Updated: Apr 9, 2020
When you hear the word "detox", it often time represents restrictive diets, juice cleanses or even fasting!
But fortunately, our body has a wonderful ability to remove toxins in order to maintain our health. We have kidneys, a liver, and our skin- the detox powerhouses of our system.
However, there are times when they could use a little support, and that is where a detox may come in. We now live in an environment where we may be exposed to toxins on a regular basis, either through our food (pesticides, nutrient-deficient diets, and overconsumption of sugar), water, cosmetics, and personal care products, and there are even chemicals on our clothes. With these toxic attacks coming from all angles, it could be very taxing on our natural detoxification system!
Doing a traditional detox or cleanse may not be high on the to-do list for many, and for others, it may not be a safe route to go. Be sure if you decide you want to complete detox, to get the green light from your physician and use the guidance of a qualified health coach, nutritionist or dietitian.
Luckily, there are also small ways we can assist our body's natural detoxification system daily, which has nothing to do with drastic diets or cleanses.
1) Oil Pulling
Oil Pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice of swishing 1 tablespoon of cold-pressed, unrefined pure oil (like coconut oil) in your mouth, first thing in the morning- for about 15 minutes. DO NOT SWALLOW. After the 15 minutes is up, spit it in the garbage and brush your teeth. This act "pulls out" and attracts bacteria and other toxins from your mouth and body, and is an effective practice to promote oral hygiene, reduce plaque and gingivitis and kills bacteria associated with bad breath. This ancient practice is said to "purify the entire system; as it holds that each section of the tongue is connected to different organs such as to the kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, small intestines, stomach, colon, and spine" (Singh A,2011).
2) Dry Brushing
Dry Brushing is another Ayurvedic technique that is beneficial to supporting your body's natural detoxification system by increasing circulation. This helps eliminate metabolic waste as well as assists the lymphatic system to remove toxins. The lymphatic vessels serve to drain waste products from tissue, making this a great addition to your detox protocol!
To use dry brushing in your routine, be sure to choose a clean brush with a firm, natural bristle. When you brush, use soft, smooth strokes, starting from your feet and work your way up to your legs and towards your heart. When you get to your stomach, brush clockwise using circular motions. Then work your way to your arms, using soft, smooth strokes towards the direction of your heart. DON'T BRUSH TOO HARD. Other benefits of dry brushing include exfoliating dead skin cells to stimulate cell turnover, increased stimulation to the nervous system-causing a boost of energy, boosts elasticity and some even say it may reduce cellulite!
This can be done with a clean spoon or an affordable tongue scraper. To utilize this technique in your detox protocol, it is best to do upon waking, before brushing your teeth or eating anything. The act of tongue scraping allows you to remove bacteria, toxins, food debris and dead cells that accumulate overnight. You begin by placing the tongue scraper towards the back of your tongue and "scrape" forward in one long stroke. Rinse the "U" shaped tongue scraper and repeat 5-10 times. Learn more about the benefits of tongue scraping, here.
Water is essential for life. The human body is made up of about 10 gallons of water. It is important for transporting nutrients and is vital for removing waste. Many people do not drink enough water, and mild dehydration can impair nutrient absorption, physiological response and performance. There are many factors that contribute to mild dehydration that include caffeine and alcohol consumption, exercise, climate and simply the distaste for water with the overconsumption of artificial and sweetened beverages. Water is ESSENTIAL in supporting your body's natural detoxification system. The optimal amount of water to consume is half your weight (in oz.) of water each day. Try adding cucumber or lemon to your water to flavor it up!
5) Check Your Cosmetics
One way to detox is to reduce the exposure in the first place. The average woman uses 12 products, with 168 different ingredients, and the average man uses six products daily, with about 85 different ingredients (www.ewg.org). And since there is currently no safety standards for cosmetics, we run the risk of exposure to carcinogens, allergens, endocrine disruptors, asbestos, and other harmful chemicals. There are currently standards sets by congress for food, water, tobacco, cars, toys, electronics, even the pesticides sprayed on our crops...but there are none currently for what we put ON our body- our skin- the largest organ, in which we absorb about 60% of what gets slathered on it.
Although it can seem overwhelming to overhaul your favorite cosmetics, it is well worth it to avoid adding to your personal toxin exposure- which in turn allows for more efficient detoxification from toxins you have no control over! Utilizing the 'Think Dirty App' or the Environmental Working Groups' very own 'Healthy Living App', can make this transition MUCH easier. You are able to scan your items, and a rating will pop up determining the safety of the products. The 'Think Dirty' app even offers safer alternatives if your current product doesn't measure up!
6)Sweat it out
Our skin is another detoxifying organ. We are able to excrete toxins like BPA through our pores by sweating. In addition, the activity also helps improve circulation, which distributes nutrients and oxygen, and removes waste from the body. Hot yoga, a brisk jog, that cardio kickboxing class, or even a visit to the sauna are all great ways to trigger the body to sweat!
7) Social Media Cleanse
I am the first to admit, that social media has a way to connect each of us together, and expand our communities which is essential for optimal health and wellness. However, like many things we find enjoyable, more and more evidence is popping up, not only regarding social media addiction but also, the link between social media usage and depression. In fact, there is a distinct association between increased social media use and increased depression. So what does this have to do with detoxing?? Well, taking the time to evaluate your relationship with social media, may bring a realization for needing a break. Try setting time of day limits to check your social media. I aim to reserve the first hour of my day to not include checking Facebook, Instagram or even emails and instead, stick to journaling, meditation and getting my work out in. Others have even found success in implementing a social media sabbath and choose one day a week to completely stay away from check-ins, stories, and highlights. Another way to do a digital detox is to evaluate those accounts you follow. If any of them invoke feelings of caparison, or make you feel inferior or not good enough, it's a good clue that the account is probably not that great for your mental health, and clicking the unfollow button would be hugely beneficial!
Our body is constantly being exposed to environmental toxins, greatly taxing our organs and our health. Luckily, we are equipped with organs that eliminate those toxins, however, with increased exposure coming from all angles, a little extra support can go a long way!
In Love and Health,
1. Murray, Michael T. ; Pizzorno, Joseph. The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine Third Edition. Atria Books, 2012
2. Singh A, Purohit B. Tooth brushing, oil pulling and tissue regeneration: A review of holistic approaches to oral health. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2011;2(2):64-8.