What do you think of when you hear the word “detoxification”?
If you’re like Natalie, who was in my office for a consultation the other day, your mind may jump straight to either addiction or a rigid specific regimen purported to get rid of built up toxins and waste in the body.
When I mentioned that she may need to detoxify, Natalie looked at me with horror.
Once I assured her I didn’t think she was an addict, she then thought I was going to tell her she needed to spend several days drastically changing what she consumed. She’d heard of many detoxification diets that sounded horrible. And honestly, they are!
The truth is, our bodies are amazing! They go about their business of detoxing constantly without any help from us.
Every time we take a breath, urinate, have a bowel movement, or even cry, our bodies are getting rid of waste. Our various bodily systems target the toxins and eliminate them in remarkable ways.
But even with this amazing ability to clean themselves out, sometimes we need to give our bodies a little help.
Whenever I have a patient come to me with symptoms like exhaustion, ongoing aches and pains, and a general feeling of “not being themselves” I share information on the toxins we are all exposed to and natural methods for helping your body with the important work of getting rid of those.
Toxins are Everywhere
Given the world we live in – with all of its environmental poisons, prescription drugs, polluted air supply, heavy metals, antibiotics contaminating even the water we drink and use for bathing – it’s no wonder I hear patients report they are feeling tired, achy and just not themselves.
These unnatural toxins, which we’re exposed to on a daily basis, can overwhelm our bodies, especially our liver and lymphatic systems. This in turn disrupts our hormonal balance. No wonder we don’t feel up to par. We’re fighting to just keep clean!
While we can’t always control what we are exposed to (we do need to breathe, after all!) we have more control than we may think! We make choices every day about the foods we eat, the beverages we drink, some environmental exposure such as cell phone and wifi usage, and the products we use.
When we make those choices with the health of our body systems in mind, reducing exposure and eliminating toxins becomes much easier.
The importance of your lymphatic system
Your lymphatic system is a faithful workhorse, silently cleaning up after all of your other body systems. The lymphatic system plays a crucial role in helping your body fight off disease and heal when injured.
The lymphatic system also carries an important responsibility in preventative health care, though that is not well recognized in US conventional medicine. Lymphatic function supports all the other systems in your body.
There is a common belief in functional medicine that poor lymphatic health is at the root of many different conditions. Research has even shown connections to cognitive health!
While conventional practitioners often don’t think about the lymphatic system until there’s a problem – like swollen lymph nodes due to infection or, worse, lymphoma or metastasis.
Natural detoxification strategies keep the lymphatic system working well too, another good reason to pay attention to detox on a regular basis.
One week isn’t enough
So many of the detox fads promise that if you just do their protocol for one or two weeks, your body will be all cleaned out and you’ll look and feel better than ever. And this may be true…temporarily.
But some of the things you’re asked to do with these fads might actually harm your health. And one week of a rigid protocol isn’t going to change anything long term.
Toxin exposure is ongoing, so it’s more important that you are supporting your body on a regular basis by avoiding exposure as much as possible and making overall lifestyle changes that will help keep your body healthy and strong.
Tips to Support Your Body’s Natural Detoxification Process
Your body has a remarkable way to take care of healing itself, but it needs your ongoing support. There are many things you can do to help to boost your body’s natural detoxification processes and in turn feel refreshed and rejuvenated.
Detoxing helps your mental focus, improves digestive processes, and promotes clear skin. If you incorporate healthy habits that support detoxification into your daily routine, you won’t feel overwhelmed.
And giving your body what it needs to detoxify efficiently is one of the easiest steps you can take to dramatically improve how you feel. Here are some simple steps to get you started:
- Educate yourself. The more you know about how your body detoxifies itself and what you can do to support this process, the better. Start with my article answering common questions about detoxification. If you want or need more information, do some research online or contact a functional medicine provider to dig deeper into the topic.
- Make better beverage choices. Hydration is essential to the detox process. Water is your best bet for keeping your body well hydrated. But if you’re drinking beverages that dehydrate you at the same time, you’re counteracting the effects of the water. Leave caffeinated, sugary and alcoholic beverages for the occasional treat.
- Eat enough healthy foods. One of the problems I have with detoxification fad diets is that often they’re cutting out whole groups of food that are essential for good health. It’s always a good plan to cut out processed foods, preservatives and anything with added sugar (which is everywhere). Increasing consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is a good place to start, but be sure you’re getting protein and healthy fats as well!
- Enjoy life. It’s all too easy to get caught up in responsibilities and “must-dos” but it’s critically important to your stress levels (and therefore your health) to leave time for the fun stuff. I can’t tell you what that is, because it’s different for everyone. But anything that allows you to set aside worries, laugh and be playful is a good place to begin.
- Protect Your Sleep. If you aren’t getting enough quality sleep, every single aspect of your health is impacted. That’s why firm boundaries around your sleep are important. Set yourself a bedtime, and stick to it. Let all your friends and family know what it is, and that you won’t be answering the phone or engaging socially after that time except on very special occasions. Sleep is when the detoxification process happens, so if you don’t sleep, you can’t detoxify well. It’s as simple as that.
- Support your body with supplements. Sometimes, you can’t get the nutrient support you need from food alone. I suggest that all women take a high-quality multivitamin and Omega-3 support daily. If you struggle with gut issues, a probiotic can also be important.
- Avoid unnecessary exposure. As I said earlier, you can’t avoid everything. But there are choices you can make to reduce the number of toxins your body is exposed to each day. Check labels on cleaners, beauty products, and food to be sure you know exactly what you are coming into contact with. Turn off the wifi when you aren’t using it and use a headset when talking on your cell phone.
- Consider my two-week quick cleanse. I know I said this needs to be an ongoing process… and it does! But to get yourself started, you may need some extra guidance. There’s nothing extreme about my plan, though there is an extensive list of things to avoid. Remember, this isn’t forever, but it may kickstart your progress.
Your body is a lot like your home; if you follow regular cleaning routines, you won’t have to do an extreme overhaul.
Knowing your own body’s rhythms and supporting it’s natural cleansing process helps keep you healthy long-term. Just like it’s easier to relax in a clean, uncluttered house, you’ll find yourself feeling at home in your nice, clean body!
Reviewed by Dr. Mark Menolascino, MD