time getting out. In this regard, correcting constipation is important before any detoxification protocol.
To help you stay regular, make sure you are well–hydrated, eating fiber-rich foods and moving your body daily. In addition, probiotics, digestive enzymes and magnesium can be helpful supplements, along with getting to the root cause of your digestive concerns.
7. Sleep. Let’s not underestimate the power of sleep! Many body processes happen during the sleeping hours, including detoxification through the glymphatic system, so getting enough, high quality sleep each night is important for both daily detox and recovering from any toxin-related illness.
If you have trouble sleeping because of stress, CBD might be a helpful strategy to try.
Having a relaxing nighttime routine and getting off screens before bed can help as well.
I encourage you to pick at least one of these 7 strategies to focus on and begin implementing in your life as an easy and effective way to support the body’s natural detoxification processes. By limiting exposures to toxins and optimizing body function through diet and lifestyle, you’ll likely see some changes in how you feel and how your body functions.
I often recommend deeper detoxification programs if there has been a major toxin exposure or when Functional Medicine testing reveals a specific toxin in the body. It is possible for you to have lab testing (click here) without a physician’s authorization to help you start.
And ￼click here to learn more about my online Every Life Well® Cleanse Intensive program as another option to detox with me virtually. I would love to work with you and support you in living every day well!