Still recovering from the holidays? You’re not alone. 2021 had a multitude of twists and turns – we can all pivot like pros now! And regardless of how we celebrated its closure, it is most likely that we abandoned our usual routines and eating habits while heralding in 2022.
Want to get your body back on track with its own natural detoxing abilities? Here are some traditional, as well as unconventional detoxing tips that are easy to do and may even inspire the start of a new healthy habit or two.
Is Detoxing Just for the Liver?
Not at all, as we’ll explore further in this article. Many organs are involved in keeping your body free of toxins, including the intestines and colon, kidneys, lungs, and even the skin. Popular detoxifying products make claims that they’re providing a full body cleanse when they mostly contain laxative and diuretic ingredients that will simply increase water loss and bowel movements, but do not really aid in whole-body detoxification. When considering the role of the liver, specifically in detoxing, there are 3 ways to support its ability to cleanse us naturally:
- Exercise. The more blood that is circulated throughout the body, the easier it is for the liver and the lymph glands to remove toxins. Daily movement also reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and obesity – all of which are conditions linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a type of liver inflammation that can cause scarring and eventual cirrhosis.
- Limit Alcohol. It’s fun to celebrate New Year’s Eve with a glass or two of champagne but drinking too much or too often will disrupt the liver’s ability to cleanse and can lead to an inflammatory condition called alcoholic hepatitis which, like fatty liver disease mentioned above, creates permanent scarring and loss of liver function. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services still recommends a maximum daily limit of one alcoholic drink for women and two for men.
- Reduce Saturated Fat. With the popularity of the Keto diet surging in the past few years, fats have come back into good graces – and kitchens. While the presence of fat in meals is important as it protects organs, supports cell growth, and helps the body absorb nutrients found in fruits and vegetables, many American diets are still very high in saturated fats and simple carbs. Think a cheeseburger with fries. Or steak and potatoes. This combination can lead to obesity and fatty liver disease. Instead, when reintroducing fats back into the pantry, reach for healthy or unsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocados, sunflower and flaxseeds, walnuts and fish.
In 2016, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that according to their studies, 1 in 3 Americans do not get enough sleep – which they classify as 7 hours or more. That’s a lot of people! A multitude of health issues arise from lack of sleep, and some of them are the same issues that can also lead to cirrhosis of the liver – including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Interestingly, it also turns out that sleep is crucial for the brain to detox. As you rest at night, your body removes neurotoxic waste products from your brain. When you’re sleep deprived, these toxins build up, including a waste product called beta-amyloid which has been linked with impaired functioning of the brain and Alzheimer’s disease. So, getting a full night’s sleep is a cleansing activity all in itself! To increase sleep quality and quantity, remove electronic devices from the bedroom and add darkening curtains instead; go to sleep at the same time every night and try not to deviate too much on weekends. Also, keep the temperature lower than it is in the daytime, avoid alcohol and caffeine late in the day, and eat smaller meals or light snacks before bed for better sleep!
Speaking of the brain, it may be surprising to know that scientists have recently discovered a second brain – also known as the enteric nervous system or (ENS) – in our gastrointestinal tract. More than 100 million nerve cells live in your gut lining and while they mainly control aspects of digestion, they also have a huge impact on mood and immunity, and perhaps more – though research is still being conducted. Supporting this second brain doesn’t necessarily require uncomfortable enemas or harsh laxatives. Two of the most profound dietary tweaks you can make to support your gut in its own cleansing abilities are to increase your consumption of both prebiotics and probiotics.
Probiotics have gotten a lot of media attention recently for their role in aiding digestion and diminishing gastrointestinal issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Now researchers are studying whether increased consumption of these microorganisms might be able to address mood issues such as anxiety or depression. Probiotics are critical to your gut lining as they help your body absorb nutrients, as well as support the immune system by getting rid of bad bacteria which can make you sick – from the flu to food poisoning. The good news is that consuming probiotic strains such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium is not difficult to do. Before turning to expensive supplements, try eating more fermented foods such as yogurt, kombucha, kefir, tempeh, pickles, sauerkraut, or miso soup.
Though not as well-known, prebiotics are just as important when considering a healthy gut flora. Prebiotics are specialized plant fibers that, when consumed, fertilize the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut lining. They are what probiotics feed on, so simultaneously combining the consumption of both can lead to optimum gut health and function. Where can you find prebiotics? Apples, whole oats, wheat bran, barley, flaxseeds, cocoa, seaweed, asparagus, onions, and garlic all contain prebiotic plant fibers.
To incorporate both prebiotics and probiotics into your diet, try a fun fruit smoothie for breakfast called the Mango Sunrise:
1 cup dairy or vegan kefir
3/4 cup mango
1/2 cup strawberries
1 tablespoon chia seeds
Option 1: Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Option 2, Step 1: Or, to layer the Mango Sunrise smoothie (like a true sunrise), blend the mango, kefir, and chia seeds first, and pour the mix equally into two glasses. Step 2: Add strawberries to the blender, blend until smooth, and pour it on top of the mango mixture in one of the glasses. Then carefully pour another mango layer from the second glass on top of the strawberry mixture. Fancy!
