Whether you’re looking to make some big changes to your diet and lifestyle or you’ve been going a little wild and want to hone in on your health goals, you might be interested in trying out a detox to kickstart the process. Your body already has a pretty impressive built-in detoxification system and healthy detox strategies work in conjunction with this system.
Detoxification is an ongoing process in your body. Every day you are exposed to toxins ranging from environmental toxins like pollution and pesticides to chemicals in cleaning and beauty products. There are also toxins produced in your body every day - metabolic byproducts like lactic acid and urea, even carbon dioxide are toxic to your body. Fortunately, your liver, lungs, kidneys and gut all work to get rid of potentially harmful toxins and keep your body running smoothly by filtering what you eat and drink and the air your breathe.
You’ve probably seen detox products before and wondered if you should try them. Most of the claims around detox products aren’t worth the hype. Juice cleanses are loaded with sugar that will make your blood sugar spike and crash and leave you feeling exhausted, hungry, and counting down the minutes until you can eat again. A huge diet overhaul might be a good idea, but if you do it all at once in the name of detoxing it may be too hard for you to maintain long-term. And products like detox teas or pills have virtually no scientific evidence to back up their effectiveness.
Instead, a healthy detox plan means your diet is clean, you’re exercising, and you’re getting plenty of rest. Let me show you why these simple things can work wonders when it comes to detoxing.
Drinking enough water will always be on my detox to-do list. Water is key to detoxing your body. It helps flush out toxins via your liver and kidneys. It also helps maintain blood sugar balance. Here’s why: If you’re dehydrated, your blood will be more concentrated, which means your blood sugar level will be higher without adding any extra carbs to your diet. This can lead to increased hunger and cravings throughout the day, which will likely lead to more elevated blood sugar levels.
If you’ve been drinking recently it’s even more important to fill up that water bottle. Alcohol dehydrates your body, so if it's a part of your regular routine or you’ve been indulging more than usual, up your water intake to combat its effects.
Feed Your Gut
If your gut is working properly, it breaks down food and lets the good stuff (nutrients) in and keeps the bad stuff (toxins and bacteria) out. However, the lining of your gut can become weak from a poor diet, stress, or illness, leaving you with too much of the bad stuff getting in. This increased intestinal permeability or “leaky gut syndrome” is linked to food allergies, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, and fatty liver disease.
Your microbiome is a key component to the health of your gut. The bacteria in your gut help to digest food and work to keep that gut lining strong and tight to prevent toxins from entering your bloodstream. So how do you keep your microbiome healthy?
First and foremost, your diet should be full of fiber and low in sugar. Your gut bacteria will eat what you eat and, just like you, they need the right amount and type of energy and nutrients to keep them healthy and strong. In particular, they thrive on prebiotics - an indigestible type of fiber. You can take supplements of these or find them naturally in many raw foods.
A good probiotic is also important for maintaining the right balance of good to bad bacteria in your gut. It’s when the bad bacteria begin to outnumber the good that you really start running into problems with gut health. Getting started with a daily probiotic supplement will help your body in its detoxing work.
Catch Those Zzz’s
Another simple but effective part of your detox routine should be a solid night of sleep, every night. Sleep is when your body reboots itself, and I’m not just talking about giving yourself more energy. Studies show that sleep gives your body the opportunity to clean itself up, getting rid of toxins that build up each day and improving memory and regulate digestion. Not to mention, it’s a lot easier to make wise health choices if you’re well-rested. Experts recommend getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night in order to maintain optimum brain function.
Another healthy detox essential is exercise. Your entire body will benefit from a sweat session and work more efficiently as a result.
When you exercise, blood circulates more quickly throughout your body, bringing oxygen and nutrients to all your organs and tissues, which in turn helps them function more efficiently. Sweat itself removes toxins, specifically through your pores, which open up during a good sweat sesh. Finally, the extra water you need during and after a workout will further help flush out your system.
Bonus Points - Think Fast
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a trendy thing to do these days for weight management, but fasting has been practiced for thousands of years for a number of reasons. Today, research tells us there are many benefits to fasting, including improved brain function and protection against metabolic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
IF does all this in part through a process called autophagy, in which old or damaged cell parts are recycled. This process is thought to impact longevity and even have neuroprotective effects, possibly protecting against diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Implementing some type of fasting can help your body give itself a tune up. Feel free to start yourself slowly on this so you don’t end up feeling rundown from a dramatic change. You don’t necessarily need to go without food for a whole day. Instead, start by eating only within an 8 or 10 hour window each day. This fasting period allows your body to turn its focus to the rejuvenating process of autophagy. Aside from the internal benefits of IF, you may find yourself with more energy and mental clarity, fewer food cravings, and better sleep.
Whether your body needs a reset after too many holiday parties or you’re looking to improve your overall health, it’s important to know detoxing isn’t a one-time juice cleanse or a miserable week without food. By implementing these simple steps to a more healthy life you can help your body do the work of detoxing itself.
Like what you’re reading? Check out this post next and start maximizing the detox power of your meals today.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6311762/ (Gut Health/Intestinal Permeability)
https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-ap2/chapter/the-small-and-large-intestines/ (GI tract anatomy)
https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/leaky-gut-what-is-it-and-what-does-it-mean-for-you-2017092212451 (Leaky gut)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4253991/# (intestinal permeability and probiotics)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3670843/ (fasting and brain function)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3946160/ (fasting and disease protection)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25947369 (sleep, removing brain toxins)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4651462/ (sleep and brain health)
https://news.uchicago.edu/story/sleep-loss-boosts-hunger-and-unhealthy-food-choices (sleep loss and food choices)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3106288/ (IF and autophagy)