We are a ways into the new year and some of us are still looking to start out fresh and rid our body of all toxins. There are many types of cleanses and detoxes that last anywhere from 1 to 30 days. For most of us, when we hear the word "cleanse" or "detox" we think of a juice fast, or liquid diet, or a strictly fruit and vegetable diet. Although some of these may help you loose some weight (water weight), not all of them are actually good for you. A detox and cleanse are always interchanged, but are two different things. Detox. When you detox, you rid your organs of toxins such as chemicals, heavy metals, cigarette smoke, etc. A detox targets an organ like the liver, for example. The liver is a highly important organ in the body with many functions such as detoxifying the body, building proteins, and helping digestion. Although one of it's functions is to detoxify the body naturally, if we over consume foods that stress out the liver like alcohol, refined sugar, gluten, or lactose, we are giving it more toxins than it can handle and keeping it from functioning properly thus leading to low energy, inflammation, poor digestion, and not detoxifying the body as it should. Cleanse. When doing a cleanse, you are mainly cleansing your digestive tract and eliminating toxins and bacteria. A liquid or juice fast is mostly a cleanse because it's giving your digestive tract a rest but still providing nutrients. No matter which you choose to do, what you're really doing is giving your organs a break from anything that strains them and keeps them from working properly. They are both great ways to feel good and energized while eliminating toxins in a safe and natural manner. The best way to cleanse or detox is to eliminate inflammatory foods and introduce foods that support the liver. Fortunately, there are many foods that support the liver such as leafy greens, lemon, sauerkraut, eggs, herbs including parsley and cilantro, cruciferous vegetables, garlic, ginger, spices, green tea, onion, sea vegetables, apple cider vinegar, beets, chamomile, artichokes, and omega-3 oils. Ideally, we would include all of these foods in our every day diet, but the most important thing is to eliminate the ingredients that cause inflammation. Doing either a cleanse or detox can be intimidating and takes some planning and dedication. Most of us have hectic lives or are simply afraid to commit to an eating plan that will last a few days or weeks. A juice cleanse is ideal, but if you're not ready for that, there are things you can do on a daily basis to help detox without feeling deprived of solid food. No need to stress, take it one day at a time and do the best you can that day to take care of your body. At the end of the day, check in with yourself. How do you feel? How was your mood, energy, awareness, and productivity that day? You might just find that you feel great and want to do it all over again, or you might need a few days of this in order to see any changes in mood, but focus on finishing that one day knowing that you are doing something for yourself and don't let others discourage you. You are the one that will feel great and benefit from this.
Here are 7 easy natural things you can do on a daily basis to help your body detox:
- Avoid gluten and introduce gluten-free grains. Gluten is a protein found in wheat (white or whole wheat products) that causes inflammation in the body, even to those that are not gluten intolerant. Also, look out for gluten-free products as they are mostly always packed with refined sugar. Stick to gluten-free grains such as quinoa, brown rice, millet, and amaranth. For gluten-free snacks, check out my post on Healthy Snacking.
- Avoid refined sugar. Refined sugar weakens your immune system and causes inflammation in the body. Let your sugar come from natural sources such as fresh fruit, honey (good for sore throat and cough), dates, and root vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, squash/pumpkin, and beets.
- Drink water and lemon water. Water is essential for cleansing the body. It helps flush toxins out and helps regulate metabolism. Not being well hydrated stresses out our system and prevents detoxification. Dehydration is often confused with hunger, so next time you feel hungry when you've just eaten, drink a glass of water. If you're not fond of water you can add cucumber slices, fresh fruit, or lemon juice to make it flavorful. Lemon water also supports the immune system, supports liver in cleansing out the body, helps digestion, acts as a natural diuretic, balances pH, and aids with weight loss. Start your day off by drinking a cup of warm water with lemon juice on an empty stomach. Add some apple cider vinegar to have even more detoxifying properties.
- Drink apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar has many health benefits. It's good for digestion, skin care, detoxifying, anti-bacterial, weight loss, cures allergies, kills candida and fungus, eases arthritis, and balances the inner ecosystem. Add 1-2 Tablespoons to about 6 oz of water and sip.
- Eat leafy greens. Leafy greens such as kale, collard greens, spinach, bok choy, arugula, celery, and dandelion are alkalinizing to the body which helps attack bad bacteria and reduce cravings. They contain chlorella which helps cleanse the body. Most of these are also bitter and bitter foods support the liver with detoxification. Incorporate leafy greens in smoothies, salads, and vegetable sautéed dishes.
- Slow Down. Slow eating = conscious eating. By eating slow you are usually more conscious about how much you eat and will often find that you get full before eating everything on the plate because you give yourself time to feel satieated. Take time to chew your food to digest it better. Better digestion will also lead to better absorption of nutrients.
- Sweat. Sweating is a way of flushing toxins out of the body. Take at least 30 minutes of the day to do some sort of physical activity that will get you sweating. Exercise burns calories and will help weight loss. Sitting in a sauna or getting a massage also help detoxification.