More smoothie recipes that incorporate both prebiotics and probiotics can be found at https://helloglow.co/probiotic-and-prebiotic-smoothies/.
First of all, what is the lymphatic system, exactly? It is a network of vessels and glands (or lymph nodes) that work together to move lymph fluid throughout the body in the bloodstream. The circulation of lymph fluid helps the body maintain proper fluid levels, protects it from infection and viruses by producing white blood cells (or lymphocytes), and removes waste. Massaging or stimulating this system can improve its function and encourage proper drainage of waste particles. Here are 3 ways in which to support drainage of the lymphatic system:
- Dry brushing. The ancient Ayurvedic technique of using a dry, stiff-bristled brush on the skin in upwards movements not only unclogs pores through exfoliation, but also increases blood circulation and lymph flow. It is important to start at the feet, brushing upwards in long, fluid strokes along the limbs. Use a brush with a long handle to sweep in circular motions on the torso and back. Lighten the pressure in sensitive areas like the chest or neck but don’t skip them as these areas, including the armpits, are loaded with lymph glands. Do not use this technique on open wounds, burns, acne, eczema, or other skin diseases.
- Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage. This type of massage was created to help breast cancer patients recover from surgery, but many different people have found it beneficial – including those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lymphedema (swelling of the lymph nodes), and varicose veins. If you have heart or kidney conditions, or a history of blood clotting, you should not perform this technique. Otherwise, increasing the movement and subsequent drainage of lymph fluid through self-massage improves the immune system, reduces bloating, and aids in detoxing the body, regardless of age or physical fitness. How do you give yourself a lymphatic drainage massage? Click here to find out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9HDY9QxU60
- Contrasting Hydrotherapy. Unlike blood vessels, which circulate throughout the body even when the body is at rest (due to the nature of the heart muscle that pumps blood automatically), lymph fluid has no pump. However, alternating rapidly between hot and cold water temperatures dilates and constricts blood vessels, causing a pulsing, pump-like action that also stimulates the lymphatic system. And braving cold-water temperatures has been shown to improve the immune system through stimulation and increased circulation of lymphocytes. Experiencing contrasting hydrotherapy is easy – during your next shower, turn the temperature up to between 95-113°F for up to 3 minutes, then turn it down to between 50-60°F for at least 1 minute and continue doing this for 20 minutes, finishing on the cold cycle.
Perhaps the organs most in need of gentle cleansing are the kidneys, which have the vital role of removing metabolic waste from your blood in the form of urine. They also help your body maintain a healthy electrolyte balance and aid in the creation of hormones, such as erythropoietin, a hormone that produces red blood cells. Didn’t know that the kidneys did all that, did you? These inconspicuous organs need water to function properly and yet 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated, especially amongst the elderly, where dehydration is reported to occur in 17% to 28% of older adults. The simple act of drinking more water can make a huge difference in how healthy your kidneys and urinary tract are, as well as your colon and large intestines, but how much water should you drink? Daily water needs vary by person. Do you live on a cool, cloudy mountainside or in a hot, arid desert? What is your age? How tall are you? How often do you exercise and how hard? Are you currently pregnant, breastfeeding or experiencing an illness? All of these factors and more should be considered when figuring out how much water you need on a daily basis. However, a rough guideline to start with is between 3 to 4 liters, according to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
To help inspire the consumption of more fluids, consider flavoring water with various herbs. Herbal teas make drinking fluids easier to do by adding a punch of flavor to boring ol’ water. When considering a gentle detox, an herbal infusion can also target the eliminatory organs as well as the digestive tract while adding valuable minerals and vitamins. Nourishing Balancer Tea, for example, is packed with just such herbs! This tasty tea blend contains Dandelion Leaf which cleanses the urinary system and Burdock Root, which targets its cleansing action on the liver and large intestine. White Oak Bark and Neem Leaf add antimicrobial and astringent actions, tonifying the organs mentioned above. Calendula and Red Clover promote detoxification of the lymphatic system and are known to purify the blood. Alfalfa, Nettle and Red Raspberry provide a wide array of nutrients and vitamins, from Vitamin A and C to calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. Fennel Seeds, Peppermint, and Ginger stimulate digestion while easing stomach cramps, gas, and acid reflux, and also provide a myriad of pleasant flavors to this wholesome tea blend.
Now that we’ve reviewed many of the organs involved in removing toxins from the body, its easy to see how a tea blend like Nourishing Balancer Tea should be part of any detoxing effort. Cleansing need not be unforgiving, severe, or stressful – instead, think about taking a gentler approach by supporting the eliminatory organs in the remarkable detoxifying functions they provide us every day!