Most of us meet the idea of detoxing with the same dread we’d reserve for a root canal. Cleansing usually involves varying stages of starvation combined with powerful herbs to promote a laxative effect, and such unappealing practices as colonics and enemas. At the end of it—assuming you can muster up the courage to start at all—you may be cleansed; or you may just be weakened and drained.
“It’s dangerous to do extreme detoxifying, and it’s not really effective,” says Pam Vagnieres, MS, MNT, CSCS, a nutritionist and exercise physiologist in Boulder, Colo. “The liver needs taurine, glutathione, and other amino acids to detox. If you’re not getting them in your diet, your body will break down muscle tissue to find them. You also need antioxidants from food to combat the free radicals that are created when you detox.” And fasting is a temporary fix, one that doesn’t encourage long-term change or dietary revisions.
You don’t have to starve yourself to cleanse. By following these simple principles, you can detox daily—no starving involved.
1. Eat like a bird.
Check your calorie consumption; most of us eat way more than we need. “The less we eat, the fewer toxins we take in,” says Vagnieres. “And some really good research shows that the fewer calories you eat, the longer you live.” Once or twice a month, try cutting caloric intake to 700 calories for a day for a quick, easy cleanse. “A partial fast also works on a psychological level to remind us that we don’t really need that much food to live and thrive,” says Vagnieres.
2. Up your H20.
Water is essential for transporting waste and nutrients in the body; divide your weight by two to find the number of ounces of filtered water you should drink daily. And be careful with coffee or tea intake; caffeine can dehydrate the cells, burden the liver, and tax the adrenals. Stick to a cup in the morning, says Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, author of The Gut-Flush Plan or switch to a cranberry-lemon cocktail to prevent accumulation of bacteria in the bladder and stimulate the liver: combine 1/4 cup unsweetened cranberry juice concentrate, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 1/2 to 1 cup water; sweeten to taste with stevia.
3. Go organic.
Organic foods are free of pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals, and organic produce is naturally higher in antioxidants. If you must buy conventional produce, focus on those least likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues: try asparagus, avocado, broccoli, cabbage, pineapple and onions (see foodnews.org/walletguide.php
for a complete list). Clean conventional fruits and vegetables in a natural produce wash solution; rinse in a clear water bath for 10 minutes before serving or
4. Get rough.
High-fiber foods, such as raw vegetables and most fruits, create intestinal bulk, promote more frequent bowel movements, and help move toxins from the body, says Brigitte Mars, author of Rawsome!
Best fiber choices include raspberries, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, and acorn squash; as a bonus, they’re also rich in antioxidants. If you’re feeling stuck, try 2 teaspoons of psyllium husk in an 8-ounce glass of water before bed or first thing in the morning.
5. Clean your house.
No matter how pristine your diet, you may be polluting yourself with household cleaning products. Spray cleaners, dish-washing liquids, and laundry detergents contain chemicals that have been linked to cancer, reproductive disorders, and liver damage. Shampoo, soap, fragrance, and petroleum candles are other offenders. Restock your home with chemical-free cleaners and personal care products, and invest in nontoxic soy or beeswax candles.
6. Cook less.
“Raw foods are naturally high in fiber, which has a cleansing effect,” says Mars. “They’re also loaded with enzymes and healing compounds that have anti-inflammatory effects.” The easiest way to eat raw on a regular basis: have a big salad with seven different vegetables every day. Try this one: combine shredded carrots, beets, and red cabbage with diced yellow bell peppers, chopped kale, dandelion greens, and arugula; dress with extra virgin olive oil (bonus: olive oil flushes the gallbladder and keeps the intestines lubricated, says Gittleman).
7. Switch your sweetener.
Refined sugar in any form encourages the growth of Candida albicans, which upsets normal intestinal flora and depletes the liver of enzymes needed for detoxification. Use stevia, and feed your sweet tooth with dates stuffed with almonds, or raw fruit. Other dietary demons: “Wheat, gluten, dairy, yeast, and corn are highly reactive foods that can set up an inflammatory response,” says Gittleman.
8. Sweat it out.
Physical activity stimulates movement of lymph fluid, oxygenates cells, supports the lungs, and encourages sweating to remove toxins via the skin. And regular exercise promotes the burning of fat, the primary storehouse for toxins. And consider including yoga: the stretches and twists massage internal organs, promoting detox.
9. Feast on artichokes.
They’re rich in cyanarin, a compound that helps shore up the liver’s detox pathways, says Gittleman. They’re also meager in calories—about 60 in a medium artichoke—and loaded with cleansing fiber. Bitter greens such as dandelion, chicory, Belgian endive, escarole, and radicchio also stimulate liver function. For more detox effects, munch on celery sticks, which have a diuretic function, and liberally sprinkle chopped parsley over food to cleanse the blood, fight bacteria, and boost circulation, says Mars.
10. Use clean protein.
The body needs it—just make sure it’s the right kind and amount. Decrease or eliminate dairy and swear off any animal product that’s not organic. Then eat small portions (2 to 3 ounces) of organic poultry, buffalo, grass-fed beef, eggs, and clean, uncontaminated fish (see the safe seafood list at montereybayaquarium.org
). And use fats wisely. “When oils are heated, they produce free radicals,” says Mars. “Heated oils also have a congesting effect on the liver and kidneys, which are critical in detoxing.” Most oils are heated during the mechanical pressing used for extraction. Stick with extra virgin olive oil and cold-pressed coconut oil; neither requires any heat to extract the oils.
11. Brush it off.
Dry brushing stimulates the lymph system and supports elimination of toxins through the skin. Once a day, lightly brush limbs and torso with a soft-bristled brush, moving toward the heart. Follow with a warm shower or Epsom salts bath. Add a daily sauna or steam to further open pores and remove excreted toxins.
12. Detox your soul.
A complete cleanse includes your mental, emotional, and spiritual, as well as your physical, bodies. Check your attitude. Is it light, playful, positive? Or are you hauling around stress, anger, jealousy, and other negative emotions that are toxic to total well-being? Start by cleaning out spiritual toxins from your environment: eliminate negative or violent television, books, people. Then support yourself in cleansing: meditate, read uplifting literature, sing and dance, journal, smile more. Do whatever cleanses and nourishes your soul.
Cucumberade Serves 6
Recipe from Cool Waters
, by Brian Preston-Campbell
2 large cucumbers
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch sea salt
Bitter Greens Salad with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette Serves 4
- Thinly slice 1 cucumber, and set aside. Peel, seed, and coarsely chop remaining cucumber.
- Purée chopped cucumber with lemon and lime juices, salt, and 1 cup purified water in blender. Strain into large pitcher through fine-mesh sieve, using ladle or rubber spatula to extract as much juice from pulp as possible.
- Add 5 cups purified water and cucumber slices; stir.
1 small bunch dandelion greens
2 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
1 small head chicory
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1 small head radicchio
¼ cup olive oil
½ medium lemon, juiced
Dandelion flowers or other edible organic flowers, optional
PER SERVING: 168 CAL; 3 G PROT; 16 G TOTAL FAT (2 G SAT FAT); 7 G CARB; 0 MG CHOL; 117 MG SOD; 3 G FIBER; 1 G SUGARS
- Wash dandelion greens, chicory, and radicchio. Remove and discard tough stems, and tear into 2-inch pieces. Combine in medium bowl, and set aside.
- Combine lemon juice, thyme, and cayenne in small bowl, and whisk together to mix. Whisk in olive oil to form emulsion. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
- Drizzle just enough dressing over greens to lightly coat leaves; toss to mix well. Scatter dandelions or edible flowers on top of salad, and serve.