WHAT IS DETOXIFICATION?
Detoxification is the process of clearing toxins from the body and neutralizing or transforming them. Poor digestion, sluggish or dysfunctional bowels, decreased liver function, and poor elimination through the kidneys, respiratory tract, and skin all increase toxicity.
Detoxification, in theory, is a process that occurs naturally in our bodies, by organs that physiologically function to carry out such processes, but due to the number of toxins and chemicals in our food, water, air and through processing/metabolism, these toxins build up over time.
Detoxification involves dietary and lifestyle changes that reduce the intake of toxins while enhancing elimination.
WHAT ARE TOXINS?
Toxins can be both external (environmental such as alcohol, pesticides, tobacco, heavy metal, medication, oral contraceptives) and internal (the body through its normal metabolism forms by-products which are toxic if not neutralized or excreted).
The liver is the main and most important detoxifying organ in our bodies, acting as a blood filter. It not only breaks down, neutralizes, and detoxifies, but it also removes chemicals, dead cells, wastes, drugs, particles from the blood, bacteria, and undigested food from our bodies. Special liver cells call Kupffer cells ingest and break down toxic materials like the body’s waste products, alcohol, xenobiotic chemicals, medications and drugs, artificial chemicals that are found in foods, air and drinking water.
A poorly functioning liver can lead to toxin overload and contribute to ill health and chronic diseases.
The liver uses 2 phases of detoxification to perform this function, therefore, we need to ensure that both phases are functioning optimally.
Your current lifestyle practices play a huge role in liver function and overall health.
Plenty of fresh air is needed to support cleansing and oxygenation of the cells and tissues, while exposure to vitamin D and sunshine is needed to revitalize our body.
Exercise - very important to support the cleansing process. It helps to relax the body, clears wastes, and prevents toxicity symptoms.
Hydrotherapy in the form of contrast Showers - alternating hot and cold showers provide cleansing, increases circulation and is a simple, effective way of improving metabolism. Start with three minutes of hot water (or as warm as you can tolerate) followed by less than one minute of cold water (or as cool as you can tolerate). Repeat pattern at least once, and always finish with cold.
Dry skin brushing - with a soft brush or loofah prior to bathing, start at the feet and hands, working your way up, and always stroking towards the heart. This can be done every day, year round. This helps to clear toxins from the skin (the largest detoxifying organ of the body!).
Rest - an important component of allowing body to detoxify and heal. Ensure at least 8 hours of sleep per night.
AVOID FACTORS THAT CAN INCREASE STRESS ON THE LIVER
Heavy fats that cause extra work for the liver and gallbladder: dairy products, foods high in heavy saturated fats such as preserved meats, smoked meats, sausages, deli meats, and hot dogs, processed vegetable oils (such as hydrogenated oils or trans-fats), fried foods. Artificial chemicals, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavours, artificial colours, pesticides and artificial preservatives that can be found in food also place tremendous pressure on the liver, forcing it to work harder to process these chemicals.
Read product labels carefully to detect unnecessary chemical additives. Consider purchasing bodycare lotions that don’t contain synthetic ingredients, after all, your skin is highly absorptive and these chemicals eventually end up inside your body’s bloodstream to be processed by the liver and other organs.
Alcohol causes stress on the liver and damages many cells in the body. Reduce your alcohol intake as much as possible.
Prescribed and over-the-counter medications need to be processed by your liver once they’re absorbed. Use them only as directed by your medical doctor or pharmacist.
Storing and heating food and beverages in plastic containers causes chemicals to leach into the food; store and heat your foods in glass or stainless steel as much as possible.
Avoid drinking water in plastic bottles, as the bottles leach chemicals known as xenoestrogens into the water. Store your water in glass or stainless steel bottles.
SUPPORT YOUR LIVER WITH THE FOLLOWING FOODS and HERBS:
Fruits and vegetables that are rich in color and variety are high in antioxidants and are helpful for preventing cell damage and providing vitamins and nutrients to assist with healthy body function. As a rule of thumb, the darker, deeper or richer the color, the better the food is for you. Dark leafy greens, as well as orange, yellow and red coloured fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants. Berries are also a rich source of antioxidants.
Consume at least 6 servings of fruit and vegetables daily.
Fresh squeezed lemon added to water can be helpful to gently promote liver function. Lemons are bitter, and work to gently stimulate the liver and digestive juices in the stomach. Fresh lemons are also abundant in vitamin C, which is a useful antioxidant to support liver detoxification.
B vitamins are vital for optimal liver function, by helping with energy and fat metabolism in the body. They also aid the liver with congestion that can be caused by alcohol, birth control pills and toxin exposure. B vitamins are found in dark leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fish, egg yolk, milk and eggs.
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) is an herb that helps to protect and regenerate the liver. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. There is much research that demonstrates Milk Thistle’s ability to benefit a variety of liver diseases. You can find this herb in a tea form, or for more concentrated extracts, consult with your naturopathic doctor for effective product and dosing recommendations.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) is a bitter herb that stimulates digestion and the flow of bile. It is helpful for liver and gallbladder congestion. Consume young dandelion leaves (if harvesting at home, make sure they haven’t been contaminated with pesticides). They may be used fresh in salads, served lightly steamed or added to stir-fry. Dandelion root may be drank as a tea or served roasted as an alternative to coffee.
Support your liver with these liver detox guidelines. Your liver will thank you!
You might also like to read: Foods to Eliminate During a Detox.