It's the new year, which means nearly everyone will be talking about their New Years resolution(s). With that comes the bombardment of detox teas and diet pills all over your social media, and don't even get me started on those fancy juice cleanses! So let's clear up some misconceptions I hear all the time about detoxing and let you know some less abrasive ways to support your body's natural detoxification process.
Are you ready for me to drop some knowledge on you? Toxins are not stored in the liver! Yeah, that's right! Toxins are processed in and through the liver, which is working hard 24/7, but it is not a storage facility for toxic baddies. I hear this all the time at the health food store I work at. I'm not sure where the myth came from that your liver collects waste, and that in order to 'clean' it, you must do a cleanse. Of course, things like drinking, pesticides, exposure to pollution, stress and so on, create more work for your liver, but there are definitely ways that you can support your detoxification organs.
A good way to help detoxification is to support the emunctories. These are the pathways your body uses to eliminates waste, i.e. through urine and bowel movements, sweating, and breathing. Making sure your body has the ability to eliminate waste is one of the best things you can do for your liver and kidneys. If these pathways are blocked then this can impede the elimination of wastes, and in some cases, allow the body to reabsorb these toxins.
7 ways to support your body's natural detoxification process:
1. Drink more water!
This is probably the most impactful thing you can do not only to promote better detoxification but for overall health as well. Drinking water helps to keep cells plump, hydrated and functioning properly. It also helps to filter out toxins through the kidneys and keeps things moving through the intestines and out through the bowels. If you often drink dehydrating beverages like coffee or sugary drinks, it is especially important to increase your water intake!!
2. Reduce your exposure to pollutions and toxins
This seems like common sense, but you would be surprised how many toxins are in your environment that are within your control to remove. Of course, we all know things like smoking and drinking, are obvious burdens on detoxification, but keep in mind other less obvious toxins in your day to day environment. For example, in your beauty care products, ingredients like parabens, artificial fragrance, and other endocrine disruptors are all fat-soluble toxins that must be processed by the liver. A great resource to look up the toxicity of ingredients in beauty and household items is The Environmental Working Group
3. Get exercising
Getting a workout in, or move your body at least once a day helps to support detoxification in so many ways. Exercise promotes sweating and the elimination of waste through sweat, it helps to get the heart pumping throughout the body and supplying the organs with more oxygen, and it also helps to promote the movement of the lymphatic system. This body system moves waste through the body and is an important part of our immune system, however unlike other systems, the lymph has no pump such as the heart to keep it moving, this is where physical exercise can play a big role. Something as simple as a 20-minute walk or stretching can make a big difference.
4. Start dry brushing
Dry brushing helps slough off dead skin cells allowing your body to sweat out toxins properly. It also helps to increase circulation and moves the lymph. Dry brush before a shower or bath working in circular motions moving towards the heart. Make sure to focus on areas of the body that have lots of lymph nodes, think anywhere with a crease, such as the armpits, behind the knees and elbows, and groin. Avoid dry brushing the face, genitals and nipples, as the skin in these areas is very sensitive and should not be dry brushed!
5. Eat more fibre
Fibre is amazing at helping move waste through the digestive tract and out of the body. When you are constipated you risk reabsorbing some of the waste you are trying to eliminate, such as excess hormones like estrogen. Have you ever been super cranky then had a bowel movement and suddenly forgot what was irritating you! Hormones may have been the culprit. Insoluble, or indigestible fibre not only helps with digestion but supports the lymph as well. We talked briefly about lymph nodes in our armpits and other areas of the body, but they are also all along the GI tract. Think of fibre as a dry brush that gently works to help move the lymph from the inside.
6. Choose organic
Choosing organic when shopping for food and home goods wherever possible helps to limit exposure to harmful pesticides and chemical treatments that may otherwise be used in to grow conventional crops.
7. Eliminate what doesn't serve you
This last one is a bit open to interpretation. Our response to stressful stimuli creates a cascade of stress hormones like cortisol in our body, all of which our liver eventually has to process. Do yourself a favour and eliminate anything you can that adds to this stress. Maybe it's a getting rid of some clutter at home the bothers you, or asking your boss or teacher for an extension on that project you've been losing sleep over, or maybe it's something a bit more emotional like refusing to continue in an unhealthy friendship or partnership. Whatever it is that's adding emotional weight and stress to your life, work on either changing your circumstances or letting it go.
One last thing to keep in mind as we enter into the new year is it's important to make sure that you are kind to yourself and to take time to appreciate the body you have and all it allows you to do. It's okay to want to change things about yourself, change is inevitable, but make sure that throughout this process you are honouring yourself and your body, love is always a greater motivator than hate.