Should I go on a detox?

There is so much hype around “detoxing”. I see it all over Instagram and Facebook. Some people “detox” with juices, shakes and beverages made with lemon juice, water and cayenne pepper.

So is detoxing something we need to do to stay healthy?

Good news: your body is detoxing right now.

Amazing eh? So really, all you need to do is support the systems that help detox your body! Easy peasy eh? Well, not quite, because we’re talking some lifestyle change here. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming though, the small changes you make over time is what’s going to make a difference. Because really, going on a 7 day detox juice cleanse, just to cap off the week with a bottle of wine is really not worth it.

What is detoxing? Detoxification is the process of clearing toxins out of the body. So in a nutshell, it helps get the bad stuff out of your body, or at least neutralizes it.

What’s a toxin? It’s anything that creates irritating or harmful effects in the body. Think sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and chemicals that are in your environment or that you put on your skin. You see caffeine on this list and think: “But Jackie, you drink coffee!” I sure do. But when it comes to eliminating toxins you need to take a look at the effect it has on your body. I know I feel fine with one, high quality coffee per day. And lately, I’ve been sticking to that! Caffeine does have a bit of a stress reaction to the body as it stimulates the nervous system. 

Snapshot of how the body detoxes

Here are the ways your body detoxes every day:

  • Gastrointestinal (so think liver, gallbladder, colon and GI tract) 
  • Urinary (yup, your pee! So think kidneys and bladder) 
  • Respiratory (lungs, throat, sinus, nose) 
  • Lymphatic (lymph channels and lymph nodes) 
  • Skin and dermal (good old sweat and tears!) 

When it comes to detoxing in my view, think of how you can support these systems, rather than stress your body with a set “cleanse”. Some people do ok with a juice or smoothie cleanse, but what’s really important is to build habits that will support your detox system over time. So my advice is to change some small things for a longer period of time.

How to support each system

Here’s some ideas on how you can support each detox system in your body. For a few weeks, implement one or a few of these tips and see how you feel! Tuning into how you feel when you change a habit is gathering some great data about yourself. If you know you feel a certain way when you eat or do something, you’re more inclined to keep it up longer term! Detoxing can become a lifestyle or something you do seasonally. For example, maybe you cut caffeine in the summer.

Supporting the liver and gastrointestinal tract

  • Eat fiber! Fiber helps move things through your system and helps you, well, poo! So here we are back to the veggies talk guys… Eat em up!
  • Vitamin C: This vitamin helps with so many systems in the body. Without enough vitamin C, your body may not produce enough hydrochloric acid, which helps break down and digest food.
  • Decrease sugar intake: We’re talking simple sugars here, so the stuff you’d find in a twinkie. Excess sugar can cause yeast overgrowth and immune dysfunction. Which means you can get sick more often, or need longer to recover from infection. Help your body become more efficient and reduce sugar intake.
  • Decrease caffeine as it is a stimulant to the nervous system. Try either reducing or eliminating it for a few days. Caffeine can steal some important vitamins from your body, like vitamin C. See the connection with point number 2? There you have it.
  • Eliminate packaged processed foods: Make all your stuff. I challenge  you to start making one thing this month. Try salad dressing! Don’t buy it for a month, and make your own dressing. Google it! There are a ton of recipes out there. It may be come a tasty habit that will help your body, and your pocketbook! (Making dressing can be much cheaper).
  • Eat your greens: When I started studying nutrition, I saw a trend in every chapter about vitamins and minerals. Every chapter ended with “found in leafy greens”. There is so much good stuff in there. Get them in and enjoy the benefits of energy, more fiber, and just feeling better!
  • Eat your beets: Beets support the liver. The liver’s purpose is to detox your body. This is a good way to support that!

Supporting your kidneys and bladder

  • Drink more water: Help flush out your system with water! It helps the body tremendously in all systems, not just for your kidneys. Get yourself a water bottle and start drinking. I aim for 2-3 Nalgene bottles per day.  Try starting each morning with a glass of lemon water.
  • Avoid alcohol: If you’re thinking about detoxing, this one is an easy win. Alcohol is a toxin (as much as I love red wine, I know what it’s doing to me!) Remove it for a few weeks. See how you feel.

Supporting your respiratory system

  • Quit smoking: Do I really need to explain this one?
  • Breathe! We do it everyday, but take some time to think about your breath. Nice big deep breaths can help you relax and connect to yourself. Seems easy, but breathing deeply is harder than you think!

Supporting the lymphatic system

  • Exercise! The lymphatic system has no pump. This system carries a fluid containing white blood cells that drains from the tissues into the blood. Physically moving around helps keep this system moving. If you’re not moving, this system can start to look like a sad collection of rain puddles rather than the flowing river it’s meant to be.
  • Dry brushing: I am trying to get this habit in myself. Joy from Joyous Health explains this best here.

Supporting your skin

  • Sweat! Sweating helps move things out of your skin, so get your sweat on when you can.
  • Think about what you put on your skin: Take a look at the ingredients on your lotion and soaps. Are there chemicals you can’t pronounce in there? It may be worth looking into some natural soaps and lotions. What you put on your body, goes into your body!
  • Household cleaners: Same as the above. If it gets on your skin, it gets in your body! Take a look at your cleaners and see if you can switch something up – or at least wear some gloves.

Supplements that can help with detox:

These supplements can help support your detox journey:

  • Blue-green algae
  • Vitamin C
  • Multivitamin
  • Magnesium
  • Milk thistle

So basically, I wouldn’t recommend a specific detox really, but more to incorporate detox friendly activities into everyday life. If you’re still wanting to “detox” really think of the reasons why you want this. This will help guide you in what changes you can make to make the benefits of a detox stick over time.

Author: Jackie

Jackie is a certified holistic nutritionist (with the Alive Academy out of Richmond, B.C.) in her spare time. Full-time she works in an office (like many of you!) and is always looking for ways to make her busy life happy and healthy. She is a mom to 2 lovely daughters, and a wife to a picky-eater husband who always keeps her on her toes when she is creating healthy recipes.

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