One of my favorite nutrition topics to nerd out on is detox, and it's also a subject I get many questions about. With numerous detox products and cleanses available, it can be difficult to know which is most effective. There are many approaches to supporting healthy liver function, but as for me, I tend to take the most sustainable approach possible. I like to eat food, so I rarely opt for juice cleanses or diets that are too restrictive (though there is nothing wrong with this approach if it suits you). Instead, I focus on cutting out substances that are going to put extra stress on the body's detox processes, and adding in plenty of liver supporting foods. This allows me to continue eating regular meals to sustain energy throughout the day while still detoxing. Read on for the deets, or scroll to the bottom for my top 5 detox tips.
What is considered a toxin?
A toxin in the body is any substance that creates irritating and/or harmful effects. The liver is our built in mechanism to filter out toxins, but when the total load of “house cleaning” is too high, our overall state of wellness is compromised. Everything is connected; a liver that is overtaxed stresses our other biochemical functions such as metabolism, immune health, and endocrine function. Common substances that the liver detoxes include
- Pesticides/herbicides: these are stored in our fatty tissues and organs if not eliminated!
- Food additives: artificial flavors and colors, and preservatives
- Hydrogenated oils
- Synthetic hormones: in conventional meat products
- Toxic metals: mercury, lead, aluminum, arsenic
- Household toxins: cleaning products, cosmetics, solvents, synthetic fertilizers
- Used hormones and neurotransmitters
- Drugs, including alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine
Symptoms/Possible Signs of Overtaxed Liver
- Tenderness or aches on right side, under rib cage
- Lack of appetite/nausea/vomiting in extreme cases
- Bloated belly
- Weight gain: Excess toxins promote insulin resistance, interfere with metabolism, alter circadian rhythms, and interfere with thyroid function. All these are factors in weight gain
Quick N' Dirty Detox Tips
1. Decide a Timeframe: The amount of time you "detox" is up to you, but aim to give it at least a week.
2. Reduce/Eliminate: Caffeine, alcohol, trans and oxidized fats, excess sugar, refined sugar and starches, food additives such as preservatives, colors, and artificial flavors. Also consider cutting out common allergens such as dairy, wheat, eggs, soy, nuts, shellfish. If you choose to consume animal products while detoxing, choose organic to avoid synthetic hormones and additives.
3. Sip: Start your day with some warm water with lemon and/ or apple cider vinegar. The acid will jump start digestion and stimulate detox processes. (If you can find a way to comfortably ingest lemon peel, do it. Citrus peel contains limonene, a powerful detox agent.)
4. Sweat: Exercise and saunas help mobilize toxins to be eliminated as well as stimulates blood and lymph flow.
5. Eat: The following foods are detox superheroes. Consume them liberally while detoxing.
- Choline: Eggs, whey, legumes, liver
- Liver specific veggies: dandelion, watercress, mustard greens, arugula, radishes, beets, artichoke
- Cruciferous Veggies: Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels
- Citrus fruits: citrus fruits and their peels (NOT grapefruit! Grapefruit actually inhibits Phase 1)
- Sulfur: Garlic, onions
- Cilantro/parsley: Binds to heavy metals (mercury, lead, aluminum)
- Lipotropic agents: Improve fat and bile metabolism in liver. Choline, methionine, folic acid, vitamin B12.
- Botanicals/herbs: Dandelion, milk thistle, rosemary, green tea, licorice root, burdock root, turmeric
- Antioxidants: Wide variety of vegetables (esp dark leafy greens), and fruits with dark red or purple skin (blueberries, cherries, apples, etc)
- Fiber: Binds to toxins and cholesterol for elimination