By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Hands down, environmental toxicity is one of the biggest health challenges we face today. Herbicides, BPA and other chemicals that Nature never intended are permeating our food and water supply, our lawns, our personal care products and our homes. But don’t let this bring you down. Our biggest obstacles often force us to our greatest heights, and toxins are no different. There’s a lot you can do to help your body avoid or rid itself of toxins. And – luckily – the best ways to detox are also the healthiest ways to live!
How To Detox, And Be Healthier Than Ever
With detox, I like to take a double down approach: do your best to avoid toxins, and help your body get rid of the ones you are exposed to. Your hard-working body eliminates toxins in four ways: through your GI tract, lungs, urine, and through sweat. The less toxic your body is, the easier it is for your detox organs to do their jobs.
One of the best ways to detox is to simply reduce the amount of chemicals you eat and absorb. Start by eating organic, and choose whole foods whenever you can. Buy cosmetic products that contain fewer chemicals and more natural ingredients. Stay away from pesticides, and don’t use harsh chemical cleaners around your house. Here are some other tips to help you evade inadvertent consumption of chemicals:
- If it’s processed, avoid it – processed foods use chemical preservatives. Eat natural, whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, unprocessed nuts, seeds and yogurt.
- If it’s mass-farmed or GMO, avoid it – the odds are high that herbicides and pesticides were liberally used while it was growing. Stick to small, local farms as much as possible. Buy from farmer’s markets, where you can ask growers how they treat their crops. You have a much better shot of dodging chemicals.
- If the product says “diet” anywhere on it, keep it as far from you as possible. “Diet” is a code word for chemicals.
- Avoid added sugars, which can cause inflammation throughout your tissues and organs. Inflamed cells are stressed cells – they won’t work nearly as well as healthy cells. Your body trying to detox while inflamed is like trying to run a race wearing a sumo suit. There’s no reason it has to be that hard.
Some toxins will still get in, but don’t agonize about it– our bodies are amazing machines. And they do a fabulous job of filtering out toxins. Sometimes, they just need a little help.
Detox with the Foods You Eat Every Day
Rather than go on a stringent “cleanse” when feeling sluggish or overloaded, I recommend approaching detox as more of a way of life, starting with your daily diet. Eat lots and lots of fiber-rich foods, especially organic vegetables and fruits. Fiber, as I mention in this article, is really the key to natural living.
A fiber-rich diet not only speeds up digestion and helps you flush toxins from your body, it can help you lose, or maintain, a healthy weight too – a win-win for health!
My favorite foods to eat while detoxing are beets and healing greens like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale. Not only do these veggies have fiber – they also help with methylation. What is methylation? Simply put, it’s a biochemical process in your body that occurs during numerous other bodily processes that help you stay healthy. Methylation, for example, helps defang toxins, as well as helps your body repair damaged DNA and reduce inflammation.
The best foods for methylation are broccoli and beets – they’re a must in any detox diet. Make those the base of a fruit and vegetable smoothie, or eat them steamed as part of a meal.
Eat artichokes, too, if you can. They support the liver, which helps you detox. Here’s a video with my four favorite ways to enjoy artichokes:
Of course, we can’t always eat perfectly. There will be parties, and birthday cakes, and nights out – life happens. Just remember to get right back on the healthy-eating wagon after each not-so healthy indulgence. Continually move yourself back in the direction of health.
Use Other Effective Detoxing Techniques
Another one of the best ways to detox is through regular exercise (yup – now you have another reason to do it!). Physical activity increases circulation and nutrient flow, which decreases toxic load. Toxins get stored in the fat under your skin, so make exercise a part of your daily regimen. The harder you breathe and the more you sweat, the more toxins you’re eliminating.
Sweating, in general, is an excellent detoxing technique. For this reason, regular use of a sauna is a wonderful way to sweat out toxins we accumulate on a daily basis. I especially like far-infrared (FIR) saunas: while conventional saunas heat the air around our bodies, FIR saunas directly penetrate our bodies with infrared heat, a beneficial type of electromagnetic radiation. FIR heat is much more efficiently and directly absorbed, and may also improve circulation. With both exercise and sauna use, remember to drink plenty of filtered water before, during, and after to mobilize toxins and prevent dehydration.
Other good detoxing methods include exfoliating your skin with dry brushing, occasional fasting, and even deep breathing. Doing all of these things will support your organs and keep you healthier in the long term.
My Bottom Line: Make Detox a Lifestyle
If you eat the right organic foods, exercise (sweat!) and avoid as many sources of toxins as you can, your body can easily take care of the rest.
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