Back your body’s play: how to supercharge your system for a natural detox
Every day, 24 hours a day, your body works hard to keep you healthy. And let’s face it: much of what you do (and don’t do), eat (and don’t eat), and drink (you get the idea), isn’t helping your body’s natural detoxifying system. We’re a busy species, and it’s not always easy to find the time to exercise, drink lots of water, and seek out nutritious meals.
Too many days in a row of stress and poor choices, and you’ll see the effects in the mirror. Then feel them right down to your core. When that happens, it’s time for a reset: your body’s desperately trying to detox, and you can help with the natural remedies we’ve found with the help of the experts. Plus, these tips may leave you feeling so good that you’ll incorporate them into your everyday routine – your body will thank you!
What to add
Hey, we wouldn’t start off by recommending that you cut out all the not-so-healthy goodies that we all like to treat ourselves to. We’ll start slowly, with what you can add to your diet and routine to boost your system’s natural detox methods.
First on our list of additions? Water. Even if you’re not thirsty, your body can be craving H20 because it’s an absolutely essential component in clearing out toxins. Nutritionists warn that our kidneys can’t do their job (moving toxins along to be flushed out of your body) without adequate water, so bottoms up.
In addition to kick-starting a detox, water consumption can counteract the dehydrating effects of certain medications and alcohol, so keep a bottle on hand all day. Experts advise that rather than following the eight glasses a day rule, look to the color of your urine for hydration status: it should be the palest yellow. Anything darker means you should up your intake.
Another building block to an effective detox is sleep. The downtime allows your organs to process toxins, repair cells, and reduce stress-related hormones. If you’re short on sleep from a late night out or struggling with insomnia, your body will be as sluggish as your brain, so pencil in some nap time or plan for an early lights-out to make up that shut-eye.
Pro tips for getting quality sleep include banning electronics from your bed, taking a warm bath with Epsom salts (the magnesium will help you drift off, plus it works to remove toxins), and making your room as dark as possible.
Okay, you’re rehydrated and well-rested – what else can you do to back your body’s play when it comes to detoxifying? Your liver is the punch line of many a hangover joke, and indeed this hardworking organ is often the recipient of what doctors call medical “insults.” Whether it’s a night of too much wine, an extra serving of birthday cake at the office party, or a steady diet of salty, fried foods, what you put in your mouth has to pass through the liver.
It would be a grim existence indeed if we banished all indulgences for all time, so in lieu of that, look to foods rich in antioxidants. These substances will help support your long-suffering liver in processing the bad stuff while generating the good. Foods that contain liver-boosting antioxidants include dark berries, grapes, olive oil, broccoli, and (yay!) coffee.
And it’s not just your liver that appreciates the addition of antioxidants in your diet – because these compounds fight cell aging, foods like leafy greens and bright fruits and vegetables can improve your outward appearance, too. Fill your plate with these powerhouse foods, and you’ll be healthier inside and out – and your liver will get a much-deserved break.
Addressing your gut health is another strategy to support your body’s attempts at detoxification. You know by now that yogurt and other cultured foods contain probiotics. These beneficial bacteria assist in breaking down food and balancing your digestive system.
You can nurture them by upping your intake of prebiotics – high-fiber foods that probiotics love to feed on. Garlic, leafy greens, bananas, artichokes, and whole grains are good go-to’s here. Just go slowly when introducing or increasing these foods to avoid unpleasant gastrointestinal effects.
Last but not least on our detox-boosting list is exercise. We get it: it’s probably the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling bloated and miserable. But a mix of cardio (it doesn’t have to be strenuous) and stretching can improve circulation, bump up your oxygen levels, and may even help your lymphatic system cleanse your body of toxins. We know for sure that a brisk bout of cardio, bookended by a series of simple stretches, can brighten your mood. So what have you got to lose? There’s such a thing as a mental detox, too!
And what to subtract
If you’re serious about finding natural ways to detox, you can cut down on certain foods and beverages (as well as behaviors) that tax your liver, lymph nodes, and kidneys. And while no realistic nutritionist will expect you to never, ever indulge in sweet or salty (or boozy) treats again, merely curtailing your intake can do wonders for your metabolism and general wellbeing. When it comes to the substances that are hardest on your body’s detox efforts, the worst offenders are:
Salt – Prepared foods (think frozen pizza, canned soups, and lunch meats) are notoriously high in sodium, but other high-salt foods hide under the radar with lower profiles. Breakfast cereal and cheese are two good examples. If you’re detoxing to banish bloating, excess sodium will be your number one concern. Read labels – or, better yet, stick to fresh foods and recipes that allow you to control your salt intake. And if you’ve already eaten a salty meal, drink an extra glass of water or two to help counter the effects of all that sodium.
Sugar – Like salt, sugar is often a stealth ingredient, found where you’d least expect it – and often lurking under an assumed name. (Check your pasta sauce, for example. Many brands include sugar or corn syrup.) Many yogurts, granola bars, and other allegedly “healthy” foods (drinks, too!) will pack a hefty dose of unnecessary – and unhealthy – sugar. That’s bad news for your detox because too much sugar can encourage free radicals, which damage cells and cause inflammation. If you shop and cook judiciously, you can save your sugar intake for truly special treats. In doing so, be a better ally in your body’s detox wars.
Fats – It’s, as they say, complicated. Your body needs a certain amount of fat to thrive, but quality matters just as much as quantity. Eschew packaged foods made with partially hydrogenated oils and get part of your fat fix from nuts, olive oil, peanut butter, and avocados instead. In addition, look to salmon, trout, flaxseeds, and walnut oil for a dose of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can supercharge liver function and kick-start an effective detox.
Alcohol – If you’re contemplating a detox because of late-nights out, you may be tempted to swear off alcohol. And, yep, while you’re trying to get your (aching) head in the detox game, you definitely should avoid that bloody mary or mimosa brunch. Still, most medical professionals won’t begrudge you a glass of red wine now and then. In fact, some studies indicate that small amounts of alcohol may impart some health benefits. When you’re already hurting from overindulging, skip the cocktail and opt for a glass of water or green tea.
The bottom line? Don’t fall for the idea that an effective detox has to involve complex concoctions or round-the-clock rituals. Your body is already engineered to process toxins, and with a little knowledge, you can easily fine-tune its performance to become a master of detox.