The human body is amazing in the ways it allows us to experience and interact with the world. We get to taste great food, take a deep breath of fresh air, feel the warmth of sunlight on our skin, and experience being alive.
But in today’s day and age, such close interaction with our environments is taking its toll on health: Just as we take in our surroundings through our senses, we also absorb environmental toxins and pollutants from food, water, body care and household products, the environment – the list goes on. Our skin, the lining of our intestines and our lungs are very absorptive, allowing health-robbing toxins to enter the circulation and find their way to critical organs and tissues. Over time, these toxins — such as heavy metals, pesticides, flame retardants, plastic compounds and so much more — accumulate throughout our bodies, where they wreak havoc on numerous areas of health.
No matter how vigilant we are, this is simply a fact of life. True, there are steps we can take to ease the burden: Replacing nonstick pans with glass, stainless steel or cast iron; avoiding plastic; buying organic foods and body products, etc. But alone, these steps aren’t enough to protect us from the ever-present amounts of heavy metals and dangerous chemicals lurking everywhere.
Experts admit we don’t know the long term effects of these pollutants on human health and the environment. We have clues though: A growing body of research links ongoing toxin exposure to some of our most life threatening diseases, as well as reproductive issues threatening future generations.
These pollutants don’t just lie dormant in the body. They concentrate in cells, organs, joints and tissues, causing allergies, pain, digestive and immune problems, cognitive problems, blood sugar imbalances, hormone dysfunction and much more. Over time, chronic toxicity can contribute to immune and neurological conditions, premature aging, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
As sobering as this may be, there’s also good news. We are equipped with excellent detoxification systems: Lungs, kidneys, liver, skin, digestive tract and other organs support toxin removal through a network of complex biochemical reactions. While these systems do an excellent job on their own, they are often overburdened and need extra help. That’s where safe, gentle total body detoxification programs come to the rescue.
Start with diet
The foundation of natural detoxification — and overall health — is diet. For optimal toxin removal, emphasize whole, unprocessed foods, mainly green vegetables and fiber-rich foods that don’t fuel inflammation. Nutrient-dense whole foods provide our detox systems with the nutritional support needed to perform their job efficiently.
A good baseline detox diet includes plant-based proteins, colorful, organic produce and lots of greens such as kale, chard, collard and more. Filtered water is essential. Many of us are chronically dehydrated, which makes it harder to remove toxins and waste from the body.
Certain foods however cause inflammation and impair the detoxification process. These foods should be avoided:
- Processed foods
- Gluten-containing foods made with wheat, rye, and barley
- Red meat and deli meats
- Cooked oils
Specific fruits and vegetables support detoxification while providing important antioxidants and phytonutrients. The best vegetables to promote detoxification, immunity, hormone balance and overall vitality are cruciferous vegetables like:
The best vegetables to neutralize acidity in the body and reduce inflammation include:
High fiber foods, including rice bran, flax, chia seeds and psyllium, help to clear out toxins from the digestive tract. It’s also important to support the friendly probiotic bacteria in our bodies. Healthy probiotic flora promote good digestion, increase nutrient absorption, boost immunity, support neurological health and enhance detoxification in the gut. Probiotic foods include fermented products such as:
- Kim chi.
A high quality probiotic supplement can also support daily detoxification and overall health.
Sea vegetables, such as nori, dulse, arame and kelp also support detoxification. In addition to being good sources of natural iodine that helps detoxify the body, sea vegetables are rich sources of vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients for vitality, immunity and overall health.
Culinary medicinal mushrooms are also great detox foods. They help balance immunity, remove toxins and provide an abundance of important antioxidants and nutrients. I particularly recommend shitake and maitake varieties.
Don’t forget lemons, which also help remove toxins and support liver and gall bladder health. For nightly detox support, I recommend an olive oil and lemon mixture. Blend an organic lemon, 1¼ cups water and a tablespoon of olive oil and partially strain, leaving a little pulp. The pectin from the lemon peel also supports digestive health, and many patients report that this formula softens their skin and helps them sleep more deeply.
A great detox staple is a vegetable soup made with hearty root vegetables and greens, seaweeds, mushrooms such as shiitake, and herbs of your choice. Make a large batch and freeze in serving sizes for convenience.
Exercise, stress relief and the next step
Detoxification is a function of metabolism, so by boosting metabolic efficiency with exercise we accelerate the body’s natural cleansing processes. Physical activity supports circulation, the lymphatic system, immunity and a host of other functions that play significant roles in gentle, total body detoxification.
Healthy stress relief is another critical component, since chronic stress fuels inflammation and impairs normal detox processes. Proven ways to reduce stress, combat inflammation and support immunity include ancient mind body practices such as meditation yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong.
In addition to these recommendations there are targeted supplements that bind and remove toxins as well as lend support to your body’s own detox organs. To take your cleanse — and your health — to the next level, I recommend you give them a try. Watch for tomorrow’s issue for that full list and more tips that can help you detox your way to better health and vitality.