It's no secret that we're exposed to hundreds of chemicals in today's environment, but we can reduce their impact in two important ways. "We can improve the body's ability to get rid of these chemicals, and we can limit the amount of chemicals we are exposed to," says Gaetano Morello, ND, a naturopathic physician based in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, who has developed an effective detoxification and cleansing program that most healthy people can do at home.
Limiting exposure is an ongoing process that includes eating organic food, drinking pure water, using non-toxic skin care and household cleaning products, avoiding chemical air fresheners, and eliminating other controllable sources of harmful chemicals, such as pesticides or herbicides in the yard.
On the other side of the coin, there are various ways to improve our ability to eliminate toxins, including daily juicing, supplements that enhance our natural detoxification processes, and occasional cleansing and detox programs, which could last a day, a few days, or about a week. Fasting, as in consuming nothing but water for extended periods, is not recommended.
How to Do a Body Detox at Home
"Detoxification has two phases," says Morello. In simple terms, phase 1 dislodges toxins and phase 2 eliminates them. Toxins that are dislodged but not eliminated from the body will recycle, causing unpleasant side effects such as fatigue, achiness, moodiness, or a general feeling of being unwell. However, the right nutritional support can help control the process, getting rid of toxins efficiently without misery.
Morello's program, which has been successfully used by thousands of his patients, starts by preparing your body to handle dislodged toxins before doing the actual detox step. This way, side effects can be avoided.
"Increase your antioxidant load in the body, number one," says Morello. "You can juice or take antioxidant supplements." Below is his supplement regimen:
For two weeks, eat your normal diet and take these daily:
Vitamin C: 3-5 grams
Try: American Health Ester-C Effervescent
(NAC): 1,500 mg
Try: Source Naturals N-Acetyl Cysteine
Grapeseed extract (or Pycnogenol): 200-300 mg
Try: Jarrow Formulas OPCs+95 Grape Seed Extract
Alpha lipoic acid: 200 mg
Try: Natrol Alpha Lipoic Acid
During the third week:
Eat a clean diet without sugar, with healthy fats but low in saturated fat, with organic chicken instead of red meat, lots of vegetables, and smaller portions than usual. Cutting back on calories is key, as body fat is the major storage depot for toxins, and fat loss triggers detoxification. During this week, also avoid any foods that you don't tolerate well, which could be dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, or other grains.
Equally important, take these daily:
Curcumin: 2 grams of an extract that contains 95% curcuminoids
Try: Life Extension Super BIo-Curcumin
Milk thistle:600 mg daily
Try: Nature's Answer Milk Thistle-8
Fiber: at least 6 grams daily in a supplement such as flax seed or psyllium
Try: Organic India Organic Whole Husk Psyllium
Curcumin helps to manage the phase 1 and 2 steps of detoxification so that toxins are less likely to recycle and cause problems. "It enhances phase 2 and slows down phase 1," says Morello. In other words, it helps to prevent an overload of toxins being released at once and improves their elimination. Milk thistle improves the liver's ability to get toxins out in bile. Extra fiber is needed to bind with toxin-loaded bile and get it eliminated, preventing toxins from being recycled in the body.
Morello recommends doing the program three times per year, and taking lower doses of curcumin and grapeseed extract or Pycnogenol on an ongoing basis to bolster the body's ability to routinely eliminate toxins.
More Ways to Cleanse and Detox
"At-home detoxification processes are very individualized, based on what lifestyle somebody has led up to that point in time, and they can be very extensive or they can be very, very short," says Holly Lucille, ND, a Los Angeles-based naturopathic physician and educator. For example, some people designate one day of the week, or a weekend, to eat a very clean diet, and others simply don't eat for a day.
Another approach is to choose a detox or cleansing kit from a company you trust and follow the recommended program. Milk thistle, for liver support, is a basic ingredient. Burdock and dandelion root, found in some kits, also make good detoxifying teas.
To enhance your detox program and help your body deal with toxins on an ongoing basis, Lucille also recommends doing the following:
Add 2 cups of Epsom salts to a bath and soak for 20 minutes.
Dry-brush skin for 5 minutes a day with a loofa or organic brush, brushing toward the heart.
Get a Swedish massage.
Drink at least 3 liters of water per day (slightly more than 6 16-oz. glasses).
Take 200-400 mg of milk thistle daily.
If you have digestive issues, those should be resolved before doing a detox program. For constipation, take probiotics to replenish healthy gut bacteria and a laxative that contains magnesium hydroxide, which draws water into the bowel and is not irritating.
Basic Juicing Rules
"It has to taste delicious," says Steve Prussack, author of Juice Guru: Transform Your Life by Adding One Juice a Day. Don't be afraid to experiment. Fruit juices, he says, are cleansing, while veggie juices build you up, making an ideal combination. If you dislike juiced veggies, start with fruit and gradually add veggies, as your taste buds develop.
Simplest Morning Juice
Lemons are alkalizing and anti-inflammatory and help to balance both acidity and inflammation from meats, dairy, and sugar, thereby enhancing the human body's innate ability to heal itself. And, you don't need a juicer to harness their power.
Fill a 32-ounce mason jar with pure water and add fresh-squeezed juice of 3 lemons. Drink it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and wait at least 20 minutes before eating.
Basic Juice Recipes
Prussack developed two "template" juices: basic, tasty recipes with many possible variations, using simple ingredients that are available year-round. For quantities of leafy greens, chop and pack tightly in a measuring cup. When peeling lemons or limes, leave the white pith, as it contains concentrated nutrients.
For more recipes and juicing tips, visit juiceguru.com.
What About Maple Syrup?
Often found in detox drink recipes, maple syrup is a nutritious and alkalizing sweetener, but not a necessary detox ingredient.